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Telstra Sydney to Hobart Race - Nokia Slashes Record

by Peter Campbell 28 Dec 1999 08:59 GMT


The Danish/Australian-crewed yacht Nokia has slashed the Telstra Sydney to Hobart Yacht Race record by more than 18 hours and taken line honours, with second placegetter Brindabella following less than an hour later.

Nokia, skippered jointly by Danish Olympic yachtsman Stefan Myralf and Australian skiff and ocean racing sailor Michael Spies, crossed the Telstra race finish line off Battery Point at 08.48.02 am, breaking the three-year-old record held by Morning Glory by 18 hours and 19 minutes.

The 60-foot former round-the-world racer swept up the Derwent River under spinnaker making 12 knots up the Derwent River in a fresh south to south-west winds to cross the line off historic Battery Point, escorted a big welcoming fleet of local boats.

Nokia is officially the first yacht to break two days for the 630 nautical mile race and her average boatspeed of more than 15 knots will be one of the fastest in the world for a long ocean passage race.

Co-skipper Michael Spies, from Sydney, said the yacht had reached a peak boatspeed of 30 knots surfing downwind across Bass Strait and had logged between 415 and 420 nautical miles over a 24 hour period.

“At one stage we thought we were going to better Silk Cut’s 24-hour run of 449.5 hours in the last Whitbread Race,” an elated Spies said.

“We were going too fast under spinnaker so we decided to drop it and sail under full main and jib – and we still were hitting 25 knots and more down the waves,” he added.

Flying her big white spinnaker, second-placed yacht Brindabella crossed at 09.46.33 am while Victorian entry Wild Thing crossed at 10.13.37 am, both breaking two days for the ocean classic.

Meanwhile, the Bureau of Meteorology has revised its forecast for the Tasmanian east coast, with conditions expected to harden for the remaining 71 yachts in the race.

A low just south of Eddystone Point is deepening and moving slowly southwards, and will cause winds of 20 to 30 knots to increase to 25 to 35 knots during the morning and possibly 40 knots at times.

Winds due north of the low will be lighter westerly. There is an initial gale warning for southern coastal waters with winds increasing to 20 to 30 knots this afternoon, and 25 to 35 knots this evening.

Earlier this morning, the 146 foot superyacht Mari-Cha III crossed the finish to complete the fastest ever time for the race – unofficially because she sailed by invitation as a demonstration yacht for next year’s superyacht class division.

Mari-Cha’s performance pleased American skipper Bob Miller. “Wind conditions were very much in our favour but we knew by the sea and wind conditions they were also ideal for the Whitbread boats. It was great to be able to stay in front.”

New Zealand helmsman aboard the superyacht, Mike Sanderson, was at the helm when Mari-Cha III hit its top speed for the journey – an exhilarating 31.08 knots, not far from the speeds the yacht reached in establishing a transatlantic record under sail.

“We were pleased to be able to hold out the Whitbread 60’s and stay in front,” Sanderson said.

Interested spectators can track the progress of the remaining yachts as they cross the finish line on the official web site at Each yacht is being tracked via satellite using the Telstra Satcom C service and position updates are being posted on a dynamic graphic map on the website every 30 minutes.


Sydney yachtsman Rob Kothe, a survivor of the storm-battered 1998 Sydney to Hobart Yacht Race is this evening placed first in progressive provisional placings for the prestigious IMS overall category of the 1999 Telstra Sydney to Hobart Yacht Race.

During the 1998 race Kothe lost a crew member, Glyn Charles, and his yacht, Sword of Orion, when the yacht was dismasted and her hull severely damaged in the Bass Strait Storm. Kothe and the remaining members of the crew were airlifted to safety by helicopter.

Back in Sydney he bought a new yacht, a Sydney 40, which he also named Sword of Orion and has been racing the yacht with success this season, including placing second to Brindabella on IMS corrected time in the Sydney to Gold Coast race in August.

Computer calculations released by the Cruising Yacht Club of Australia after the 1405 hours "sked" with the fleet show Sword of Orion in first place, with Atara (Roger Hickman), a Lyons 43 from the Cruising Yacht Club in second place and the South Australian boat Ausmaid, a Farr 47, being sailed by Kevan Pearce holding third place.

While the smaller boats are faring best on handicap, these positions may change in the conditions being experienced by the fleet, which is now mostly south of Flinders Island and down the Tasmanian east coast. Winds of 30-40 knots had been forecast earlier today by the Bureau of Meteorology, with gusts exceeding this, and rising seas, which will slow the smaller boats considerably in the heavier conditions.

At this afternoon’s race sked, 84 year old Alby Burgin’s Alstar, an Adams 50 from New South Wales, was holding down first place in the Performance Handicap Division, ahead of Hogsbreath Witchdoctor, skippered by Maurie Cameron from NSW, with American entry, Alaska Eagle (Brad Avery) in third place.

Provisional line honours winner, Nokia (Michael Spies/Stefan Myralf) leads the IRC Division from Leroy Brown (Warren Wieckman, NSW) and Wild Thing (Grant Wharrington, Vic) in third place.

With six yachts now tied up, the next finishers will be the Hong Kong entry Yendys, and Sydney and Ragamuffin, both from NSW, and which are all expected to cross in the next two to three hours.

Another retirement late this afternoon – the NSW entry Tenix with a broken mast and which is motoring to St Helens – brings to seven the number of race retirements. At 7pm tonight, that leaves 67 boats still at sea, the tail-enders being just northeast of Flinders Island.

The CYCA Race Committee this evening directed Telstra Control aboard radio relay vessel, Young Endeavour, to upgrade tonight’s 2005hrs weather sked to a full sked to include both weather and position reports. Each yacht will also be requested to provide a report on wind and sea state in their area to enable the Race Committee’s weather advisor, the Bureau of Meteorology to give more accurate predictions over the next 24 hours. Currently, the forecast for the Tasmanian east coast is for winds of 25-30knots, possible gusts of 55knots.

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