The Queensland-based, part Tasmanian-owned catamaran, API Mersey Pharmacy, took line honours in the first sailing leg of the Australian Three Peaks Race.
Sailing from Beauty Point on the Tamar River to Lady Barron on Flinders Island. API Mersey Pharmacy crossed the line at 10.43.30 pm, only 34 minutes outside the record for the 90 nautical mile dash across south-eastern Bass Strait. Skippered by designer Rob Chamberlin from Caloundra, Queensland, and co-owned by Devonport chemist Terry Travers, the 38-foot catamaran, best known finished only 13 minutes outside the record for the first sailing leg of the Three Peaks.
Another Chamberlin design, the 30-footer Cameron Walshe, skippered by Devonport sailor Phillip Marshall, finished only 13 minutes astern after leading the fleet until near Flinders Island. Within minutes of berthing at Lady Barron, the yachtÕs specialist runners had headed off on a moonlit night on the gruelling 65 km cross-country run and 756m ascent of Mt Strzelecki and return to Lady Barron for the second sailing leg to Coles Bay on the Tasmanian East Coast.
In good running conditions, the runners of the first two boats were expected back aboard before daybreak for the second sailing leg down the Tasmanian East Coast to Coles Bay.
Sailing in a 20 knot norÕwester, with a following sea, the whole fleet made exceptionally fast time on the first leg, with race officials expecting most of the fleet to finish within three hours of the first boats crossing the line.
In perfect weather, the 13th annual Australian Three Peaks Race start, plus a festival on Beauty Point wharf, attracted 10,000 spectators on the wharf, more than 200 spectator boats while hundreds of people picnicked on Garden Island to watch the fleet sail past. The Governor of Tasmania and Patron of the Three Peaks Race, Sir Guy Green, fired an historic cannon to start the fleet and, after following the boats down the Tamar to Low Head he and Lady Green flew to Flinders Island to welcome the sailors and runners when they reach the little fishing port of Lady Barron. Sir Guy and Lady Green were on the wharf to meet the first boat, API Mersey Pharmacy, and farewelled the runners on their gruelling long cross country and mountain run.
Despite having to battle a strong flooding tide in the Tamar River after the starft, Cameron Walshe, which races normally as Slingshot, had covered 35 nautical miles since the start, at that stage well inside the record for the first leg of 8 hours 9 minutes 30 seconds for the 90 nautical mile leg. Three hours after the start the fleet was spread line astern over some 15 miles off Ninth Island on the north-east coast of Tasmania, with Cameron Walshe then about one sea mile ahead of API Mersey Pharmacy. In third place came the first of the monohull yachts, Haphazard, skippered by race veteran Nick Edmunds, sailing in his 13th Three Peaks Race, followed by his brother Richard, sailing Southern Cross and the big Hobart catamaran Sea to Summit, skippered by Richard Clennett.
The new Hobart sloop, Tasmanian Craftwoods, a radical Jones 40 skippered by Joshua Ey, had surprisingly slipped back in the fleet to fifth place after briefly taking the lead in the river between George Town and Low Head. Cameron Walshe took the lead just before reaching Low Head from Tasmanian Craftwoods, which had earlier outsailed Hazhazard as the fleet battled the 5 knot tide and the whirlpools and eddies between Clarence Point and Low Head.
Not all the multihulls fared so well, with the only trimaran in the race, Rosevears Tavern, skippered by Marc Ellingsen, hitting the rocks off George Town Point when a sharp gust forced the boat to round up sharply. The crew used the outboard to back off the rocks and Race Director Alastair Douglas later penalised Rosevears Tavern one and a half hours for using the engine, which will bed added to her elapsed time for the first leg. Rosevears Tavern suffered no apparent damage but when she finally cleared Low Head she was at least two hours behind the fleet.