Tasmania’s fastest ocean racing yacht, Cougar II, has wound up her local preparation for the Rolex Sydney Hobart Race with a decisive line honours victory in the Royal Yacht of Tasmania’s 180 nautical mile Maria Island Race.
Skippered by Beaconsfield GP, Tony Lyall, Cougar II crossed the finish line off Hobart’s Castray Esplanade at 17:03:00 this afternoon, with her nearest opposition, Gary Smith’s Bakewell-White 45 The Fork in the Road estimated to be three hours away.
The Fork in Road finished two-and-a-half hours later, at 19:30:38, soon after sunset.
Cougar II emerged out of the showers and gloom early this afternoon as she swept into the Derwent under her huge spinnaker mid-afternoon, reporting in by radio after being ‘off-the-air” with her satellite tracker since 10.45am today.
She made a spectacular sight as Lyall and his crew worked the wind angles, gybing their huge spinnaker and mainsail with its UTAS logo to maintain maximum boat speed. Watchers on the Derwent shores described Cougar II as “smoking up the river.”
Both boat and crew now appear fully tuned for another crack at the Sydney Hobart in which Cougar II will be opposed by at least another ten TP52s, as well as many other boats in the 50 to 55 footer range in the 111 boat fleet.
The blackout of the usually reliable Ocean Tracker system led to conjecture this day morning that Cougar II may have run out of wind close inshore off the Tasman Peninsula, and that Gary Smith, skippering the 45-footer The Fork in the Road, by taking a tack out to sea had overtaken the bigger boat.
That was not the case; Cougar II always maintained the lead, after a fast run overnight across Storm Bay and up the East Coast, where she led nine boat fleet around the northern tip of Maria Island and down the Mercury Passage between the elongated island and the Tasmanian mainland near Orford soon after midnight. Dashing across Storm Bay, Cougar II logged 17 knots as the south-westerly front passed through.
Another yacht, Neil Snare’s Winstead Wines, also showed up on the RYCT web site as having come to a stop near the northern tip of Bruny Island. Her tracker had also gone off the air, but at today’s late afternoon radio position reports showed her actual position was just north of Tasman Island and fourth in the fleet.
At 20:30:00 hours tonight, Magellan was midway across Storm Bay making excellent time and ahead of Wings II and Illusion. The little Footloose was rounding Tasman. Somewhere in this group was thought to be Winstead Wines.
The tailenders in the fleet are unlikely to finish until early tomorrow morning and provisional handicap results will be announced later in the day.