At the Royal Yacht Club of Tasmania’s Tasports Maria Island Race tonight, four potential handicap winners were line astern, less than a sea mile between them, as they sailed back down the State’s East Coast to Hobart.
Whistler and Martela are strong contender for handicap honours in the Maria Island Race.
'You could throw a lady’s handkerchief over the four of them', was the description of the duty race officer at the RYCT.
The four yachts, Tony Williams’ Sydney Hobart entrant Martela, David Rees Whistler, David Taylor’s Pisces and the larger yacht, Audere (Mike Pritchard) came charging down the coast from Maria Island under spinnaker in the afternoon, closing up with race leader The Fork in the Road, Gary Smith’s 52-footer.
The Fork in the Road had overtaken the fleet on Friday night after her embarrassing entanglement with the ‘pin end’ buoy of the starting line on the Friday evening start off Hobart’s Castray Esplanade.
The Fork in the Road led the fleet around the top end of Maria Island around midday today but apparently ran out of wind off Marion Bay on the leg back south. The four boats astern, enjoying a northerly breeze from astern, caught and actually overtook the bigger boat for a short time..
Whistler display her red storm sails before the start of the Maria island Race.
At that stage, as they headed south, the last yacht in the race, the 62-footer cruising boat Magic Miles, was still heading north…. slowly. Like Martela, she is an entrant in the Sydney Hobart.
With The Fork in the Road’s satellite tracker not functioning, race officials early this evening estimated her position at 7:00pm at between Eaglehawk Neck and Yellow Bluff on the Tasman Peninsula. The other four leaders were only a few miles astern, north of Pirates Bay.
Of the four yachts close astern of The Fork in the Road, Pisces looked the best placed on corrected time, the modified Sydney 36 sailing well above her rating in competition with Whistler, Martela and Audere, a larger Beneteau First 45 sailing its first ocean race in Tasmanian waters.
At that time, three yachts still had to round the northern tip of Maria Island.