Sailing: Ingvall propels Nicorette into early lead

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The Independent Online
After a perfect start from Sydney Harbour, Sweden's Ludde Ingvall in Nicorette took the early lead in the 630-mile Sydney to Hobart Race yesterday.

It took Ingvall, who has turned the former Whitbread contender Charles Jourdan into a downwind specialist, a little time to overhaul the biggest boat in the 115-strong fleet, George Snow's Brindabella, but once under spinnaker and outside the heads guarding the entrance to the harbour, he started to pull away.

The sunshine and 15-knot north-easterly attracted what was said to be a record spectator fleet for what is both a traditional Boxing Day spectacle and the finale to the Southern Cross series.

And the day was not without incident. Local boat Weowna Winna, skippered by Robert Markie of Middle Harbour Yacht Club, was forced to retire early, while a second yacht, Max Prentice's She's Apples II, was hit by a spectator boat. The yacht returned to the host Cruising Yacht Club of Australia in Rushcutters' Bay, completed repairs and restarted. The bowman, Bruce Kerridge, said the people on the powerboat "just froze" as the collision became inevitable.

British interest in the race is focused on the all-Royal Navy crew aboard the 43-foot Quest, which will be hoping for moderate conditions to produce its best performance.

Andy Beadsworth, who sailed for Great Britain in the Atlanta Olympics, is the principle helmsman on Syd Fischer's 50-foot Ragamuffin. Fischer is completing his 29th Sydney to Hobart, Beadsworth his first, as Ragamuffin, lead yacht in the second-placed three-boat Australia team, looks for a big result to overtake the leading trio of boats from China.

- Stuart Alexander