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Ray White Solo Tasman Yacht Challenge - Solo Tasman fleet battles on for Australia

by Lindsay Wright 13 Apr 2023 15:27 NZST 13 April 2023
Sarau (Malcolm Dickson) - Start Ray White Solo Tasman Yacht Challenge - New Plymouth - April 9, 2023 © New Plymouth YC

The Ray White Solo Tasman yacht fleet have been battling headwinds up to 45 knots for the last three days but, as has happened so often before in the 54 year history of the event, two dissimilar boats have pulled out to an early lead.

Sarau, the 19m steel cutter that Malcolm Dickson designed and built for his self and has sailed thousands of miles in, stayed on one tack and pulled away to the north of the rest of the boats. This morning, he was averaging 7.5 knots with 891 miles to go to the finish at Southport in Queensland.

Anther wily camaigner, Australian Mark Hipgrave, sailing Mister Lucky, a Jeanneau Sunfast 360, was also hanging in there north of the fleet and had 968 miles to go.

After completing the 2018 Solo Tasman challenge, Hipgrave flew to the UK and bought Mister Lucky and has since campaigned her in the in the OSTAR, Fastnet and a division win in the Sydney Hobart.

He sailed two handed from Australia, competed in the Round North Island race, then singlehanded from Auckland to New Plymouth for the start.

Despite being a much lighter boat in the boisterous condition he has kept pace with Malcolm Dickson in Sarau but is making 6.6 knots to leeward of the steel boat. If conditions lighten, as they're forecast to do later in the race, Hipgrave may start to make ground on the line honours leader.

Meanwhile three boats have withdrawn due to electronic and rigging issues. Trevor Hill, competitor in the 2014 solo Tasman, has had his plans for this race stymied and is waiting on parts for the defunct computer in his autopilot. He'd sailed two handed from his home near Brisbane for the start.

The sole female competitor, Lucy Te Moananui, retired just a few hours into the race citing a jammed halyard and problems with her chart plotter.

Alan Yardley, a three time solo Tasman starter, looked like he would be battling Mark Hipgrave for IRC honours but he has also returned to Port Taranaki with autopilot problems.

Just to prove that there's still lots of life in an old design, Craig Ansley's venerable William Atkin's Ingrid, Crocus, has ben plugging steadily on in the atrocious seas and has just over 1000 miles to go.

Mike Carter, sailing his shapely Bruce Clarke, kauri built, Allegresse returned to port on start day, resolved an onboard problem and left again at first light on Monday. He's regained ground and is south of most boats with 1008 miles to go.

And on the subject of good old designs, the affable Australian octogenarian sailing Hullabaloo, is making 5.9knots with 996 miles to go. He has also sailed multiple solo Tasman races and his overnight progress suggest he may have hove to to sleep.

Website: www.solo-tasman.co.nz

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