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sail-world.com -- Rookie skipper wins Brisbane to Gladstone Race

Rookie skipper wins Brisbane to Gladstone Race    
Sun, 16 Apr 2006

Mooloolaba Yacht Club skipper Michael Balkin completed a meteoric rise up the ranks of Queensland offshore yacht racing when he steered the former Royal Hong Kong Yacht Club sloop Corum to a popular win in the Brisbane to Gladstone race.

Just 18 months ago Balkin was satisfied with sailing in fun race events on the Sunshine Coast before he decided to buy the champion sloop Corum.

That became a career changing decision when skipper Balkin and his crew out sailed their rivals in a demanding test of tactical offshore racing over the 308 nautical mile course.

They started the construction of an upset result when Corum was pacing it with a group of more fancied rivals after clearing Moreton Bay before dusk on Good Friday night.

Remarkably her crew who had never sailed before held the collective skills to give their popular skipper the opportunity to claim a career best win.

But Balkin was more intent on making sure the class sailing combination of sailing master Greg Gilliam and specialist helmsmen Mal White, Jeremy Leitch and David Turton had a happy attitude.

'I believe a happy crew will always be a successful crew and we have the rule that fun comes first.' Balkin said.

His attitude was evident when he valued the experience of winning the prestigious 58 year old race trophy The Courier-Mail Cup at his second attempt.

'Personally I’m lucky to have a crew who are talented and happy with teaching me on how to enjoy the sport of ocean racing'.

'Greg (Gilliam) runs the yacht and win of lose I enjoy going for the ride'. Balkin said.

The race clock was set when Peter Hollis helmed Heaven Can Wait to her line honours win just after 10 pm on Saturday.

They completed the course with a 35 hour 16 minute 32 second elapsed course time to become the provisional leader on corrected time.

But the moment of celebration for the Heaven Can Wait crew was spoilt when the smaller Corum sailed above her handicap rating to snatch victory when she completed the course 2 hours 49 minutes 16 seconds later.

Skipper Balkin and the Corum crew enjoyed a quite crew celebration at the Port Curtis Sailing Club while they monitored the progress of the 41 year old Wistari which presented a possible threat.

Wistari has won four races and it is never smart to write her off when strong spinnaker sailing winds blow over Hervey Bay.

The Golden Oldie surfed the ocean swells but her speed failed to beat the clock leaving Michael Balkin and the Corum crew to claim the race win over Heaven Can Wait and Sirromet Life Style Wine.

by Ian Grant



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