Solo Tasman Race yacht heads For Lord Howe after heavy air beating

Jennifer Fitzgibbon in Soothsayer, 2010 Solo Tasman Yacht Race
Lindsay Wright

Australian sailor Rick Morgan is heading to Lord Howe to solve 'some issues' with his yacht Dream Lover after several days pounding by heavy weather in mid Tasman.

Speaking by satellite phone, Morgan would not be drawn on the nature of his difficulties but an earlier e-mail from his daughter to the race organizers said that: 'he’s been getting an absolute flogging with the weather and wondering if everyone else is the same or if it's just on the northern track that he's been on.... it's almost been 40-50 knots the whole way... Spent one day with two reefs in the mainsail and the next two days with no mainsail at all and when we spoke this morning he'd just put it back up. I'd be interested to know how everyone else is feeling as I know Rick's barely slept or eaten to date.'

An Cala, 2010 Solo Tasman Yacht Race
Lindsay Wright
At 65 years old Morgan is the race grandfather but has considerable experience coastal racing in Australia and singlehanded coastal voyages.

Meanwhile most of the boats were slowing down as the southerly breeze began to die. Expatriate Waitara sailor Bruce Arms still holds a 268km lead from Ian Lillie sailing Island Girl but Arm’s 14m catamaran has slowed down to 7 knots in the light air. Arms is averaging 7 knots and. If her maintains that speed, will reach Mooloolaba in four days – too late to set the new race record he wanted so much.

But the real racing’s going on in mid fleet where the three Farr designed yachts; Island Girl, Apriori and Island Time, Mooloolaba entry, Jennifer Fitzgibbon in Soothsayer, and Alan Yardley sailing Mephisto have been in eyesight of each other for much of the race.

Lillie is slightly ahead with 1495km to cover but Apriori is in hot pursuit with 1504km to go followed closely by Fitzgibbon with 1527, Yardley with 1539 and Matt Paulin in Island Time with 1544km left to travel to Mooloolaba.

Steven Arms was keeping his foot off the throttle of his 10.6m catamaran Nitro and was also mixing it with the boats at the middle of the fleet.

With weather patterns easing, the 12 skippers will be catching up on missed sleep and hot food but how they cope with sleep deprivation could govern the finishing order.

Further back in the fleet, Trish Lewis’s Wishbone was revelling in the lighter airs and was charging along at seven knots to give her a slight lead on Strider, the 8.5m kauri sloop sailed by Carl Harmer.

At the back of the fleet, Blondie Chamberlain reported last night that he was sitting in An Calas cockpit with a cold beer, enjoying the sunset. He has about 1780km to go before he can replenish his fridge.