Wild Thing Collides With Spectator Boat At Sydney Hobart Start
Australian maxi Wild Thing survived a collision with a spectator boat as the Sydney-Hobart yacht race got off to a spectacular start on Boxing Day.
Wild Thing, skippered by 2003 line honors winner Grant Wharington, was keen to lead the annual classic leaving Sydney harbor.
But a coming together with a small craft, which contained media representatives, put paid to that hope.
Wild Thing was forced out early last year through mast problems, but fortunately there was no repeat, as Wharington reported only light damage.
“Luckily we didn’t hook in, we just wiped the BBQ off the back corner of their boat,” he told the official race website.
As the 628-nautical mile test entered its first night, four-time line honors winner Wild Oats XI was in the race lead, followed by Wild Thing and super-maxi Investec Loyal.
Wild Oats, the current record holder, is expected to be first over the finish line late Tuesday local time, while Britain’s Ran, owned by Skype founder Niklas Zennstrom, is among the favorites for victory on handicap.
Strong winds are forecast as the 87-strong fleet battles the Tasman Sea and the notorious Bass Strait.
The annual ‘Bluewater Classic’ was first held in 1945 and has become one of the highlights of the yachting calendar.
But the changeable conditions can offer spell disaster and the 1998 edition saw five yachts sunk and six people died.
At the start, the 100 foot maxi Investec Loyal kept pace with Wild Oats XI by hugging close to shore. Rival maxi yacht Wild Thing was a close third. Later, that tactic proved to be ill advised as Investec Loyal dropped her position with the leader as they sailed out around the Sydney Heads.
As of 2100 AEDT, the frontrunners are about 100 miles down the coast, with Wild Oats XI in the lead doing 17 knots. In second place is Investec Loyal, who is being closely followed by Wild Thing in third.
Bringing up the rear of the intrepid fleet is the 43-footer, Polaris of Belmont. The fleet is spread over an area of 60-nautical miles along the coast, and as such are experiencing widely varying conditions. Andrew Lawrence’s Jazz Player was the first retirement, dropping out at 2000 when they blew the leech out of the mainsail. The 39-footer encountered 45-50 knots as the crew were putting in a second reef. The fleet now stands at 86 boats.
From onboard Wild Oats XI, co-navigator Adrienne Cahalan observed, “It’s been a good race between us, Wild Thing and Investec Loyal, we’re all evenly matched.” Before the race, Cahalan said, “I have a feeling that the Bass Strait will be the most difficult leg of the race. In the conditions predicted we’ll be trying to keep the boat in one piece and not break any records.” Only time will tell what is next in store for the Hobart-bound competitors.
The Rolex Sydney Hobart fleet includes six international entries from the USA, UK, Italy, France, as well as two partly-crewed Russian boats, and entries from seven of the eight Australian states and territories.