Storms force competitors to take cover LAUNCESTON TO HOBART

FOUR yachts in the Launceston to Hobart Yacht Race late last night retired from the race and at least three others had run for shelter as gale-force westerly winds of 40 to 50 knots roared across Storm Bay towards Tasman Island.

Strong and gusty westerly winds swept Hobart last night, while 40 to 50 knot winds with steep, confused seas expected at Tasman Island in the early hours of this morning.

Several yachts suffered damaged running south late yesterday in noreasterly winds that reached 35knots after dark.

Late last night, Black Magic, Graham Mansfield's 40-footer, was heading for Triabunna with a crew with injured ribs. Also heading for Triabunna, with rudder problems, was Twitch, Rod Shaw's 31-footer. Both are from Bellerive Yacht Club.

Believe, Richard Fisher's Beneteau First 45 from the Tamar Yacht Club, had been in second place in the fleet when the skipper elected to retire because of the severe weather ahead of the fleet. Believe had been one of the favourites to win the race on handicap.

So did Tony Harman's Masquerade from Bellerive Yacht Club and a past race winner.

Seeking shelter from the storm, but planning to resume racing, were BYC Commodore John Mills' Lyons 40 Nexedge and Jeff Cordell's Host Plus Executive, also from BYC.

Another BYC entry, Rob Nalder's Gowans Motor Group True Colours, was seeking shelter north of Triabunna.

A surfing spinnaker run down the East Coast yesterday afternoon ended with a thump north of Tasman Island late last night.

At 10pm, The Fork in the Road was just rounding Tasman Island, with a long gap to The Protagonist (Stuart Denny) from BYC, the Port Dalrymple Yacht Club entry Obsession (David Allan) and Wings 3 (Peter Haros) from the Derwent Sailing Squadron.

The rest of the 26-boat fleet was spread back up the coast, with the tailenders off St Helens still sailing in a northerly wind.

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