• Whistler crew. Photo RCV
    Whistler crew. Photo RCV
  • Oskana crew celebrates. Photo ORCV
    Oskana crew celebrates. Photo ORCV
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Tasmanian boat Oskana claimed line honours in the early hours of the morning after skipper Michael Pritchard and crew overcame wild weather and technical problems on their Cookson 50 to reach Hobart in 2 days 12 hours 52 minutes and 04 seconds. But despite rudder problems that started on the remote west coast of Tasmania, Oskana came home in style, reaching speeds of 28.7 knots at times according to the ORCV race tracker.

“To finish first you must first finish, is a term we embrace on the boat,” Orthopaedic surgeon Pritchard had told ORCV media before the race and despite problems that is how it turned out after 435 miles of often exhilarating sailing.

Joining Oskana on the Tasmanian dominated podium, according to provisional results, is David Aplin's Mdb 36 Whistler which had shared the top of the AMS handicap leader board at times with Justin Brenan's Lidgard 36 Alien as they surfed down the windy west coast. However Whistler with acknowledged handicap specialist Aplin at the helm has made a clean sweep of handicap honours with top spots in IRC, PHS and AMS to complete the Tasmanian domination of the West Coaster.

Still at sea as we go to press are the majority of the fleet who are entering the Derwent River led by Soiree Bleu(Douglas Lithgow) who has made big gains during the night ahead of Jaffa(Terry Posma), Alien(Justin Brenan) and Addiction(Richard McGarvie). Further back, the early winner in the battle of the short-handed boats is currently Maverick(Rod Smallman and crewman Thomas Vaughan) who is a few miles ahead of Red Jacket's female crew skippered by Annette Hesselmans and includes her 20 year-old daughter Sophie Snijders.

Backmarkers Fast Forward(Matt Fahey) and Escapade(Robert Bradley) are just rounding South East Cape and will be hoping to make Hobart before the pubs close and all the scallop pies are scoffed so we wish them well, because finishing what is arguably Australia's toughest offshore race is a win in itself. On that note, commiserations to Christine(Paul Bunn) who retired to Devonport but will hopefully try again next year.

But the story of the day goes to Oskana. Oskana's dramas began with a grumbling noise on the back of the boat said Pritchard and the steering wheels felt loose off Strahan. “So we dropped the sails to check it out and found that the top rudder bearing had started to collapse.” Fortunately it was the bearing at the top of the shaft rather than the through-hull one which could have been catastrophic for the Cookson 50. “Our navigator, did put a plan together in case we needed a port of refuge and from then on we played it pretty cautiously and didn't put a kite up again until in the lee of Bruny Island,” said Pritchard. As conditions worsened on the west coast Oskana was down to only a small jib at times with no mainsail but still flying in 49 knots of wind. As conditions eased up the east coast the weary crew found themselves fighting for every zephyr of pressure in 1-2 knots on the Derwent River after midnight.

“But really pleased with the boat and so happy to win this really prestigious race,” added Pritchard. Having done two Sydney to Hobarts and now the West Coaster, he could really appreciate the immense challenge of this iconic race, he said. In fact Tasmania has the trifecta this year with Duncan Hine's local boat Alive just declared as handicap winner of the Rolex Sydney-Hobart; the first local boat to do so.

Race Tracker: https://race.bluewatertracks.com/2018-melbourne-to-hobart-yacht-race

- Kevin Green and Jennifer McGuigan, ORCV media

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