18 Sep 2003
This is the third time Kiwi sailor Brian Petersen has sailed in the 5,000 nautical mile Melbourne to Osaka race. In 1991 he sailed aboard Ikandu and was third across the line. In 1995 on Elliott Marine he recorded a second. His wife Kei Ko is from Osaka and they met after the 1995 race. Having yesterday sailed to a line honours victory on his Elliott 14 metre race Maverick II, he is visiting his in-laws for a month with his wife and children. Brian explained last night, This was definitely the hardest of the three races I have done. There were a lot of fluctuations in the weather. We had the heavy winds out of Bass Strait, then we flopped around a lot going north before we had that beautiful burst of trade wind sailing up to the Solomon Islands. It was my fastest ever trip through the Doldrums and then the NE trades were lighter than I had seen before. The most frustrating part was the last 120 miles. Early Sunday night we were doing 10 knots and were laying course. We were expecting to arrive in Osaka on Monday morning. Then all of a sudden the wind shifted. It was on the nose and rising. We had 30-35 knots and a short sharp sea. It took ages to sail from Muroto Saki past Kamoda-misaki Light, through the Kii-suido entrance against the strong north easterlies. In the inner bowl, about 20 miles wide, there was less fetch, but we had less breeze and it was still slow going. The channel narrows down to 2 miles between Awaji-Shima and the small islands that guard the entrance to Osaka Bay. It was a critical time. The tide can run at 3 knots so we had to get our timing right. There is a traffic separation zone and we found we could work up the middle with freighters tracking to our port and starboard. Our navigation lights were working fine, but there was a lot of traffic. I had put new batteries in our hand held torches and we were regularly flashing them up on our sails. We started through on the narrowest part of the channel on the turn of the tide and just when we needed speed the wind dropped away. Some tiny gusts kept coming; we crept forward and made it. But another half mile on the wind died almost to nothing and we were being sucked backwards again. I kept thinking of the 1995 race when we lead on Elliott Marine and then we lost the breeze and Wild Thing beat us. Somehow we found just enough breeze to edge over towards the mainland shoreline and we worked the shore. There were big container ships at anchor everywhere but we managed to slide past them all and into Osaka after dawn. The Elliott 14 metre racer, Maverick II crossed the finish line in Osaka Bay at 6:57:15 AEST 5:57:15 JST Tuesday morning. Her elapsed time for the 4941 mile passage was 29 days 16hs 57m 59s. Twenty four hours later the Victorian entry Kontrol, who had closed to within 31 miles of the leader north of the Solomons two weeks was still 13 nm ENE of Kamoda-Misaki Light, 50 miles from the finish. While her computed ETA is around 11am, she too has to pass through the eye of the needle into Osaka Bay and it could be a long day for Peter and Simon Blake.