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8 March 2005, 02:50 pm
Crossing Start On For Today
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Bass Strait Crossing
Stanley, Australia

Olympic medallist Michael BLACKBURN (AUS) will begin his crossing of Australia's Bass Strait in a Laser dinghy at approximately 1500 GMT.
Strong winds of 25 knots gusting to 35 have so far delayed the crossing from the weekend. Now BLACKBURN has been given the all clear by his weather advisor and aims to leave Tasmania, at 02:00 local time (15:00 8 March GMT).

In a far cry from his bronze medal in the Sydney 2000 Olympic Games and an ISAF World Sailing Ranking of three, BLACKBURN will be taking his 4.2 metre Laser across the 140 nautical mile strait against the battering winds of the Roaring 40s.

The voyage will take him from Stanley in northwest Tasmania to Tidal River in Victoria. Along the way BLACKBURN will be trailed by a support boat skippered by Tim PHILLIPS and also carrying cameraman West ASHTON.

Winds of 15-20 knots have been forecast across the Strait although these could reach up to 20-25 knots come the finish ensuring that it will be a rough ride for PHILLIPS and ASHTON let alone the Laser.

'The delays have been a little frustrating but there's nothing we could do about it. It looks like it will be a good day tomorrow so I'm happy about that,' BLACKBURN says.

Now that the bigger seas have abated from earlier in the week, the smaller seas are more suitable for a faster crossing although for a little boat like a Laser they are still very big seas indeed: 'I've been thinking about it and I know it's going to be a lot of the same sort of stuff. There will be a lot of waves, water and wind blowing. Sailing with lots of waves and sailing a lot of the same.'

With an average speed of somewhere between 8-12 knots the crossing is expected to take around 14-18 hours.

ISAF. Image:© sailfitter.com
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