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20 April 2007, 01:54 pm
Top Three Slogging It Out For Line Honours
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Melbourne Osaka Cup 2007
Melbourne, Australia

Things are heating up at the front end of the Melbourne Osaka double handed yacht race this morning as Gusto and Alex slowly but surely eat away COCORIN interland's lead. Sailing east of the leader Gusto, the Open 60, put in 225 nautical miles during the past 24 hours and the Jones/Hart 14m Alex, 231 nm, leaving the two just 79 and 90 miles respectively astern of the Japanese leader.
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Wonder where both Gusto and Alex might be now, had it not been for unscheduled repair pit stops in Honiara and Bundaberg? We will never know.

Having left Guam to port yesterday, this morning COCORIN, which has put in 220 miles over 24 hours, is sailing along the Honshu Ridge on a course just west of north and west of the finish line in Osaka. The Elliot 16 m schooner will be difficult to catch in the present trade wind conditions.

Itaru MATSUNAGA (JPN) reported from COCORIN yesterday, 'Fine weather, boat speed 10 knots, sailing in 14 knot easterly with wave height of 1 metre, with full genoa, main and mizzen.

'We passed the north tip of Guam at 10:00 EST. I feel we are sailing in our garden [home turf] and would like to keep the top position.'

From Brian PATTINSON (AUS) on Gusto last evening, 'Easy day, light 10-15 knot breeze, beam reach. Beautiful days; easy to read, sleep and eat. All maintenance is done and I'm taking it easy. We all know this will change!'

Leaders Pull Away

The Trades are where the top three larger yachts are increasing substantial mile separation on those behind them. Those who have suffered least are the Japanese entry Tamagomalu (loss of 19 nm) and the Queensland speedsters on RYU-JIN - fgi (14 nm), who continue to make good speed.

The angst is evident in an email from fifth on line Dekadence skipper Phil COOMBS (AUS) yesterday, 'A tough couple of days, so close, yet so far! We are continuing to run a relatively conservative race, with the focus more about finishing rather than pushing the yacht till it breaks.

'We have had only three hours spinnaker work to-date; the only upwind was in Port Phillip Bay and the first part of Wilsons Promontory, the rest has been reaching - and this [a DK46] is NOT a reaching boat - arghhhhhh.

'Although a little frustrated, we are preparing ourselves for the last part of the trip. After Guam, there are still some interesting components to negotiate, as the weather systems flow from west to east with some alarming velocity to them. We'll have currents on the approach to Japan, which sweep across the intended path, not dissimilar to the one which exists on the east coast of Australia.'

Yesterday, the Dekadence crew was experiencing 17-23 knots on a beam reach doing approx. 8-9 knots of boat speed.

Having A Ball

Tamagomalu's Makoto HISAMATSU (JPN) and Jimmi DOHERTY (AUS) would be having a ball. Sitting in a comfortable fourth place on line, the two finished in the middle of the 1999 Melbourne Osaka prizegiving having suffered mast and rudder damage during that race.

Although the two fought to make the start line this time around, due to losing their mast on their way to the Melbourne start port, the two have sailed exceptionally well and both, particularly DOHERTY, who is on his fourth Osaka, know the race track well, and the young Japanese skipper is approaching his home waters.

Murray BUCKNALL and Jon SAYER (AUS) are sailing RYU-JIN with pace, now on a mission to try and catch Dekadence some 221 miles ahead. Sounds impossible, but anything is possible for the Queenslanders who are positioned in the East Caroline Basin on a heading for Guam.

Seventh placed Asadori's crew, 113 nm behind the Queenslanders, reported, 'We encountered a squall with rain and 30 knot winds that forced us to reef the mail by three points and gave us a sleepless night.'

Racer B Battle

Along with Yamba's father and son Jim and Joe O'KEEFFE (AUS) they are in the Caroline Islands battling it out for honours in the Racer B division. The O'KEEFFE's have taken a leg out to the east, possibly hoping to emulate the good speeds Gusto has been able to muster up further east.

Next in line, Southern Light has chosen a more westerly course, 97 nm ahead of nearest rival Ingenue and 138 nm ahead of Wild Boar. Esoterica's crew has also opted for a more westerly course, 9 nm astern of Wild Boar.

An elated Wild Boar crew said yesterday: 'We crossed the equator at 22:30 JST 18 April!!'

On Esoterica, Queenslander David BEST (AUS) is celebrating his 46th birthday and hoping it is smooth sailing for he and Campbell REYNOLDS (AUS) on their comfortable cruiser, a Martz 46, today. Although last on line, it is a cruising boat and the guys are having a good time and are at least eating well, catching plenty of fish.

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, David BEST, left, and Campbell REYNOLDS on Esoterica:© Di Pearson
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