Rolex Sydney to Hobart 2003 winner, Grant WHARINGTON'S 98 footer Skandia was the first boat to cross the finish line off Mooloolaba's Point Cartwright at 7:40:40 this Saturday morning.
In one of the slowest FKP Sydney to Mooloolaba races ever, the line honours leader finished 26 hours outside Brindabella's ten year old race record for the 468 nautical mile race.
It was a near run thing. Having not been beaten in 23 starts, the unthinkable almost happened when mid race Skandia was becalmed for 12 hours.
Skandia was looking to follow her Hobart win with a race record in this last race of the 2003-2004 sailing season for Australia's offshore racers.
Skipper Grant WHARINGTON and his crew, concerned that they not be caught too far offshore in the dying morning breezes had been reciting the old sailing mantra from this soft autumn race, sailed northwards against the south flowing East Australian current,'In (close on the coast) you win, out (at sea), you shout!! (the bar)'
However with the morning breeze proved very light and fluky, they had no choice but to cover their maxi rivals, Sean LANGMAN'S AAPT (better known as Grundig) and last year's line honours winner and the race record holder, George SNOW'S 79 footer Brindabella.
"We had misgivings, but we could not afford to let them sneak through. They went seawards and we had to cover. We sailed into a hole and they followed us.
Within a few hours there were nine of us, all parked.
The two 52 footers, Ichi Ban (Skandia Geelong Week IRC Champion) and Yendys, (European IMS champion) saw our mistake as they sailed up towards us. They gybed inshore to the five metre (contour) line and held it as they rock hopped north. As my crew pointed out to me, we can't sail the five metre line anyway, when we draw five metres.
At 6am, I lead my A watch down below. Three hours later, we came back on deck to find B watch had been unable to move us. We told them impolitely of our disappointment with their performance. But at noon, it was our turn to take the tongue lashing from the B watch guys, as we were still parked.
Thankfully they got us moving again and we sailed into the coastal pressure line. At last a 20-knot southwester, we were away...
By then Ichi Ban, who had been 25 miles behind us the previous night, was 31 miles ahead so we had some work to do.
We zig zagged back up the fleet, the 30 and 40 footers were open mouthed, as we appeared from astern. We'd been 50 miles ahead of them 24 hours earlier.
They all seemed to take a lot of photos from their sterns - of us behind them.
By Evan's Reef at the 1305 afternoon sked we had six boats ahead of us, but we had gapped AAPT by two miles. Our priority was to keep them behind us."
Just after midnight, with the stern lights of the Farr 52 Ichi Ban now clearly in sight, Wharington's phone beeped and up came the phone text message from Matt ALLEN on Ichi Ban.
"Every dog has his day, we've just had ours!"
Minutes later, Skandia swept past the unlikely race leader two miles off the Surfer's Paradise light and disappeared northwards. Over the next two hours she held 20 knots of boat speed, up Stradbroke Island and around Cape Moreton.
Skandia crossed the finish line at 7:40:40 - an elapsed time 2 days 18 hours 40 minutes 40 seconds.
Ichi Ban crossed the finish line second at 10:14:12 and AAPT at 12:29:56.
Wharington commented dockside at Mooloolaba, "The Ichi Ban guys did really well. They had given us a similar fright at Skandia Geelong Week at the end of January, when we did not run them down until the last mile in the Williamtown to Geelong race.
The one pleasing thing about this race was that we managed to sail away from AAPT by 34 miles in the last 140. She has been considered the fastest downwind boat until now.
With our line honours record intact, we are looking forward to the Brisbane to Gladstone race starting on Easter Friday. If we get trade wind breezes like we had last night and this morning we could take out the record, it's 21 hours 40 minutes for 308 miles down wind, so we are really looking forward to that."
Full position eports are available on the event website at the address below.