Finish line decider
The prize in this race within a race eventually went to Bruce Schwab and his unique Bob Wylie designed Open 60 Ocean Planet (above) . They crossed the Tauranga finish line at 10:17:22 local time (21:17:22 GMT on January 15). Emma Richards on Pindar finished two and a half hours later at 12h:51m:12s local time (23h:51m:12s GMT) to take sixth place in class one.
"I finally got in," a jubilant Emma Richards told The Daily Sail on hitting the dock. "It was quite nice actually because I was fully powered up coming in the last four miles or so. It was just the 20 miles or so before that which took me a day!"
The trip down the northeast coast of New Zealand seems to have been a painful one for all the competitors to date with strong winds giving their boats a last thrashing - exactly what they didn't need after sailing more than 7,000 mile through the Southern Ocean and up the Tasman to get around the top of New Zealand.
"We had full on strong headwinds, heavy filthy seas – just really not nice at all. Graham said the same – it was some of the worst seas he’s seen," said Richards of the trip down. "Basically the big seas were on the nose - just really short and sharp. Every single wave you'd slam off it. I was on my spare wind instruments, but they gave up the ghost and the pilot gave up the ghost two days back. So much broke in that last day of really choppy upwind stuff."
Pindar was also crippled when her mainsail ripped from luff to leech at the third reef. Richards spent many long hours repairing it. "All my repair held. I came in fully powered up – full main, Solent, ballast for the last four miles. And it held. I’ve been protecting it quite well but the last 36 hours - I’ve been using it a lot in the lighter winds and I used it going up the last bit of the Tasman, but a lot of the stitching was stretching then."
After the pasting sailing into the headseas, the next worst thing was obviously to be becalmed and this is exactly what happened to both her and Bruce Schwab on the final approach to Tauranga. "I guess it was only the last 24 hours," said Richards. "We probably covered about 60 miles in the last day..."
The last two days she found herself match racing the Californian rigger. "We’ve been right next to each other for the last couple of days and this morning even we were totally becalmed for a lot of last night, we couldn’t have made more than a mile. Then this morning I had a little puff and it took me up to where he was and then he caught the same puff about two miles from the finish line and I was left where he left me this morning for a couple of more hours. So he got me in the end."
Despite a disappointing end to this leg, Richards was in very good spirits when we spoke to her. "I’m just glad to have got here and I’m pleased with the mainsail repair. It was the biggest reception we’ve had yet in the race. There were loads of people lining all the docks and cheering as I came in – I got to spray most of them with champagne."
American skipper Brad van Liew is expected imminently on Tommy Hilfiger Freedom America, the first boat in class two by more than 1,000 miles - once the sea breeze fills in.