Whistler wins Maria Island Race despite crew evacuation

Sydney Hobart Yacht Race entrant Whistler is provisional winner of all three handicap categories of the TasPorts Maria Island Race.

The MBD36 achieved the hat-trick of wins under AMS, IRC and PHS scoring, despite losing an estimated 45 minutes in evacuating an injured crew member during the weekend race off the south-east coast of Tasmania.

Crewman Isaac Smith lost the top of a finger of his right hand as he was being hoisted up the mast to retrieve a halyard and was taken ashore at Pirate’s Bay by a Tasman Island Cruises inflatable boat. Smith was transferred by ambulance from Eaglehawk Neck to the Royal Hobart Hospital but after treatment was able to greet Whistler and her crew when she finished the race at 7:13pm Saturday.

“He is fully confident he will be able to sail with us in the 70th Rolex Sydney Hobart,” Whistler’s new skipper Jory Linscott said today.

The Royal Yacht Club of Tasmanian announced provisional handicap results early this afternoon although four small yachts had still to finish the 190 nautical mile race.

Whistler, a MBD 36, won the IRC category, the major handicap system used in the Rolex Sydney Hobart Race, by just under 13 minutes from record-breaking line honours winner Cougar II, Tony Lyall’s powerful TP52. Third place went to David Creese’s Mat 12, Obsession.

In the PHS category, Whistler won from Gary Smith’s The Fork in the Road, third going to Cougar II, while under the AMS category she won from The Fork in the Road and Martela (Tony Williams).

All major placegetters on corrected time, with the exception of The Fork in the Road, are Tasmanian entrants in the 70th Rolex Sydney Hobart Race.

With Jory Linscott skippering Whistler for the first time in a long ocean race, Whistler’s crew not only won the Maria Island Race on corrected time but also showed good seamanship in handling the emergency.

“We were heading back from Maria Island when the incident happened, with the evacuation quickly co-ordinated by the Royal Yacht Club of Tasmania,” skipper Linscott explained. “Smith, accompanied by another crew member, Jacqui Guy, was taken ashore at Pirate’s Bay by Pennicott’s where an ambulance was waiting.

“That left us with just seven crew to finish the race, including crossing Storm Bay, but we managed to hold our winning position in the fleet,” Linscott added.

Whistler, a MBD36, sailed an exceptionally good race in the demanding conditions, rounding Maria Island third in fleet and ahead of bigger boats, finally finishing fifth across the line.

With the River Derwent ‘shutting down’ soon after sunset on Saturday night, only seven boats had finished by that time. By daybreak today five had retired from the race, leaving just four boats to finish.

The last boat in the fleet, Off-Piste, finished at 2:15 this afternoon.

From Peter Campbell

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