Under a bright full moon, the pocket maxi Sorbent Helsal II, crossed the Gizo Harbour finish line to break Bit O' Fluffs 1998 race record by 13 hours, 31 minutes 30 seconds.
To the accompaniment of cheers, whistles, horns and flashing lights, the big sloop anchored in front of the Gizo Explorer Hotel to await customs clearance. Race officials Murray Hallam and Lyn Smith and accompanying media delivered the complimentary cartons of ice cold Solbrew to the excited crew. Relieved to have found a gentle 10 knots over the last few hours, Skipper Bill Rawson and Navigator Neville Rose, told of their concern over the last 24 hours of the race, as the breezes lightened, that the race record would slip away.
After a slow first 24 hours, the fleet had moved away from the light Australian coastal breeze pattern into a nine hundred-mile band of strong easterly trade winds. These steady 25-35 knot winds had powered them to the race record.
Sorbent Helsal II's one major mishap during the race was when she broke her steering chain, when beam reaching, at 11 knots, with a double reefed main, staysail and No 3 jib, about 6pm on the second night in 30 knots of breeze. Bill Rawson explained that it was lucky that the boat was so beautifully balanced at the time, she tracked steadily until sails were lowered. With the emergency rudder system fitted on the stern, Sorbent Helsal II could move along at 5 knots, however the chain system repair cost them at least six hours at the higher speed and as a result they lost 30 miles.
Although Sorbent Helsal II is the clear line honours winner, the major prize goes to the handicap winners. The Racing Division leader remains John Hebden's classic 37-foot yawl Cherana, while the German crewed Baltic 47 On Top leads Cruising Division. On Top is expected to finish on Friday afternoon, while Mike Thurston's Drina, winner of the last two races on handicap is expected to finish on Saturday morning.
The official race website www.sail-world.com is tracking the race fleet, with the latest Star-Track satellite tracking technology. There are two sets of displays, the radio skeds updated twice daily, and the satellite tracking reports updated hourly.