|SYDNEY, AUSTRALIA-(26-12-2004) Supermaxis Skandia and Konica Minolta tonight are continuing their ocean racing duel as they surf south down the Australian East Coast in the 60th anniversary Rolex Sydney Hobart Yacht Race, with the Yacht Tracker recording them achieving speeds of 18 to 21 knots.
Close astern of them is the newly launched Nicorette which earlier had led the fleet – by a mere three seconds from Skandia – as the leaders turned the sea mark and headed for Tasmania.
At this stage of the race, the three boats were some 20 nautical miles further south than Nokia was when she smashed the race record in 1999. However, this is not expected to last, as the fleet will encounter strong southerly headwinds as a change moves up the coast early tomorrow morning.
Skipper Grant Wharington’s steered his 98-footer Skandia to the lead after a spectacular battle out of Sydney Harbour with Stewart Thwaites’ 98-footer from New Zealand, Konica Minolta, and Ludde Ingvall’s new 90-footer Nicorette, sailing in her first race.
Nicorette led the three super maxis out of the Harbour, but Wharington headed further out and, with the added push of a strong southerly current, quickly moved into the lead.
Seven hours after the start Skandia was 36 nautical miles south-east of Jervis Bay, with Konica Minolta less than three miles astern. Less than half a mile back came Nicorette while Sean Langman’s Open 66, AAPT, was snapping at their transoms and on corrected time the fleet leader overall under IRC handicap. Astern of them, and also south of Jervis Bay, came George Snow’s Brindabella and the first of the Volvo 60s, Andrew Short’s Andrew Short Marine.
In this fast race, big boats also dominate the overall handicap results, with Skandia in second place, Konica Minolta third, followed by Nicorette. Of the smaller boats, the best placed on corrected time is the newly launched Adelaide yacht Hardys Secret Mens Business, a Reichel/Pugh 46 skippered by Geoff Boettcher, while Matt Allen’s Farr 52, Ichi Ban is eighth in IRC standings.
Meanwhile, three boats have retired from the 116-boat fleet that set sail at 1.10pm – Steven David’s Targé, the Victorian boat Kontrol, skippered by Peter Blake and Rob Reynold's Pla Loma. Targé was towed back to Sydney this evening after a bilge pump siphoned water back into the hull, causing an electrical melt-down.
Skipper Iain Murray said the crew suddenly found they had lost control of the canting keel and on investigating found water in the bilges. “With no electrics, no keel and no engine, we thought it prudent seamanship to head into Botany Bay,” Murray added.
Kontrol, a past line honours winner of the Melbourne to Hobart West Coaster Race, reported a rudder bearing fault affecting the boat’s steering. They too are returning to the CYCA.