Across Bass Straight

Neville Crichton's Alfa Romeo holds small but significant lead

Friday December 27th 2002, Author: Peter Campbell, Location: United Kingdom
Neville Crichton’s Alfa Romeo holds a five-mile lead as the Rolex Sydney Hobart Race frontrunners enter Bass Strait.

Sailing in 12 to 14 knot northeasterly breezes with its big silver spinnaker flying, Alfa Romeo was some 50 miles east of Gabo Island, and still in front of Canon, skippered by owner Mike Slade.

Astern and wide of Canon was Australian Skandia Wild Thing (Grant Wharrington), and further back is Grundig (Sean Langman), George Snow’s Brindabella and Nicorette (Ludde Ingvall).

Overnight the 55-strong fleet separated in shifty breezes and sloppy seas, with the race leaders heading well offshore to find breeze but at dawn winds remained light at 8-10 knots from the northeast, with the Bureau of Meteorology forecasting stronger winds inshore this afternoon.

Whilst Alfa Romeo is holding a lead that should see it take Line Honours tomorrow afternoon, Skandia has taken a gamble, seeking stronger winds offshore. Last report had Skandia some 105 nautical miles east of the rhumb line.

Canon is also staying in touch with Alfa Romeo and will be hoping for a tactical opportunity to take the front running. Forecast northeasterly winds will give the maxis an armchair ride across the Strait and down the Tasmanian east coat.

Crowd favourite, Brindabella, continues to lead on IMS handicap but will have to withstand challenges from Andrew Short Marine Mercury, Syd Fisher’s Ragamuffin and Another Challenge, skippered by Lou Abrahams sailing in his 40th Sydney Hobart.

One of the smallest boats in this years’ fleet, the 31ft Toecutter, is also an outside chance to take home the Tattersall’s Cup. However southerly winds, forecast for late Sunday, will slow the fleet tailenders.

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