Thu, Dec 30, 2004 - Page 19 News List

Nicorette stays on course amid rough race toward Hobart

AP , HOBART, AUSTRALIA

Super maxi Nicorette survived high winds and heavy seas that knocked out the two favored entries to win the Sydney to Hobart yacht race Wednesday.

The victory, which came 2 days, 16 hours and 44 seconds into the race, was the second in five races for Nicorette owner and skipper Ludde Ingvall, who won in 2000 with an earlier version of the yacht.

Ingvall said his crew fought gale-force winds and high seas throughout the race.

"I feel more tired than I've ever felt in my life," said Ingvall. "This is the two toughest days you can spend in ocean racing. It feels like three weeks."

AAPT, more than 110km behind, finished in second place -- six hours after Nicorette -- in two days, 22 hours and 30 minutes.

The race record of one day, 19 hours, 48 minutes and two seconds was set by Nokia in 1999.

The 27m Nicorette, launched just three weeks ago, was well behind in third place early Tuesday when the two leading yachts -- Konica Minolta and defending champion Skandia -- withdrew with keel problems in rough weather in the Tasman Sea.

The 16 crew members from Skandia abandoned ship and had to be rescued from lifeboats by a police boat. The rescue came seven hours after a big wave damaged a hydraulic device that left the keel stuck in the starboard position.

Skandia later lost her keel and capsized, floating upside down. A tug was sent from the mainland to try to salvage the multi-million-dollar yacht.

Skandia skipper Grant Wharington said it was a "horrific" feeling to have to leave one of his yachts for the first time.

"Ocean racing is a very dangerous business, we all know that, and we're effectively like test pilots out there driving Formula One cars around the track," said Wharington. "We're just very fortunate that we were all able to get away with our lives and live to sail another yacht race."

Ingvall said the tough conditions meant he was "trying to take it easy and not break anything." He stayed close to shore, often sighted only 100m off the east coast of Tasmania in an effort to dodge heavy winds and seas.

"Just one bad wave can finish the race for anyone, whether the boat is old or new," said Ingvall, a Sydney resident who was raised in Finland by parents of Swedish heritage. "It's not the way you want to win a yacht race."

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