AFR Midnight Rambler?s race fortunes mixed fortune mixed on day one

GLADSTONE sailor Tom Barker was among the action of day one of the 2004 Rolex Sydney to Hobart Yacht Race yesterday aboard AFR Midnight Rambler.

At one stage AFR Midnight Rambler sat in 23rd place in the line honours and fourth in the overall International Rule Club (IRC) handicap system.

It was also winning the B Division IRC stakes.

However, its fortunes fluctuated late yesterday afternoon, with its position changing several times.

At 4.30pm yesterday afternoon AFR Midnight Rambler was sitting 24th overall and ninth under the IRC system.

Brand-new supermaxi Nicor-ette took the initial bragging rights after a controversial start to the race yesterday, but fancied overall contender Targe notched the first that every boat hoped to avoid. Sixty-footer Targe became the first casualty, withdrawing due to engine failure less than two hours into the classic race. But 90-footer Nicorette, belonging to Sydney-based Scandinavian Ludde Ingvall, won the dash to be the first yacht out through Sydney Heads and was closely followed by the two slightly larger supermaxis Skandia and Konica Minolta.

The 66-footer AAPT made the best start of the rest of the 116-strong fleet, flying out to keep pace with the supermaxis.

With the largest fleet for 10 years to celebrate the 60th running of the event, there was a twoline start with one for the major line honours contenders and one for the rest of the fleet.

Watched from foreshore vantage points by about 400,000 people and flanked by hundreds of spectator craft, the fleet of 116 yachts enjoyed calm, sunny weather as the starter's gun fired in Sydney Harbour.

Crews have been warned the easy conditions early in the race will be replaced by strong winds and heavy seas as the fleet nears Bass Strait, with the worst weather since the tragedy of 1998 expected.

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