Spies and Myrals setting record pace

A record-breaking run for the 630-mile Sydney to Hobart race was in prospect last night. The 64ft Nokia was on course to smash the time of two days, 14 hours, seven minutes and 10 seconds set by the German yacht Morning Glory in 1996.

A record-breaking run for the 630-mile Sydney to Hobart race was in prospect last night. The 64ft Nokia was on course to smash the time of two days, 14 hours, seven minutes and 10 seconds set by the German yacht Morning Glory in 1996.

As the field approached the north-east coast of Tasmania just over 24 hours after the start, Nokia had established a 16-mile advantage over the Melbourne-based 70-footer Wild Thing and 17 miles ahead of the man who has sought the record for so long, Sydney's George Snow, in his 76ft pre-race favourite, Brindabella.

Nokia which, as Swedish Match, competed in the 1997-98 Whitbread Round the World Race and is now co-skippered by the Sydneysider Michael Spies and the Dane Stefan Myrals, was being pushed along by the predicted fresh breeze from the north of 20 to 25 knots. With the race due to finish this morning, there were high hopes of not only a blistering new record but a chance to forget last year's storm-affected race which claimed the lives of six competitors.

While the record may go to Nokia, the overall first prize after handicap allowances are taken into account was in the grasp of one of Australia's grittiest long-term yacht race campaigners, Syd Fischer. His 50-foot Ragamuffin, with Young Australia America's Cup skipper James Spithill and the British Olympic representative Andy Beadsworth sharing the helming role, held a clear lead on corrected time.

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