When the British chartered yacht Bounder pulled in alongside the new Yendys at the Hobart's Constitution Dock marina this evening, Sydney yachtsman Geoff ROSS justifiably might well have felt somewhat disappointed.
After all, Bounder was the previous Yendys which he sailed to an overall handicap win in 1999, and it had now beaten his latest Yendys on corrected time in the 2003 Rolex Sydney Hobart Yacht Race.
But Ross certainly not show his disappointment, leading his crew in three rousing cheers for Chris LITTLE, Commodore of the Royal Ocean Racing Club, and his British crew.
Ross shouted as his former boat backed into the marina berth, reaching over to shake the British yachtsman's hand, with hundreds of Hobartians and tourists packing the dockside on a balmy evening in the capital city of Tasmania.
Yendys, a Judel/Vroljk 52 and former Mediterrannean IMS champion, crossed the line only 17 minutes ahead of Bounder, a Farr 49, which began life as Yendys in 1999 and after being sold by Ross was re-named Sting.
Provisional placings in IMS Division A, placed Bounder in an almost unbeatable position, with Bob STEEL'S Nelson/Marek 46, Quest, Syd FISCHER'S Farr 50, Ragamuffin, and Geoff BOETTCHER'S Secret Mens Business fighting out the minor placings. Yendys was likely to place back in fourth or fifth place on the corrected time.
If Bounder claims the overall title, it would be the first occasion the race has had a British winner since Ted HEATH won on board the S&S 34 Morning Cloud in 1969.
However, in overall IMS standings the smaller boats still dominate handicap positions, with the Beneteau 40.7, First National Real Estate, heading the standings at 9.30pm, with the cruiser/racer Tilting at Windmills, skippered by Victorian Thorry GUNNERSEN, and the 20-year-old Peterson-designed Impeccable, skippered by 81-year-old John WALKER, also figuring in the top three placings.
Ross was full of praise for the British crew, "they sailed their boat very well",
but added that Yendys had been 30 miles ahead when she rounded Tasman Island at 3am today.
"We just drifted in from Cape Raoul, but these things happen in ocean racing,"
Ross added, going on to describe his new Yendys as "a stunning yacht…the best I have ever sailed on."
Chris Little, sailing his first Rolex Sydney Hobart, said the first two days had been a "fantastic tussle, literally a match race, with Ragamuffin."
But the Australian boat had tacked inshore and ended up 30 miles astern.
Little described the sail down the Tasmanian East Coast as "brilliant"
, roaring down the coast at 26 knots under spinnaker before a nor-easterly breeze hitting 39 knots.
That was, until the wind died away as they rounded Tasman Island and reached Cape Raoul, as it did for almost all the boats in that group.
From there on, it was a long and frustrating drifter all the way to the finish, although Bounder came home fast over the last couple of miles up the Derwent under a shy kite to further close the gap with Yendys.
IRC Division A has also been provisionally decided this evening with first place going to Matt ALLEN'S Farr 52, Ichi Ban, and second to Merlin, owned by Olympic gold medallist David FORBES and Richard BROOKS.