Tom cruises to Hobart



GLADSTONE sailor Tom Barker continued to be in the midst of the action as his boat AFR Midnight Rambler cruised solidly on day two of the Rolex Sydney to Hobart Yacht Race.

The 19-year-old would be well aware now what it takes to compete in the tough event with over 50 knot winds providing rough conditions across Bass Strait.As of 5pm yesterday, AFR Midnight Rambler was sitting in 24th place in the fleet overall having just passed Eureka II and was just entering the tricky Bass Strait.

It was also sitting in third spot of the International Rule Club (IRC) B division handicap system.

Rival super maxis Konica Minolta and Skandia jousted across Bass Strait as thunderstorms and 35 knot headwinds slowed their pace and reduced the Sydney to Hobart fleet to fewer than 100 yachts.

In the worst conditions since the 1998 race that claimed six lives, New Zealand's Konica Minolta repeatedly swapped the lead with Victoria's Skandia before opening up a six mile lead into a strong south-westerly by late afternoon.

The tussle for line honours became the reverse of last year's result, when Skandia led Konica Minolta ? then known as Zana ?down the Tasmanian coast before winning by just 14 minutes. Brand new super maxi Nicorette was third as the leading group of six passed Flinders Island, about 12 miles astern of Skandia, with 66-footer AAPT a further 15 miles back in fourth.

Skandia's skipper Grant Wharington said he expected the winner of the 628-nautical mile race to cross the line after 5pm (AEDT) today, about 10 hours outside the record set by Nokia in 1999.

He said the New Zealand yacht had been far more aggressive than last year.



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