Tue, Dec 30, 2003 - Page 20 News List

`Skandi' wins Sydney to Hobart duel over `Zanu'

AP , HOBART, AUSTRALIA

Australian supermaxi Skandia held off New Zealand's Zana in the closing stages yesterday to win line honors in the annual Sydney to Hobart yacht race.

Skippered by Grant Wharington, the 30m Skandia crossed the line at Hobart's Battery Point at about 4:15am yesterday.

Wharington's yacht, which was the first out of Sydney harbor on Friday to lead the 56-yacht fleet, tacked her way up the Derwent River to claim victory.

Skandia is the first Australian designed, built and owned boat to win line honors in six years.

To help pay for the boat, Wharington sold his family home. Asked if it was worthwhile, he said: "Definitely."

Skandia and Zana, the largest boats to contest the 59-year-old race, fought a two-way battle into the home stretch on the river.

Skandia set a time of two days, 15 hours, 14 minutes and six seconds. The race record of one day, 19 hours, 48 minutes and 2 seconds was set by 60-foot Danish entry Nokia in 1999.

Zana finished in second place, nearly 15 minutes behind Skandia, in a time of 2 days, 15 hours, 28 minutes and 30 seconds.

Despite the early hours of the morning, a small spectator fleet escorted Skandia and Zana up the Derwent River while several hundred cheered the yachts and their crews as they berthed at daybreak on a clear and chilly morning at Constitution Dock in Hobart.

When the new yachts rounded Tasman Island and entered Storm Bay, shortly before midnight, they were only three minutes apart. But the Australian yacht accelerated away to a commanding lead as they sailed the 30 miles across Storm Bay.

"How good is that," said Wharington, with both thumbs up in the air. "We could see them [Zana] the whole way, except for 30 minutes this morning."

"Off Cape Raoul we were just four boat lengths in front, but luckily for us the wind stayed in."

Wharington said the victory was an important step in his Volvo Ocean Race challenge, and said he would be back again with the same boat next year.

The third boat to finish, Grundig AAPT, crossed the line about five hours after Skandia. Three other boats -- Brindabella, Andrew Short and Seriously Ten, followed the leading trio to finish fourth, fifth and sixth.

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