The Australian super maxi Skandia has won Line by just 14 minutes after 628 nautical miles of virtual match-racing in the Tasman Sea against her New Zealand rival, Zana.
Skandia, with owner/skipper Grant WHARINGTON at the helm, crossed the Hobart finish line off Castray Esplanade at 4.14 am local time this morning for an elapsed time of 2 days 15 hours 14 minutes 06 seconds, about 20 hours out the race record set by the Volvo 60, Nokia, in the heavy wind race of 1999.
Zana, skippered by Stewart THWAITES, from Wellington, New Zealand, finished at 4.28 am for an elapsed time of 2 days 15 hours 28 minutes 30 seconds.
Despite the early morning, a small spectator fleet escorted Skandia and Zana up the Derwent River while several hundred cheered the yachts and their crews as they berthed at daybreak on a clear and chilly morning at historic Constitution Dock in Hobart.
When the two brand new 98-footers rounded Tasman Island and entered Storm Bay, shortly before midnight, they were only three minutes apart.
But the Australian yacht accelerated away to a commanding lead as they sailed the 30 miles across Storm Bay, completing her voyage in an elapsed time of 2 days 15 hours 14 minutes and six seconds.
"How good is that,"
said owner skipper Grant WHARINGTON, with both thumbs proudly up.
"We could see them (Zana) the whole way, except for 30 minutes this morning.,"
"Off Cape Raoul we were just four boat lengths in front, but luckily for us the wind stayed in."
Skandia is the first Australian designed, built and owned boat to win line honours in six years and the first Victorian boat to get the gun since Kurrewa IV, back in the 1950's.
She is also first yacht with a innovative canting keel to win line honours. "The concept of a canting keel was fantastic…I expect there will be ten more boats with canting keels by next year,"
Wharington said that nothing had gone wrong with the boat. There were no gear problems. "We could sail back to Sydney straight away and start another Hobart Race."
Asked when felt sure he had won the race, the property developer from Mornington in Victoria said, "just as the gun went! But it could have gone either way."
The innovative yachtsman commissioned a local design team headed by retired engineer and amateur yacht designer, Don Jones. He also built a new facility for boat builder Mal Hart. Using the very latest D4 carbon fibre sails from Doyle Fraser of Somersby, north of Sydney, Wharington extended his support for the local Australian yachting industry further.
Wharington remarked that in commissioning Skandia, he was totally focussed on it being an all Australian affair. "That was very important to me,"
To help pay for the new boat, Wharington even sold his family home. Asked was this worth while, he added: "Definitely!"
Wharington added that the victory was an important step in his Volvo Ocean Race challenge, and said he would be back again with the same boat for the 60th Rolex Sydney Hobart Yacht Race in 2004.
Sailing master Ian "Barney" WALKER this morning was celebrating his sixth win in the Rolex Sydney Hobart Yacht Race, and his third line honours. Others were Alfa Romeo last year and the record breaking Nokia in 1999. But this was the first ever win for Wharington in Australia's major ocean classic.
"It was more mentally tiring than any race I have done; it was crucial that we stayed on their line, there was nothing in the boatspeed,"
Skandia rounded the Iron Pot at the entrance to the Derwent River at 2.31 am this morning, leaving her a final 11.2 nautical miles to sail to the finish of the Rolex Sydney Hobart Yacht Race.
The new state-of-the-art 98-footer had rounded Tasman Island at 11.42pm. At that point, Skandia was a mere three minutes ahead.
However, as Skandia freed sheets and hoisted its huge Code O headsail, she accelerated to 13 knots, close reaching across the Bay to round the Iron Pot at the entrance to the Derwent River just two and a half hours later, still holding a narrow lead from Zana.
As Skandia entered the river, she faced a slow beat to windward in a light northerly turning to northwesterly breeze.
Zana rounded the Iron Pot at 3.05, 34 minutes behind Skandia, but halved that time in the river as the two boats tacked back and forth in the 4 knot northerly breeze and against an ebbing tide flowing down the wide river estuary.
The third boat in the fleet of 55 yachts, Grundig AAPT, rounded Tasman Island at 3.40am, well astern of the two super maxis, and giving her estimated time of arrival in Hobart as 0800 hours.