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9 March 2005, 09:26 am
BLACKBURN's Crossing Successful
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Bass Strait Crossing
Victoria, Australia

Olympian Michael BLACKBURN (AUS) has completed his crossing of the Bass Strait in a 4.2 metre Laser dinghy. He made the 115 nautical mile crossing in 13.5 hours.
The perfect weather window opened for the Sydney sailor, with winds of 15-20 knots powering his tiny craft from Stanley in Northern Tasmania to Tidal Beach in Victoria.

After waiting over the weekend for fierce winds to die down BLACKBURN started his voyage in the middle of last night: 'I hoisted sail at three-thirty am [Australian Standard Time - Ed]. The first few hours before dawn were pretty hairy, I was planing downwind doing eights-nines, with no moon and no stars, a couple of times I put the bow in the water and filled the cockpit…First light was a little after six am and it was a relief to see the waves were not as big as they seemed in the dark...'

For BLACKBURN the crossing was not just about setting precedents but also about having a good time… 'I always knew Lasers were fun down-wind, I reckon I caught a wave just about every ten seconds for 13 and a half hours (4000+ waves). My average speed was 8.6 knots. Today has just been a blast.'

37-year-old BLACKBURN, who has sailed in the Laser class at three Olympics, was a heartbreaking two points out of the medals in Atlanta 1996, but won bronze in Sydney four years later. By 2004 he had reached number one in the ISAF World Sailing Rankings and again won selection but finished ninth. In the latest ISAF World Sailing Rankings he lies third.

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Away from the Laser BLACKBURN has been freshening up with some big boat sailing. He has been calling tactics very successfully on one of the top Sydney 38's in Australia, Estate Master and sailed south in the 60th Rolex Sydney to Hobart Race. According to BLACKBURN the skills learnt on the Laser help him on the bigger boats and vice-versa: 'It seems my little boat skills are translating well to big boats. Ability to concentrate for long periods, good tactical and strategic thinking and of course fitness. All those things helped me today too.'

And what now for the Australian: 'This years Volvo Round the World race looks interesting.'

Rob Kothe/Sail World (As Amended By ISAF). Images, BLACKBURN in training &Tidal River:© sailfitter.com
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