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BT Challenge fleet leaves Sydney.

by BT Challenge Event Media on 12 Mar 2001
After a slow start off the line the fleet has soon speeded up as the crews settled back into sailing.

Leg Five saw the day dawn rainy and with very light winds. As the start gun sounded the fleet crossed the line with their Genoas up trying to eke out every inch of wind.

BP crossed the line first, unfortunately nudging the marker buoy and having to carry out a 360o penalty turn, while Quadstone, which last leg start collided with Save the Children, kept out of the way of the rest of the field and sailed over the line last.

They soon picked up the pace and new skipper Richard Chenery guided them up into ninth place by 8am GMT.

TeamSpirIT won the Serco-sponsored Wee Chay Trophy as it was the first yacht to round the Wee Chay Buoy in Sydney Harbour.

The trophy was named after the eldest son of Serco’s executive chairman.

TeamSpirIT held the lead as the fleet sailed out of Sydney Harbour. Compaq and Norwich Union were close behind with the rest of the boats in a tightly-bunched pack.

Race Headquarters manager John Keating said the yachts were now all sailing well doing 10 to 11 knots.

“At 8am GMT the boats were heading south past Botany Bay which is 20 miles south of Sydney Harbour.

“The majority of the boats are going due south in quite a tight bunch,” he said.

The spread between the first nine boats east to west is only four and a half miles.

Earlier former BT Global Challenge skipper and meteorologist Chris Tibbs had predicted that most of the fleet would probably head offshore to benefit from the south-going East Australian Current which would give them a helping hand towards Tasmania.

Two of the boats, however, have headed inshore. Spirit of Hong Kong and Logica have slightly broken away from the rest of the field with Spirit of Hong Kong two miles further inshore than Logica.

With Spirit of Hong Kong skipper Stephen Wilkins being a local boy maybe there is some local knowledge he is trying to take advantage of.

Six hours after the restart Compaq had moved into the lead with TeamSpirIT less than a mile behind.

Norwich Union was sitting in third and LG FLATRON, Olympic Group and BP were all within a mile of them.

Isle of Man was residing in eighth place two miles behind and Quadstone was in third. Spirit of Hong Kong and Logica, who are moving away from the pack, were in 10th and 11th place respectively.

As night falls the wind is expected to drop but a weather front to the south will see the crews’ sea legs being severely tested.

Tibbs said, “The wind is likely to go light ahead of another cold front that is expected to bring southerly winds.

“Although not particularly strong where the yachts will be, to the south of the fleet there are likely to be gale force winds sending a big swell into their path.

“As the East Australian current pushes them south the waves and swell opposed to the current will make a very uncomfortable seaway.”

As the boats make their way back out into the Tasman Sea, the 12th yacht – Save the Children – is making its way over from Wellington.

Repairs which needed to be made after its collision with Quadstone at the start of the last leg meant that it could not sail to Sydney in time for the start of Leg Five.

It is due to dock in Hobart in the next couple of days where it will refuel and restock before joining the rest of the fleet as they pass Tasmania.

As it was unable to make the Sydney start it will only be ‘notionally’ racing and its point score at the end of the leg will be decided by the International Jury after it has assessed its performance.

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