Team FGI are expected to finish later today an impressive 340 miles ahead of their nearest rival in Racer C
At more than 10,200km, the Cup is the world's longest longitudinal double-handed yacht race. It celebrates the Sister City and Sister Port relationships between Melbourne and Osaka.
Each two-person team must sail non-stop all the way to Osaka, which can take up to 6 weeks.
It has been a sensational race, with many dramatic highlights - huge seas and heavy weather after the start, racers jockeying for position up the coast of Australia, and the lack of a box of a matches resulting in cold food aboard Funnel Web!
Some lowlights so far have included the wreck and sinking of Mad Max and the defiant struggle and eventual capitulation of No Fearr. Most importantly, all competitors have come through safe and well, which is uppermost in the sailors minds at the moment, as stated by the crew aboard Fine Tolerance via e-mail:
"All have been sobered at the abandonment of Mad Max after hitting a reef. No one wants this to happen to anyone and all are relieved that they have both been picked up," wrote Philip Hogg, skipper of Fine Tolerance.
The crew of Mad Max, James Murchison and Jeff Thompson from Sydney, were helicoptered off the boat and placed on board the Shirase, which took them to Rabaul. Mad Max was abandoned.
All of the competitors are now looking forward to a dry land again, a shower to wash the caking salt off, and in the case of husband-wife team aboard Funnel Web, some hot food!! The couple forgot to bring any matches with them, and having been surviving since on such dishes as raw eggs dropped in orange juice and Scottish sardines.
"Most of the fresh food has gone to waste, as we didn't eat for the first four days due to the rough weather. Boy, are we looking forward to some real stir-fry and a pizza in Japan," Ivan and Sibylle Macfadyen, crew of Funnel Web, wrote.
Funnel Web has been 'doing it tough', with Ivan being crushed between the boom and a winch in the heavy weather early in the race and cracking ribs on both sides.
Lord Mayor, John So said the racers are expected to arrive in Osaka in approximately two weeks time, although some of the faster racing yachts may arrive earlier.
"The celebrations in Osaka, which will last two months, are centered around Business Partner City activities. There will be a Fashion and Design Incubator featuring young designers, a trade show and of course a celebration of the efforts of our intrepid yachties, " the Lord Mayor said.
The celebrations for the yachties include an access dinghy regatta at the Hoko Yacht Club to develop interest in sailing in Osaka. Access Dinghies, designed and manufactured in Melbourne, appeal to that huge majority of the world's population who would love to have a go at sailing, but find it too difficult or uninviting to do so.
The 2003 Tasaki Osaka Cup celebrations and activities will conclude with a series of meetings to begin planning for the 2007 Osaka Cup.