Sailing: Nicorette's Ingvall pulls out in pain

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The Independent Online
Ludde Ingvall, the owner-skipper of the Swedish maxi Nicorette, will have a brain scan to try determine the reason for the violent pains that forced him to withdraw from the Sydney-to-Hobart race.

Ingvall left the yacht, one of the pre-race favourites, at Eden in New South Wales, where it had pulled in for running repairs before sailing on without him.

His sudden illness was the worst of a catalogue of disasters that befell the yacht, which was leading the fleet before hitting a big southerly change on the first night out of Sydney. Ingvall flew into Hobart yesterday, where he consulted a neurologist.

Nicorette's problems began when it blew a mainsail in the southerly, with gusts to almost 50 knots. In the dark and difficult conditions, only a trisail could be rigged until morning and that affected the yacht's sailing.

"It fell down into the bottom of the waves with a tremendous slamming," Ingvall said. "In one of the big slams we heard something like a pistol shot."

What they heard was a carbon fiber bow frame breaking in two places. Realising the risk of further structural damage - possibly even the boat breaking in half - Ingvall pulled the yacht into Eden.

The tightest finish in years is expected today, with the 66-foot Hong Kong maxi Exile two nautical miles ahead of the favourite, Brindabella, in what has become a two-boat race after rough seas and high winds forced several contenders to retire. After successfully crossing the treacherous Bass Strait, the two began their charge down the east coast of Tasmania, ahead of a sprint up the Derwent River. In third place is the Sydney 50- footer, Ragamuffin.