Archive | Rolex Sydney Hobart

A Wild Wild win or two

Posted on 31 December 2014 by Reporter

[Source: CYCA] That is exactly what happened. Wild Rose, Bob Oatley’s first grand prix ocean racer, sailed into Hobart on 29th Dec, her owner Roger Hickman having to wait until one day untill he was declared overall winner of the race with the 29-year-old yacht.

On Sunday, Bob Oatley’s 100-foot supermaxi Wild Oats XI logged a record eighth line honours victory after an epic battle with brand new super maxi Comanche, cementing Oatley’s place in ocean racing history.

WILD ROSE Skipper: Roger Hickman.  Photo By: Rolex / Carlo Borlenghi

WILD ROSE Skipper: Roger Hickman. Photo By: Rolex / Carlo Borlenghi

What it says is that two yachts with the Oatley name attached have won line and overall honours in the 2014 Rolex Sydney Hobart.

This is not the first time Hickman has won the race with the yacht that he affectionately refers to as “the old girl”. With his partners Bruce Foye and Lance Peckman, Hickman won the race under the old IOR rule. It was in conjunction with an IMS overall winner, Cookoos Nest.

With 38 Sydney Hobart races under his belt, Hickman, from the host club in Sydney but a Tasmanian by birth, can claim the title for himself and his boat alone in the boat he bought from Bob Oatley for next to nothing.

“I feel lucky and privileged to have Bob Oatley’s boat,” Hickman said this morning.

“I sailed with Bob Oatley on this boat and with Hugh Treharne (America’s Cup winner 1983) and Rodney Pattison (English double Olympic gold medallist).

“I did three Hobarts with Bob on this boat. When I bought boat from him in 1991, he almost gave it to me,” a clearly emotional Hickman said.

“I was a young merchant navy officer then. I was honoured and privileged to sail with him and the others. Six years later when I went to buy the boat, I only had half the money, so I asked Bob if he could wait while I tried to raise the rest. He said to me, ‘Roger, you were the only guy to ever go to the bar and buy me a drink, don’t worry about the rest’.

“He was so gracious and I wouldn’t have been able to get involved in that boat at all without that generous offer,” Hickman said, with tears in his eyes. “Bob Oatley has helped me and Ricko (Oats’ skipper Mark Richards) and so many others get where we are today.

“So now we have Wild Oats XI and Wild Rose in the winner’s circle – the Ricko and Hicko show,” he said.

Following the race’s briefing on December 24 at the CYCA, Hickman and other older and small boat owners were rubbing their hands in glee, knowing the weather patterns would play right into their hands. While it was never a guarantee, the forecast did give hope.

Photo By: Rolex / Carlo Borlenghi

Photo By: Rolex / Carlo Borlenghi

“It started about three to four hours after we left Sydney, the concern about Love & War – and it still hasn’t stopped,” he said.

Love & War (Simon Kurts) along with South Australian entry, Enchantress (John Willoughby), were among the handful in contention to win the race overall, but in the late stages, stopped to give assistance when a light plane crashed late yesterday near Cape Raoul.

“We felt we had enough distance, but not enough time on her. It’s not a pleasant feeling, waiting to be told whether you have won. The anxiety goes up. To win this race is difficult at the best of times, to deal with this waiting game now ….

“I certainly feel empathy for Loki and others I’ve kept waiting; now I know what it feels like. I also feel sorry for Bruce Taylor – he’s had to wait around yet again,” he said of second overall placed Taylor with his Chutzpah.

Hickman’s mother died recently, which was a huge blow. But having his younger brother Andrew and younger sister Lisa aboard the yacht for their first Hobart races was special.

“At my mother’s funeral, I got up to do the eulogy. I was the one to get tearful and emotional, so yes; she was on my mind today.

“To win with my sister and brother, is a bizarre but wonderful experience. Imagine winning the Hobart on your first try,” says Hickman who admits he has spent more time with his siblings during the race than he has in the last 30 years.

“Usually when you win, you ring a member of your family to share it with, well with my mum gone, and Lisa and Andrew with me, I had nobody to tell.”

Hickman also praised Samantha Scott, the 18-year-old daughter of his regular crew member, Andrew Scott.

“She was brilliant. It was her first race, and believe me, nobody wanted to be doing the race for the first 24 hours, but she kept smiling and asking what she could do to help.”

“When we had our whoopsy – when we laid the boat over – we wiped out a couple of times. We put pressure on the helm to get back on our feet, and that’s when the stainless steel fabricated piece that joins the cable to steering broke. It was the first time we’ve ever seen the keel.

“Rolex is a wonderful sponsor and we’re so pleased to have them – they have made our race so special,” said Hickman, who won the CYCA’s Ocean Racer of the Year in December.

“We are going to have 30th birthday for Wild Rose this year – we are waiting to hear from the builder to know its exact birthday.

Of his Wild Rose, with which he has continued to win major races over the past 23 years, ‘Hicko’ said:

“She’s absolutely the best. She was built by John McConaghy and he said to me repeatedly, ‘This is his absolute best boat, the best I ever built’. Bob Oatley gave McConaghy a blank cheque and said, ‘build me the best boat and name it’ so McConaghy did and that’s where the Wild Oats came from.”

Hickman changed the boat’s name to Wild Rose after its 1993 Hobart victory because it was confusing for people.

We always think of people who are not with us when we are racing. We had a little bear, Alice, who used to be on board with Sally (Sally Gordon, Hickman’s partner who died in the 2009 Flinders Islet Race with Andrew Short with whom Gordon was sailing) and she was with us.

“It’s a good win for little boats. It just keeps the interest if one can win every 10 years or so, I will dedicate this race to them, they add to adventure and character of race.”

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Comanche on warpath for revenge

Posted on 28 December 2014 by Reporter

[Source: RSHYR] As far as the America’s Cup winning skipper Jimmy Spithill is concerned, there is now unfinished business between Rolex Sydney Hobart line honours winner Wild Oats XI and the US supermaxi she beat across the finish line, Comanche. Spithill was one of six helmsmen on Comanche.

“We can’t leave it at that,” he declared after finishing in Hobart. He says that on his watch this morning the boat reached a top speed of 32 knots and knows what she is capable of.

“Everybody got to see the true potential of this boat at the start. I remember looking up at Kenny (Ken Read, the skipper) and he just had this huge grin from ear to ear. Unfortunately we just didn’t see those sort of conditions again until the end of Bass Strait.”

Of course, young James doesn’t pay the bills. Logistically it is impossible for Comanche to come back to Australia next year but is 2016 likely?

Skipper Ken Read deferred to co-owner Kristy Hinze Clark who said it was a matter for the Big Chief, husband Jim Clark.

Ken: “Kristy, they want to know if we’ll be back next year?”

Kristy: “They’ll have to talk to big chief!”

Ken: “Big chief is not going to talk about that now!”

Read reflected on the crucial point of the race – the high-pressure ridge in Bass Strait.

Photo By: Rolex / Daniel Forster

Photo By: Rolex / Daniel Forster

“We were about a quarter of the way into Bass Strait and expecting a westerly breeze, and all of a sudden Stan (navigator Stan Honey) came up from down below and said ‘I just got a new weather file, this is not looking good’.

“We were two miles ahead of them, in bumpy seas, and they literally went by us, probably going a knot or two faster at the time, and they just sailed into more pressure and just kept extending on the whole fleet.

“Both boats sailed a flawless race; but they had their day. They had 12 hours where they had Wild Oats’ weather, but that’s racing.

“You can already see Comanche is already changing sailing as we speak,” Read said.

So after this first race have they identified any changes they will make to the boat?

“Here’s the start of my list,” he said, holding up a piece of paper with top-secret to-dos written on it.

“It’s brand new, we’re just starting. Before this race started, we didn’t know what we didn’t know. We knew we had a good boat right off the start line, the way it just took off on that windy reach.

“Unfortunately we’ve always known we had that one blemish in light air, and that became a dominant feature in the race, so that’s unfortunate for us.”

Designer Xavier Guilbaud said he couldn’t take his eyes off the yacht tracker, keeping notes as Comanche changed angles and the wind circled the compass.

And, he was a bit more forthcoming with his list.

“I’m excited to see Ken’s list, but on top of my own list, what I can see, is work on the weight of the boat to try to lighten her up a bit more, to increase performances in light winds,” he said.

“I’ll discuss with the guys here, a little later, the little bits and pieces on the deck to improve manoeuvres, how the boat is sailed. Then on the sail configuration; how to use each sail, in which condition and improve the sail shapes.

“I think we do have a record breaker on our hands. The real answer will be in June next year when it does the Transatlantic Race. I think the boat is really fast.”

Read was effusive in his praise of the Wild Oats’ crew.

“Wild Oats deserves all its success,” he said, though fate had been against them on Day 2 in Bass Strait when Wild Oats made the better of negotiating a weather ridge that proved the defining moment of the race.

“This was their day; they had their 12 hours; they had Wild Oats’ weather; but that is boat racing,” he said.

“They deserve their eighth record, Lord knows we tried hard to take it from them. This team, our team, did an unbelievable job, and special credit to the boat builders and the design team because Lord knows we tried to break it, and it wouldn’t break.”

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Wild Oats XI’s historic eighth line honours victory

Posted on 28 December 2014 by Reporter

[Source: RSHYR] Bob Oatley’s Wild Oats XI has done it again, and in claiming Rolex Sydney Hobart Yacht Race line honours for an eighth time after two days, two hours, three minutes and 26 seconds, goes down in the race’s 70 year history as the only yacht to ever achieve this amazing feat.

Wild Oats XI finished eight hours shy of the race record she set in 2012. Proud owner Bob Oatley watched from the water as his boat and crew surpassed the record of line honours wins set by Morna/Kurrewa IV between 1946-1960. “It’s a miracle – and we will be back next year, yes, we’ll definitely be back next year,” exclaimed Oatley. “She is the best boat in the world; she’s proved that.”

After a revealing start in which Comanche left the rest of the fleet in its wake, Mark Richards and his crew persevered to the end, Comanche chasing her and narrowing the gap to 10 nautical miles at Tasman Island, as Ken Read and the crew on the American yacht owned by Jim Clark and Kristy Hinze Clark did all they could to overtake the Mark Richards skippered Wild Oats XI.

Rolex / Carlo Borlenghi

Rolex / Carlo Borlenghi

At 2.10pm, an announcement over the loudspeaker in Hobart alerted locals that Wild Oats XI was in the River Derwent, the crowds gathering quickly to greet the nine year-old yacht that has proved almost infallible, even to the brand new American raider in the Cruising Yacht Club of Australia’s 628 nautical mile race.

A riveting Sydney Harbour start to the race as Wild Oats XI chased Comanche, to an equally riveting finish where the roles were reversed as Mark ‘Ricko’ Richards and crew went into overdrive in the light airs of Bass Strait and overtook their quarry.

Despite reports of soft winds, Wild Oats XI made good time up the Derwent, her spinnaker full and boat speed between 12 and 16 knots, while Comanche was averaging 14-15 knots. Richards looked remarkably calm at the helm, he and the crew smiling and waving to the incredible spectator fleet, including the usually gruff Iain Murray.

A couple of gybes later, just prior to 3pm, the spinnaker was dropped as “The Oats” two-sail reached towards the Castray Esplanade finish line, throwing in three more gybes before crossing the line four hours inside the 2 days 6hrs 6mins 27secs of last year, but well outside her 2012 race record of one day 18hrs 23mins 12secs.

Richards was all smiles as CYCA commodore John Cameron handed him the champagne and presented him with the J.H. Illingworth trophy. All thoughts of the start when he remarked “look at that thing go,” were forgotten.

“The boys did a wonderful job in overcoming Comanche which led for the first night. I can’t believe I’m standing here today,” Richards said.

“To win a Hobart is a great honour, but to win line honours for an eighth time – I’m so proud.”

You can’t deny the class of the Oatley boat. Even the purported ‘fastest super maxi in the world’, Rambler/Perpetual Loyal could not overcome her rival last year. Sadly, Anthony Bell’s yacht suffered hull damage and retired yesterday.

Bob Oatley was effusive dockside as his yacht was brought to the dock by the Royal Yacht Club of Tasmania escort vessel: “It’s a miracle – and we will be back next year, yes, we’ll definitely be back next year, a clearly emotional Oatley said. “She is the best boat in the world; she’s proved that.”

Rolex / Carlo Borlenghi

Rolex / Carlo Borlenghi

And Ken Read and his crew on the new ‘aircraft carrier’, dubbed so because two of Wild Oats’ narrow stern could fit inside that of Comanche’s, found the same problem, unable to recover the ground it had lost in Bass Strait.

Dignified in defeat, Comanche’s owner, Jim Clark, said: “Wild Oats and Mark Richards ran one hell of a race and it’s a really excellent boat. Disappointed we got stuck in that high pressure system, but they managed to sneak through it. And you’ve got to give them credit, that’s the nature of that boat, they’ve got the balance.

Will he bring Comanche back to the race? “We’ll see if we’re back next year, not sure. We have a lot of big plans and I just don’t know whether we’ll make it back or not, we’ll have talk to the crew and see what they think.”

On board Wild Oats XI, Steve Jarvin, who works the main traveller on the yacht, was celebrating a record 13th line honours victory. They include the two treble wins scored by Bob Oatley’s yacht in 2005 and 2014 respectively. He was perhaps also reflecting on his son Seve, racing in competition to him aboard Perpetual Loyal, not making the finish line.

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Wild Oats XI Speeding towards Victory

Posted on 28 December 2014 by Reporter

[Source: RSHYR] With a just under 100 nautical miles to go to the finish line she holds a 25 nautical mile lead over the brand new American super maxi, Jim Clark and Kristy Hinze Clark’s Comanche.

The two yachts are rushing down the Tasmanian coast in good breeze, though the further south they get the lighter the wind will be.

Already Wild Oats XI, the southernmost boat, has slowed to 17 knots while Comanche is still sailing at speeds in the mid-twenties, and Oats’ skipper Mark Richards expects that the gap between the yachts will continue to close as they approach Tasman Island around midday.

It does appear though that Comanche will not have enough time to rein in the Australian unless… For there is one big “if” still in left this epic line honours struggle.

Later this morning the winds around Tasman Island and in Storm Bay are forecast to be very patchy. It is still possible that Wild Oats XI could sail into a windless patch of water, leaving Comanche to sail around her. It is the curse of the leading boat. In the box seat, there is no-one in front of them to show where the minefields lie.

That, or last minute gear failure on Oats, is Comanche’s last roll of the dice.

Rolex / Daniel Forster

Rolex / Daniel Forster

Whatever happens, the big gap between the boats will compress this morning. The leaders will have to tack up the Derwent River in a very modest westerly to reach Hobart. A gripping two-boat duel is not impossible.

It has been a wonderful match race between two such disparate styles of boat since the fleet left the Cruising Yacht Club of Australia on Boxing Day.

A staggering 100 miles separates the two leaders from third placed Ragamuffin 100, which is only now beginning to escape from the mid-Bass Strait ridge that proved Comanche’s undoing yesterday.

Indeed the whole fleet has compressed as the boats have sailed into the very light winds overnight. You could almost throw a blanket over the fleet in the top half of the Strait.

The race for the overall win is wide open. At present, Tasmanian Anthony Williams is leading aboard Martela, with Roger Hickman’s Wild Rose in second place and David Redfern’s Not a Diamond third – the positions have continually changed throughout the last 24 hours and will continue to do so in tandem with conditions.

All are in the 40 foot range. With such a compressed fleet, this 70th edition of the race could well belong to the smaller boats.

Two yachts, A Cunning Plan and Chancellor are still racing to Hobart, but failed to radio in before passing Green Cape and entering Bass Strait, in accordance with the rules of the race. Their fate will be decided by the Race Committee.

Perpetual Loyal, the last casualty yesterday morning, is approaching Sydney and will be in her Rose Bay berth later this morning.

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Comanche leads the fleet while several retirements reported

Posted on 26 December 2014 by Reporter

[Source: RSHYR] At 13:00 local time, in scorching conditions and a 15 to 18 knot southeasterly breeze in Sydney Harbour, the impressive fleet of 117 international yachts began the famous 628-nautical mile offshore race to Hobart, Tasmania.

The 117 competing yachts, including five 100-foot Maxis, represents the race’s largest number of starters since 1994.

Of the five Maxis, Jim Clark’s Comanche (USA) made the early gains in the race’s 70th edition; reaching the first mark in record time and setting a blistering pace. Seven-time line honours winner Wild Oats XI was in close pursuit.

Race Start. Photo By: Rolex / Daniel Forster

Race Start. Photo By: Rolex / Daniel Forster

“We couldn’t be more ready at this stage,” said Comanche skipper Ken Read shortly before the race start. “The team has done a Herculean effort to get the boat ready. We are psyched about the weather forecast; a bit of reaching across the Bass Strait. It looks like a nice sail boat racing day. It will get breezy, lumpy but if our boat can’t handle 25 knots then something is wrong. It’s the end of the race which looks difficult, light. We are here to compete, it’s the fun part of our job.”

Comanche had an incredible start reaching the first course mark at record speed. Race record holder Wild Oats XI gallantly tried to keep pace, watching in awe as Comanche laid down an early indicator of her potential. “Look at that thing go!,” screamed Wild Oats XI skipper Mark Richards.

COMANCHE, Sail n: 12358, Bow n: 58, Design: Verdier Yacht Design & Vplp, Owner: Jim Clark & Kristy Hinze-Clark, Skipper: Ken Read. Photo By: Rolex / Daniel Forster

COMANCHE, Sail n: 12358, Bow n: 58, Design: Verdier Yacht Design & Vplp, Owner: Jim Clark & Kristy Hinze-Clark, Skipper: Ken Read. Photo By: Rolex / Daniel Forster

At 8:00pm local time, Comanche leads seven-time line honours winner Wild Oats XI by one nautical mile, with Anthony Bell’s Perpetual Loyal and Syd Fischer’s Ragamuffin 100 just a few miles behind the leading duo. Overnight the breeze is forecast to lighten as a high pressure system approaches. How the frontrunners navigate this transition could be a critical factor in their race.

“Going into a southerly the first night is always a bit of a challenge,” said Mark Richards going into the race. “(The boat) being ten years old though is a little bit of an advantage for us as we know the boat very well.”

Shortly after the start, Peter Isler, navigator on Manouch Moshayedi’s RIO 100 reported: “We are definitely learning our boat in these conditions. It’s very rough, sailing upwind in 25-27 knots, pounding hard into short, steep waves.”

Race Start WILD OATS XI, Sail n: AUS10001, Bow n: XI, Design: Reichel Pugh 100, Owner: Robert Oatley, Skipper: Mark Richards. Photo By: Rolex / Carlo Borlenghi

Race Start
WILD OATS XI, Sail n: AUS10001, Bow n: XI, Design: Reichel Pugh 100, Owner: Robert Oatley, Skipper: Mark Richards. Photo By: Rolex / Carlo Borlenghi

The rough conditions have proved demanding for a number of the fleet with four retirements already recorded. The first casualties of the race were Tina of Melbourne, forced out because of hull damage and Bear Necessity with a damaged rudder, just two hours into the race.

Shortly after, Occasional Coarse Language Too retired with steering damage. Her skipper Warwick Sherman deserved better after his courageous race in 2012 while still undergoing chemo therapy for cancer. Yacht and crew are due to arrive back at the CYCA around 7.00pm this evening.

The fourth retirement is the Willyama, Richard Barron’s Beneteau 40, with a torn mainsail.

RAGAMUFFIN 100, Sail n: SYD100, Bow n: 100, Design: Dovell 100, Owner: Syd Fischer, Skipper: Syd Fischer. Photo By: Rolex / Daniel Forster

RAGAMUFFIN 100, Sail n: SYD100, Bow n: 100, Design: Dovell 100, Owner: Syd Fischer, Skipper: Syd Fischer. Photo By: Rolex / Daniel Forster

“The yachts are all on port tack, but given our current angles everyone will have to be thinking about taking a short starboard tack as we get close on the beach,” Peter Isler added. “It’s like riding a bucking bronco. These are boat breaking conditions, though we expect the wind to ease by midnight. Until then though we will hang on and keep pushing. ”

Brad Kellett on Brindabella concurred. “It’s pretty rough offshore, but we’re ploughing through and looking forward to better weather and the predicted sea breeze.”

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No Record This Year – Just Tight Exciting Racing

Posted on 24 December 2014 by Reporter

[Source: Rolex Sydney Hobart] At the Christmas Eve briefing at the Cruising Yacht Club of Australia this morning, the skippers of the 117 competing yachts were told the race will start in a 15 knot southerly, with 20 knots of breeze offshore. By Friday afternoon it will be blowing between 20 to 30 knots, and with a southerly wind pushing against a current from the north, the seas will be very choppy and uncomfortable, on a two to two and a half metre swell.

It all makes for a very uncomfortable day before the sailors have time to fully develop their sea-legs. Many crews will find managing sea-sickness as big a challenge as managing the boat.

Dockside ambiance in Sydney. Photo By: Rolex / Carlo Borlenghi

Dockside ambiance in Sydney. Photo By: Rolex / Carlo Borlenghi

Those 20 knot southerlies will persist over Friday night, though as the frontrunners get further south they will cross a ridge of pressure that will swing the wind from the south-east to the south-west and the breeze will be pretty light as they head across Bass Strait.

It will freshen up from the west in the afternoon in the Strait, boosting the frontrunners, while further north, the back half of the fleet will begin to revel in their first taste of a northerly.

On Saturday evening the wind in Bass Strait will be pretty light again, though it will be fresher from the west as the leaders approach Tasman Island.

The breeze will freshen up on Sunday, and the back half of the fleet will scoot across Bass Strait in a good overnight northerly, and really crack down the Tasmanian coast as the Bureau of Meteorology expects to issue a strong wind warning.

It is a real mixed bag of a forecast for the super maxis racing for line honours. They are such different styles of boat and the forecast doesn’t appear to overwhelmingly favour one design over another.

Race Briefing Line Honors Contenders, Left to Right: Ken Read, Comanche USA Mark Richards, Wild Oats XI NSW Manouch Moshayedi, Rio 100 USA Anthony Bell, Perpetual Loyal NSW Syd Fisher, Ragamuffin 100 NSW. Photo By: Rolex / Daniel Forster

Race Briefing Line Honors Contenders, Left to Right: Ken Read, Comanche USA Mark Richards, Wild Oats XI NSW Manouch Moshayedi, Rio 100 USA Anthony Bell, Perpetual Loyal NSW Syd Fisher, Ragamuffin 100 NSW. Photo By: Rolex / Daniel Forster

Anthony Bell though, the skipper of the wide powerful Perpetual Loyal, likes what he sees for that first day. “The first15 hours are something we are probably really looking forward to,” he says, though all the skippers of the big boats concede that there will be times on Friday afternoon when they will have to slow their boats down.

“Going into a southerly on the first day is always a challenge, especially for the big boats,” says Wild Oats XI skipper Mark Richards. “We’re going twice the speed of the smaller boats in those conditions, so it’s a real challenge to keep the big boats in one piece. Our boat being 10 years old is a bit of an advantage for us, because we know the boat very well.”

Ken Read, the skipper of the untried Comanche agrees that the first day will be a big test for the brand new super maxi. “We’ll all try to keep our Christmas dinners down,” he jokes.

”It would almost be a bit of a shock if we didn’t get a southerly front in this race, so we’ll try to keep it in one piece, but this is an entirely untested boat and I am as curious as anybody about how she is going to react. We’re ready to go. There are only so many days of preparation you can do.”

This is not a wonderful forecast for the very wide American dubbed ‘the aircraft carrier’. “You could just about fit two Wild Oats XI’s inside our hull,” Read says. “The design concepts were built for two very different reasons.

“Comanche is meant to reach across the oceans – to break Trans-Atlantic records – to take advantage of cracked-sheet conditions. Did we try to design something that would go upwind? Of course, but she’s s not designed specifically for this race.”

Yet while boat preservation may be the order of the day on the maxis, on day one Bell is inclined to press his advantage. “My tactician reckons the rich will get richer in this race. The front is something we want to do really well at, and for us to do well in this race, we’ll probably have to chance our arm a little bit.”

The dark horses will be Rio 100 and Syd Fischer’s as yet pretty much unseen Ragamuffin 100. Rio’s skipper Manouch Moshayedi likes the fact that without technical do-dads like canting keels, the lightweight Rio is a lot simple than her rivals. “There is less to go wrong,” he says.

Syd, despite some hectic days repairing a major structural problem with Ragamuffin 100’s deck is, as always, keeping his cards close to his chest. I think Rags will hold together,” he offers, “she’s pretty slippery through the water.”

In a perverse sort of way, Wild Oats XI had a bit of luck on the weekend. A boom fitting broke. “It was a problem that has obviously been there for a quite a while. It’s one of those things you don’t see until it actually breaks, so we were fortunate that, in not a lot of wind, it broke on Saturday.”

They are still fixing the problem, and the crew will have to interrupt Chrissie lunch for a test sail, but the fault could have so easily have revealed itself six days later than it did.

All the big boat skippers concede that this will not be a race-record year.

It will be a slow race, and the slower it is the happier Lindsay May, the renowned navigator on Love & War will be. He steered the veteran yacht to a win in the slow, long-bash-to windward 2006 race and he likes what he sees this year. With a good northerly expected, after the hot shots are already in port, he’s even put a couple of quid on the boat at the TAB, though he reckons he will have to watch out for Wild Rose, another veteran designed to the old IOR rule.

May wants conditions in Bass Strait to stay soft for the 50 and 60 footers, as well as the race leaders, so a lot depends on the timing of the wind transitions. There will almost certainly be a few holes off the Tasmanian coast as well. “If they have just a couple of hours when they are below their optimum rating figures, it really helps us slower boats,” he says.

“The soft patch on the second day – how long it lasts and how quickly it fills in could take the race from the 45 to the 50 footers,” says Wild Rose’s skipper, Roger Hickman. “If there is fast running down the Tasmanian coast it could be the 50s that win this race. They’ll run away from us.”

Ray Roberts owner of the Farr 55, OneSails Racing, agrees. “If we can crack sheets we can do comparatively well.”

Things will change between now and Boxing Day. The initial front is coming through earlier than the Bureau had anticipated earlier this week, and the speed and strength of the westerly transition remains the sixty-four thousand dollar question.

The forecast seems to have a little bit for everyone, tantalising the swift 40 footers like St George Midnight Rambler and Chutzpah as well as the usual suspects, the 60 foot Ichi Ban, the TP52s and the Cookson 50, Victoire, last year’s winner.

“There’s another front coming in that could hurt the tailenders. I always worry about the timing on that,” says Victoire’s owner, Darryl Hodgkinson, “but for us, being a 50 footer, I’m reasonably pleased.

“I’ve not got a sad face. I’ve got a little smile,” Hodgkinson says.

The start of the Rolex Sydney Hobart Yacht Race will be broadcast live on the Seven Network throughout Australia and webcast live to a global audience on Yahoo!7.

A Parade of Sail will take place from 10.30am to 11.30am, before a fleet of 117 will set sail from three start lines in the Rolex Sydney Hobart Yacht Race on December 26 at 1.00pm AEDT.

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Rolex Sydney Hobart: Bureau’s early Xmas gift to small yachts

Posted on 22 December 2014 by Reporter

[Source: Rolex Sydney Hobart] The 117 yachts in the Rolex Sydney Hobart will face an early test this year, with the Bureau of Meteorology (BOM) forecasting a sharp 20 to 25 knot southerly change on Boxing Day afternoon not long after the start. A southerly is expected to hold throughout the night at around 20 to 25 knots so it will be a long, wet first day for all crews.

Andrew Treloar from the BOM says winds will get lighter the further south the boats go, and the front runners should cross a high pressure ridge around Gabo Island giving them light westerlies across Bass Strait on Saturday.

Winds off the Tasmanian coast on Saturday night are also expected to be pretty light westerlies. They could be quite fluky.

“The midfield and tail end boats will get a better go from the wind,” Treloar says. “They will tend to stay up around 10 to 15 knots right through as they cross Bass Strait and sail down the Tasmanian coast.”

So this is a classic mid-sized to small boat forecast. A southerly on day one, stopping the super maxis from getting too far ahead, and a northerly after the glamour yachts are already tied up in Hobart.

“We’re really excited by this forecast,” says Tom Barker, the navigator on the Ker 40 St George Midnight Rambler. “In terms of handicaps, the slow start means that is more time the big boats will have to take out of us.

“If we do get some of this reaching and running northerly while the big boats have had slower stuff, it plays into our hands really well. The Ker 40 is very good upwind and very dynamic downwind.”

Of course the very thing that so suits the smaller and heavier boats, that first day southerly, is also tough on the crews. Jenifer Wells, navigator on the 29 year-old Farr 43, Wild Rose, also likes the forecast, but concedes there will be some very seasick sailors that first night. “It is an issue we will have to manage,” she says.

The strong southerly poses other issues for crews, especially on the lighter newer super maxis. They will have to keep their boats in one piece throughout this first day. They will be racing, but know that the race for line honours will not be won on day one. It can be lost, though, with one broken piece of gear.

“That strong southerly down the coast will be the time to keep the boat in one piece,” says Wild Oats XI navigator Juan Villa. “Then it will start getting tricky when we approach Green Cape and this high pressure. That will be the first call we have to deal with: how to cross this. Then the lee of the Tasmanian coast is another tricky part of the race, and how to approach Tasman Island.”

Comanche’s navigator, Stan Honey says: “Given the characteristics of Comanche we are happy with the fresh southerly, but the light air worries us, especially in the choppy seas left over from the southerly. That will suit Wild Oats XI.

“The race will be won and lost in the two regions of light air. The first ridge as we get into the westerlies south of Green Cape, and then the light air on Saturday night. Those will be the critical times of the race.”

With such disparate designs, there will be times when conditions favour one style of boat over another: the heavier, beamier, more powerful Comanche and Perpetual Loyal soaking up the tough stuff, the narrower Wild Oats XI finessing the lighter airs.

“These boats are so different you can’t match race,” says Perpetual Loyal navigator Tom Addis. “You have to make the gains when you can and manage the losses.”

Both races, one for line honours, the other, larger handicap race for the overall win, will be fascinating this year. Both are likely to be decided close to Tasman Island.

The question all will be asking is: “Do we go out to sea on day one, with higher winds and bigger waves but a strong current? How fluky will it be off the Tasmanian coast? Go out to get beyond the Tasmanian wind shadow but add miles to the race track or stick with the rhumbline? What angle should you come into Tasman Island from”?

Answers to these questions will decide who drinks champagne and who drinks beer in Hobart’s famous pubs a week from now.

The start of the Rolex Sydney Hobart Yacht Race will be broadcast live on the Seven Network throughout Australia and webcast live to a global audience on Yahoo!7.

A Parade of Sail will take place from 10.30am to 11.30am, before a fleet of 117 will set sail from three start lines in the Rolex Sydney Hobart Yacht Race on December 26 at 1.00pm AEDT.

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Rolex Sydney Hobart – One Race Many Nations

Posted on 20 December 2014 by Reporter

[Source: Rolex Sydney Hobart] Australia’s premier ocean race has always had an international flavour; Captain Illingworth, who started the whole Sydney Hobart thing was, after all, an Englishman.

In the heyday of the great aluminium maxis, legendary boats like Nirvana, Kialoa and Condor of Bermuda would trek from across the Pacific for the Cruising Yacht Club of Australia’s race to thrash it out with the local Helsals, Sovereigns, Apollos, and Ragamuffins on the Derwent.

Each year you have been able to find boats and people from England, New Zealand, America, Germany and Russia – a veritable UN of sailors – scattered among the boats in town for the Rolex Sydney Hobart – manoeuvring for a clean start on Boxing Day.

And so it is that this 70th race has maintained the international tradition. In spades.

Of course most attention has been focused on the brash American newcomer, Comanche. Launched just weeks ago in Maine, Comanche’s American and multi-national crew, including Australian America’s Cup winner, Jimmy Spithill, have been spending the as much time on Sydney Harbour as they can, working out how to sail this genuinely radical monster of a boat.

Comanche’s owner, Jim Clark, concedes that a Rolex Sydney Hobart isn’t the ideal first race for such a big, complex machine, but: “I am married to an Australian, and I’ve seen the start of the Rolex Sydney Hobart a number of times. My good friend Neville Crichton challenged me to come down.”

And then comes the clincher, the phrase yachties around the world can only dream of as they pour the family fortune into a watery hole: “MY WIFE MADE ME DO IT,” Clark insists.

“This race represents the greatest race in the world,” Matthew Fortune, the skipper of the German Tripp 57 Passion 4 C declares. “It is so exciting to be here. It is a privilege to do the Rolex Sydney Hobart. I’m up with alongside the greatest boats of all time; a little guy in a sea of giants.

“The planning for this started four years ago. We have journeyed 13500 miles to get here. Then we’ve had to refit the boat in the last two weeks from ocean crosser to Hobart racer.”

“It’s taken us five years to get here,” Poland’s Mariusz Koper says. His Oyster 72 Katharsis II has covered more than 70,000 miles in that time. “I am not a racer, more like an explorer.

Two years ago we sailed the North West Passage in the Arctic, next year we aim to go to 78 degrees south. On the way we thought it would be amazing to come here.

“We crossed the Atlantic, ended up in Tahiti, but instead of coming straight here we went around Cape Horn to Patagonia, then down to Antarctica. So we had to come back here, but I did not want to take the same route, so we sailed north to Greenland, meaning we have come from the very top of the world.”

Koper will concede that his hefty 50 tonne Oyster will not threaten the likes of Comanche or Wild Oats XI (unless maybe physically). Most of the other foreigners, though, are not just here for the experience.

Manouch Moshayedi, the American, has made massive changes to his Rio 100, the former Lahana. He has widened the boat and made her two feet longer, fitted twin rudders, eliminated the water ballast to make her lighter and installed a lifting keel that can be raised and lowered between 14 and 19 feet. He describes her as a TP52 stretched to 100 feet, with the Transpac Race in mind.

“We are very good downwind in light winds. And of course someone told us there were light winds in the Rolex Sydney Hobart and we came here. I guess we were misinformed,” Moshayedi jokes.

“We are made for lighter winds. If it is really windy Jim Clark will enjoy it, if it is really light I will.”

“In light air downwind we are not that good,” Jim Clark concedes. “This is a cross wind boat. We have a massive front end, a lot of surface area. We have to get it on its side for it to go.

“When the boat is on its side, 25 degrees or so, we probably have the same wetted surface as Wild Oats XI, but it still has plenty of power. But it still has a lot of boat to bash into the sea, so if there is a lot of chop to the water, it would slow us down more than they would.

“If I had just wanted to win the Hobart I would have just copied the most successful boat ever.”

Clark frequently describes Comanche as a Volvo 70 on steroids, and basically he wants V70 conditions, though maybe not too V70.

New Zealander Jim Delegat and his V70 Giacomo would love a rip-roaring, hang-on-by-your-fingernails Rolex Sydney Hobart, as would the local V70 Black Jack. These are the dark horses in the race for line honours this year. Fast, almost as fast as the 100 footers, but able to keep going when the bigger boats have to think about survival as much as winning.

”Comanche is new, to a new design,” Clark says. “The design and analysis have been very rigorous. Lots of simulations and tank testing. I am very confident it is built well, but these conditions (off the southern New South Wales coast and in Bass Strait) can be nasty. The most difficult thing is slowing the boat down in high winds so we don’t beat it up.”

You take whatever comes with the Rolex Sydney Hobart. With such disparate boats on the race course the weather, as much as tactics and boat skills may separate the victors from the also rans. It is a long way to come, from the other side of the world, for a lousy forecast. But come they do.

The British Swan 68 Titania of Cowes is back for her third straight race. “We thought she would be going back to England, but after we finished last year the owner, Richard Dobbs, changed his mind and said he wanted to do it again,” says her bemused but delighted sailing master, Tasmanian Gina Hewson.

So for yet another year, almost 8 tonnes of cruising gear is being hauled out of the luxurious Swan onto the Cruising Yacht Club of Australia dock to get her down to racing weight.

Max Klink, the skipper from the first ever Cayman Islands entrant called Caro, a Botin 65, a plush, push-button cruiser that “can race a bit.”

‘Race a bit’ as in smashing the ARC race record by 8 hours, and loading the boat with Volvo Ocean Race veterans for this event.

It is said that every politician secretly carries a Prime Minister’s baton in their pocket. It can probably be safely said that every sailor who has crossed the Boxing Day starting line has his or her eye on the Rolex watch waiting in Hobart for the winner.

Over and over you hear from international sailors that they have always wanted to “do the Rolex Sydney Hobart”. “Just finishing the race will be good”, they declare. Yeah, right. That is why they have brought their gleaming thoroughbreds and homely cruisers half way around the world.

Even “explorers of the world, not really racers”, like Mariusz Koper can always use a good timepiece.

The start of the Rolex Sydney Hobart Yacht Race will be broadcast live on the Seven Network throughout Australia and webcast live to a global audience on Yahoo!7.

A Parade of Sail will take place from 10.30am to 11.30am, before a fleet of 117 yachts set sail from three start lines in the Rolex Sydney Hobart Yacht Race on December 26 at 1.00pm AEDT.

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