Defending champion The Fork in the Road last night took line honours in the National Pies Launceston to Hobart Yacht Race, slashing three-and-a-hours off the race record.
Skippered by former world champion and Olympic sailor Gary Smith, the Bakewell-White 45 crossed the finish line off Hobart’s Battery Point at 10:28:35pm for an elapsed time of 1 day 13 hours 28 minutes and 35 seconds for the 285 nautical mile race around Tasmania’s north-east and east coastline. This was just under three hours inside the previous record of 1 day 16 hours 44 minutes and 18 seconds set by Helsal 3 in the 2011 race.
The win gave Smith and his Tasmanian-built yacht their fourth line honours win, with The Fork in Road holding off a tenacious challenge by Peter Cretan’s Marten 49, Tilt, sailing its first race in Tasmanian waters.
The two boats were virtually abeam of each other late yesterday afternoon as they raced across Storm Bay, to the south of Cape Raoul, after a rollicking spinnaker ride down the east coast from Maria Island to Tasman Island. The well-honed skills of Smith and his crew became apparent as The Fork in the Road powered away towards the Iron Pot and the River Derwent, opening up a commanding lead of six nautical miles in the last three hours of the race.
With the southerly breeze fading as The Fork in the Road slowly crossed the finish line, Tilt was only just inside the Derwent, about 10 nautical miles astern.
Remarkably only four miles separated the next eight boats in the 24 boat fleet as the sailed across Storm Bay, south of Cape Raoul, in pursuit of the leaders. The next three yachts, David Allan’s Obsession from the Port Dalrymple Yacht Club, Greg Prescott’s Infinity from the Royal Yacht Club of Tasmania, and Stuart Denny’s The Protagonist from Bellerive Yacht Club each reported identical latitude and longitude positions, 34 nautical miles from the finish.
Less than a mile astern came the Victorian yacht Absolut (Richard Gates and Richard Tate) followed by the Derwent Sailing Squadron’s Illusion and Ultimate Challenge, the former Sydney Hobart Race winner now owned by Peter Jenkins.
Close astern came Neil Snare’s Winstead Wine from the DSS, just ahead of the Tamar Yacht Club entrant, Allusive (John Joyce) and Twitch (Richie Upton) from BYC.
Sailing conditions could not have been better for the 24 boat fleet that set sail from Beauty Point on the Tamar River on Saturday morning. At least 19 yachts were within sight of each other as they surfed past the spectacular cliffs and headlands of the Tasman Peninsula before a 20 knot nor’easter gusting to 27 knots.
The entire fleet is expected to be finished overnight or by early this afternoon when the Derwent Sailing Squadron will announce provisional winners on corrected time for the three handicap categories, AMS, IRC and PHS.