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26 March 2007, 09:38 am
Melbourne Osaka Away To A Great Start
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Melbourne Osaka Cup 2007
Melbourne, Australia

The four yearly Melbourne Osaka double handed yacht race got away on time at 13:00 on Sunday on Port Phillip of Station Pier in beautiful Melbourne autumn conditions. City of Melbourne Lord Mayor John So had the privilege of firing the start cannon from the deck of HMAS Melbourne which returned to her home port especially to undertake this special duty, stationed just off the Port Melbourne start line.
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In a nice 10-15 knot southerly breeze, Gusto, a bright canary yellow Open 60 co-skippered by Patrick GIUDICE and Brian PATTINSON (AUS) from Melbourne, got the best of the start. Moments later, Queensland entry RYU-JIN - fgi, a brand new Sayer 12 m co-skippered by Murray BUCKNALL and Jon SAYER (AUS), the yacht's designer and builder, overtook the larger Gusto. However, disaster struck when BUCKNALL and SAYER were recalled for crossing the start line early and lost time as they made their way back to re-start.

While some seemed keen to get off the start well, as if on a short yacht race, others were leisurely and more careful in their approach. Wild Boar of Shozi YONEDA and Jun KANDA (JPN) and Tamagomalu took their time, knowing full well there was 5,500 nautical miles to play catch up, while James RYSSENBEEK and Andrew MCCOLE's (AUS) Runaway, Pippin of Roger SAYERS and Anthony BROWN (AUS) and Jim and Joe O'KEEFFE's (AUS) Hullabaloo worked the headwinds and tide as they tacked up the Bay towards the Heads.

Light Airs Plague Fleet

Following the start, Esoterica's crew, Campbell REYNOLDS and David BEST (AUS) reported to Principal Race Officer Kevin WILSON late last evening, 'We have decided to remain in Port Phillip to affect a few repairs before heading out into Bass Strait.'

However, the two fixed what they described as 'minor problems' and left Blairgowrie to rejoin the race this morning, now sailing along towards Wilsons Promontory.

Wild Boar were off Westernport on the tip of Victoria, with a boat speed of 0.5 knots, but have since tacked out and moving along a little faster, but the entire fleet as of early this afternoon were still sailing in very light airs.

Closely Bunched

At this early stage, the yachts are bunched fairly closely. At 05:00 UTC today, Ken DOWN and Shane GADDES' (AUS) Wasabi, Gusto, an Open 60, RYU-JIN and John and David NETHERTON's (AUS) Cadi were sailing in close proximity off Wilsons Promontory, with Tamagamolu, Southern Light, Pippin and Ingenue in hot pursuit, 15-25 miles behind the leader whilst further out to sea, Dekadence, Runaway, Hullabaloo and Alex had taken a leg back towards the coast., with COCORIN interland in contact with that group but heading seawards again.

Currently in Bass Strait, it will not be long before the Victorians head into the Tasman Sea. However, they are only travelling at speeds of anywhere between 3 and 5.5 knots, telling plenty about the lack of breeze.

The bulk of the fleet, headed by Wasabi and their sistership, RYU-JIN - fgi are closer to the Victorian coast off Wilsons Promontory with slightly better speeds in the 4 to 5.4 knot range.

Both yachts were designed and built by SAYER, but Wasabi, which has a few more creature comforts, features twin wheels whilst RYU-JIN is tiller steered and has a centreboard rather than a keel. Both are keen to be the fastest boat and have been keeping in close contact since the race start.

Japanese entry, COCORIN interland an Elliot 16m schooner, had been heading away from the coast, but have come back in, searching for pressure.

Tactical Start

Further back in the field, the yachts are struggling, doing between 2.6 and 3.8 knots, making the early stages of the race quite tricky and one of tactics - coast or sea?

Meteorologist Roger 'Clouds' BADHAM, currently in Valencia with America's Cup Emirates Team New Zealand challenge, is looking after weather predictions for the fleet. His report shows the area from Wilsons Promontory to 60 nm east of Gabo Island will experience southeast to northeast of 10-15 knots in the afternoon, increasing to 20 knots during the evening on 1-1.5 metre seas, which will be a welcome relief for competitors.

Come Tuesday, competitors can expect northeasterly winds of 10-20 knots on 1-2 metre seas.

About The Race

Staged every four years, the Organising Authority for the Melbourne-Osaka Yacht Race is made up of City of Osaka Promotional Council, Osaka Hokko Yacht Club, Japan Sailing Federation - Offshore Naikai, City of Melbourne, Sandringham Yacht Club and in association with Yachting Australia.

The event was first held in 1987 to commemorate the 120th anniversary of the opening of the Port of Osaka and celebrates the sister city relationship between Melbourne and Osaka.

Di Pearson (As Amended By ISAF). Image, RYU-JIN-FGI tachs to restart the race after crossing the line early:© Teri Dodds
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