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21 May 2001, 11:49 pm
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Aircalin Auckland to Noumea Yacht Race

The 2001 Aircalin Auckland to Noumea Yacht Race left the 'City of Sails' in perfect conditions for a fast start with wind gusts up to 25 knots and bright sunshine on the Waitemata harbour.
The 2001 Aircalin Auckland to Noumea Yacht Race left the 'City of Sails' in perfect conditions for a fast start with wind gusts up to 25 knots and bright sunshine on the Waitemata harbour.

The race has been reinstated after an absence of seven years with the first monohull yacht aiming to break 96 hours to win $10,000.

A total of 14 yachts started, with high expectations for Antaeus, Elliott Marine and Ondine VII. The three New Caledonia boats; Internautic, skippered by Thierry Causer, Rogntudjuu with Philippe Coste at the helm and Noumea (formerly well known New Zealand boat Route 66) are facing pressure to finish in the top placings from their home yacht club Cercle Nautique Caledonian in Noumea.

Noumea skippered by Jean Luc Esplaas was third on handicap in the Sydney to Hobart race in 1998 and although one of the smaller craft in the fleet has plenty of experience on board and a determined skipper.

Among the crews on the various boats are two Trans-Atlantic rowers, Steve Westlake and Steph Brown who are ocean racing for the first time and are aiming to get their 'sealegs' by taking part in the race

The 60 foot sloop Antaeus skippered by Charles St Clair Brown gained a good jump at the start along with the new light weight flyer, the 14m Elliott Marine, with Greg Elliott as skipper. However as the yachts approached North Head on Auckland's North Shore the Noumea catamaran, Rogntudjuu literally blasted its way through the fleet reaching in the fresh wind and eventually stretching out a significant lead by Rangitoto Light.

After 36 hours of racing the fleet was making good progress in an effort to break the target time of 96 hours for the first monohull yacht to reach the Cercle Nautique Caledonien Yacht Club and take away the cash prize.

By 18:40 NZST on Sunday the Noumea catamaran, Rogntuduu was 80 miles ahead of the rest of the fleet and projected to arrive in Noumea on an ETA of just over 73 hours if she was able to keep up her average speed of 13.2 knots.

Antaeus skippered by Charles St Clair Brown was the best of the monohulls challenging the 96 hours and lay six hours ahead of third placed OndineVII the 80 foot Maxi which had a narrow lead over Elliott Marine in fourth place.

Early today however the situation had changed as the wind died away. Now ahead of the fleet was a calm area that was likely to slow the leaders further and initially, benefit the following boats closing from the rear.

Evening positional reports received tonight show this to be the case. We can now expect a close race for line honours over the next few days.







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