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Hat-trick in hand, Gusto seeks Tassie treble

BRIGHTON yacht Gusto has a hat-trick of Boxing Day Dash races and her crew on Thursday will set their sights on an even better trifecta when they sail for Tasmania.

Brian Pattinson's 66-footer was first over the line from a fleet of 90 entrants in the annual race across Port Phillip Bay on Wednesday, taking four hours, 45 minutes to sail from Port Melbourne to Blairgowrie.

Gusto finished 12 minutes ahead of Peter Blake's Goldfinger, with XLR8, skippered by Ray Shaw, third. Bandit, a 40-footer from Sandringham Yacht Club and skippered by Ashley Trebilcock, was later announced the handicap winner.

Gusto's win was her third in succession in the race, but the crew could not better the record they set in 2010. Sailmaster Jeremy Walton said the crew had the record in their sights in perfect conditions until the wind dropped off Mount Martha.

''It was an absolute ripsnorter on the bay, but unfortunately we missed our own record by five minutes. We were hunting it down the whole way down the bay, but we just ran into a lull … so we didn't quite get there,'' he said. ''But that's three in a row for us so we're a very happy crew.''

About 30 boats spread across three fleets will leave Portsea on Thursday before separating across Bass Strait for the west coast and east coast races to Hobart and the race to Launceston.

Gusto won the race to Hobart down the west coast in 2010 and the race along the east coast last year, and now will be out to become the first boat to win all three races.

Goldfinger and XLR8 will race down the east coast, while on the west coast, the battle for line honours is expected to be fought between Spirit of Downunder and eXtasea.

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