Somewhere, about 800km south east of Mooloolaba, Bruce Arms must have his fingers firmly crossed.
Arms, in his 14m catamaran Big Wave Rider, needs to reach the finish line of the 2010 Solo Tasman Challenge by about 9:50 pm on Saturday to break the race record of six days, eight hours and 50 minutes set in 1986.
His lilac coloured yacht is sailing at more than 12 knots and is expected at the finish line by 6:30pm on Saturday – if the breeze holds. Last night he reported 1.5m swells and 10-15 knot SSW winds.
Meanwhile Dream Lover, skippered by Rick Morgan, has altered course for Lord Howe Island where a crew while join him to sail the boat back to her home port of Scarborough, near Brisbane.
'He said he had a bad knee,' the radio operator for the Fitzroy yachts sponsored race, Barrie Vivian said, 'and he thought he’d play it safe rather than risk himself and the boat.'
While Arms is way out ahead racing against the clock, the five similarly sized boats in the middle of the fleet are still battling for supremacy as the wind eases off. 'It’s been a long day,' Steven Arms said from his catamaran Nitro last night, 'are we there yet?'
His yacht still has 1211 km to travel before crossing the finish line but has pulled out a 33km lead on Island Girl, sailed by Ian Lillie. Next back is Jenny Fitzgibbon in Soothsayer, the 10.6m Sayer design she has called home for the last four years. Fellow Australian skipper, Trevor Hill was the next boat back in the fleet with 1255 km to go.
Matt Paulin from Mana, sailing Island Time, reported that his spinnaker halyard had broken and couldn’t be repaired at sea so he had been forced to use normal headsails and slow down. During the day he slipped back until he had 1299km left to sail last night. Light winds were also hampering Alan Yardley’s heavy Kaufman design, Mephisto who was just 5km behind Paulin.
Most boats had kept north of the New Plymouth to Mooloolaba rhumb line to take advantage of the predicted southerly winds and Lyttelton’s Rhys Boulton, sailing Spellbound, the southernmost yacht, had followed suit last night.
Further back in the fleet, a tussle had developed between Trish Lewis in Wishbone and Carl Harmer sailing Strider. The two smallest yachts had less that 10km difference between them.
Blondie Chamberlain’s An Cala was hanging in at the back of the pack, a position the seven times New Zealand saloon car racing champion will have a hard time adjusting to. Last night he was sailing at 7.5knots with over 1500km to go, but the 61 year old was philosophical about his placing. 'For me, it’s all about just getting there,' he said.
Follow the fleets progress at www.solo-tasman.org.nz