Reini Gelder has sailed to victory and broken the record for the ITL Solo Tasman Challenge.
The 53-year-old Austrian yachtsman crossed the finish line in Mooloolaba on the Sunshine Coast last night at a record time of six days, seven hours and 13 minutes, beating the 1986 record by one hour and 37 minutes.
However, despite the elation at the record-breaking win, late last night event organisers were looking for another yacht in the race, and its skipper Graham Dalton, brother of Grant Dalton, the manager of Team New New Zealand.
The tracking device on Dalton's yacht Hupane went offline at 1am on Monday and at 11pm last night it had still not reappeared on the map.
Race winner Gelder could not celebrate his new record in style last night as he was confined to his 12.17 metre yacht until customs cleared him for exit, Ron Scott, the chairman of the event organising committee, said.
"Quarantine doesn't come until the morning so he can't leave. I guess he'll be having a good sleep tonight," he said.
Scott was in Mooloolaba to see Gelder and his yacht Shark Angels cross the finish line.
"As he came into the river mouth there was a group of people cheering for him and a big crowd of people alongside the marina," he said.
The 2400 kilometre event has been held once every four years since 1970 and the previous record of six days, eight hours and 50 minutes was set in 1986 on a yacht called Bullfrog Sunblock, which is a sister yacht to Shark Angels.
The race safety officer, Harley Watts, said Shark Angels and Gelder made a formidable team, which completed a very good time.
However, currently in sixth position was Dalton's yacht Hupane, with 432 nautical miles left to sail at 1am on Monday when the tracking device on board went offline.
"We can't find Dalton at the moment," Watt said.
"We've contacted the Rescue Coordination Centre, but they are not too worried yet," he said. The last contact anyone had with Dalton was at 9.20am on Saturday.
Last week Dalton reported trouble with his yacht's engine, which was the only method he had for charging batteries for his satellite phone.
Watt said other skippers had been asked to watch out for Hupane, and to try and contact Dalton.
However, all efforts to contact him had failed, Watt said.
He believed the tracking device may have been broken after briefly becoming submerged in water.
"We are sure there is nothing really serious to worry about," he said.
If Dalton did not check in at the scheduled time of between 9.30am and 10.30am today, the Rescue Coordination Centre New Zealand (RCCNZ) would be contacted again.
"We've followed all of the procedures we can, and he's probably the most experienced offshore racer of the fleet," Watts said.
Nitro, skippered by Steven Arms of Waitara, was in second place at 11pm last night, followed closely by Krakatoa II and Dabulamanzi.
The sailors of the 13 yachts are aged 19 to 68 and they should complete the remainder of the race by May 6.
- Taranaki Daily News
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