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30 December 2003, 08:11 am
First National Wins 2003 Rolex Sydney Hobart
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First National© Daniel Forster

Rolex Sydney Hobart Yacht Race
Sydney - Hobart

At 1746 local time Jim COX the chairman of the Race Committee declared the Beneteau 40.7 First National the overall winner of the 2003 Rolex Sydney Hobart.
At sunset on Tuesday four boats were still at sea. All eyes now turn to next year's 60th anniversary of the first 'Hobart'.

The 59th Rolex Sydney Hobart is all but over. Of the 57 boats that were entered, 56 took the start, three boats retired en route, one from a broken mast and two because of other bits of gear failure, 49 are tied to the dock in Hobart, one of which has been disqualified for failing to radio in during the race, and four are still at sea.

The overall winner of the Rolex Sydney Hobart is determined using the IMS handicap system, the boat with the lowest corrected time is declared as the victor and awarded the Tattersall Cup. Michael SPIES and Peter JOHNSON'S Beneteau 40.7 First National beat Thorry GUNNERSON'S wooden-hulled Dory 41 Tilting at Windmills by almost 90 minutes on corrected time. Third was Howard DE TORRES' IMX 40 Nips-N-Tux correcting out not quite five minutes later.

Michael SPIES has had an illustrious Rolex Sydney Hobart career to date. The 2003 edition was his 27th race and he is only 44 years old. Spies was co-skipper on board the Volvo 60 Nokia, the line honours winner in 1999. That was the occasion when the current race record of 1 day 19 hours 48 minutes and two seconds was set. To top it all this year First National not only won the IMS division but IRC too.

The Commodore of Britain's Royal Ocean Racing Club Chris LITTLE won IMS Class A with his chartered Farr 48 Bounder. The pre-race favourite, Geoff ROSS' Yendys finish third in Class A and 17th overall.

Next year will be the 60th anniversary of the Cruising Yacht Club of Australia's classic offshore race. The 2004 Rolex Sydney Hobart is already on the tip of the tongues of the 700-odd crew that competed this year. An icon of Australian Summer Sport, 'the Hobart' continues to pull both massive media coverage and crowds. At the start in Sydney on Boxing Day more than 200,000 people lined the shores of Sydney's beautiful harbour. The event's official website has seen a threefold increase in traffic over last year with over 5 million page views in just five days. In Tasmania's capital the race finish coincides with the Hobart Summer Festival, the Taste of Tasmania food and wine festival, the finish of another offshore race from Melbourne and the peak of the summer season in the Southern Hemisphere. Spectators and curious fans are not in short supply.

Provisional interim results are also available on the official website at:
www.rolexsydneyhobart.com/standings.asp?key=524

Rolex Sydney Hobart - Quotes:

Michael SPIES - co-skipper of Beneteau 40.7 First National, overall winner of the 2003 Rolex Sydney Hobart.

"Push the boat, keep her pointing to Hobart at 95% of her maximum speed, 100% of the time. We were tactically sound. We didn't go out on any limbs. A couple of boats took a flyer here and a flyer there and they were paid short dividends. But then the next flyer they took came back to bite them."

"Yesterday we had 12 hours of hard spinnaker running and for six hours we were right on the edge. We knew we had to keep pushing it to stay with the boats we had to beat."

"We stopped for a couple of hours in Bass Strait when the wind died, and we thought we had lost it, but the rest of the fleet stopped too. We stopped again at Tasman Island and coming into Storm Bay but finally got an early morning breeze that carried us up the river,"

"This is up there with 1999. It's hard to compare. With line honours only two or three boats can win, but on handicap twenty or thirty boats have a chance."

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