The 68th Rolex Sydney Hobart got underway in exceptional conditions. The forecast southerly breeze providing the perfect angle for a spinnaker start and run down the harbour. The angle would prove less kind as the yachts exited the Sydney Heads and made their turn towards Hobart, finding the 20 – 25 knots now firmly on the nose. Mark Richards and Wild Oats XI looked to be in no mood to be interrupted in her bid to claim a sixth line honours, blasting off the line and showing Syd Fischer’s Ragamuffin Loyal a clean pair of heels before popping out of the Heads comfortably in the lead.
An interesting night lies ahead. The decision how far to head out to sea was the first conundrum facing the crews. So far the bulk of yachts appear firm in the belief that staying inshore, and inside the rhumb line will pay better. Only, one or two boats have shown a determination to head offshore for any length of time. Mike Broughton, navigator on Chris Bull’s Jazz, felt ahead of the start that the fleet would do well to stay inshore for the initial section of the race, certainly until the major swing in wind direction expected during the night. This transition should see the wind back to the northeast and will have the yachts running under spinnaker for an extended period.
Start of the 2012 Rolex Sydney Hobart
Earlier this morning, Gordon Maguire, tactician on Stephen Ainsworth’s Loki, indicated some of their pre-race routing suggested the bigger yachts could profit enormously from the predicted northeasterly. If it arrives on cue, they could bite a huge chunk out of the course during the hours of darkness and be lying off Green Cape by mid-morning on the second day, 27 December. The small boats, meanwhile, such as race veteran Roger Hickman’s Wild Rose, might only find themselves parallel with Jervis Bay as dawn breaks. The difference in power between segments of the fleet will be all too apparent at this juncture.
WILD OATS XI, after the start
At 17:30 AEDT Wild Oats XI was 8 nautical miles north east of Kiama travelling at 12 knots, with some 50 nm under her belt after 4.5 hours of sailing. Any thought of setting a new record seemed to be on hold as navigator Adrienne Cahalan called in to report the wind speed dropping as evening arrives. Ragamuffin Loyal lies within striking distance just astern. Lahana, Ichi Ban and Black Jack round out the top five on the water. Conditions have been wet and hard on crews during these first few hours and the measure of performance differential between front-runners and back markers is clearly demonstrated by Charlie’s Dream. Averaging just 3.4 knots, Peter Lewis and crew were parallel with Botany Bay having knocked a mere 13 nm off the 628nm course distance.
The start of the Rolex Sydney Hobart is like few other yacht races. The natural amphitheatre formed by the deep-water harbour offers great viewing potential from the water, at water level from the beaches and coves, and grandstand opportunities from higher ground. Every Sydney-sider has a favourite location, and South Head must be one of the most popular and dramatic. A huge crowd always assembles to watch the fleet barrel down the harbour and make the sharp out into open water. This year’s spectacle was worth the effort involved. After a dreadful Christmas Day, when rain and wind battered Sydney, Boxing Day has been a joy. Blue sky and reasonably warm temperatures brought the locals out in their thousands to cheer the determined and enthusiastic crews off on their compelling adventure.
|Abracadabra||5612||New South Wales||Tripp 47|
|AFR Midnight Rambler||8338||New South Wales||Ker 40|
|Akatea||NZL8710||New Zealand||Cookson 50|
|Ariel||A140||New South Wales||Beneteau First 40|
|Asylum||YC10||South Australia||Sydney 38|
|Aurora||N3||New South Wales||Farr 40 – One Off|
|Black Jack||52566||Queensland||Reichel Pugh 66|
|Blunderbuss||RQ4000||Queensland||Beneteau First 40|
|Brannew||9988||New South Wales||Beneteau First 40 Cr|
|Breakthrough||6834||New South Wales||Beneteau First 40|
|Brindabella||10000||New South Wales||Jutson 79|
|Carbon Credits||6669||Queensland||Beneteau First 45|
|Celestial-Assistance Dogs||421||New South Wales||Rogers 46|
|Charlie’s Dream||RQ1920||Queensland||Bluewater 450|
|CIC Technology Inca||F111||Aust Capital Territory||Vickers 41|
|Copernicus||6689||New South Wales||Radford 12|
|Corporate Initiatives||7407||New South Wales||Beneteau First 40.7|
|Duende||ESP6100||New South Wales||JV52|
|Dump Truck||A6||Tasmania||Ker 11.3|
|Enchantress||SA346||South Australia||Muirhead 11|
|Finistere||F108||Western Australia||Davidson 50|
|Flying Fish Arctos||7551||New South Wales||McIntyre 55|
|Frantic||GBR5211||New South Wales||TP52|
|Halcyon||R75||Victoria||Beneteau First 40|
|Helsal III||262||Tasmania||Adams 20|
|Holdens Secret Mens Business||YC3300||South Australia||Reichel Pugh 51|
|Icefire||R6572||New South Wales||Mummery 45|
|Ichi Ban||AUS 03||New South Wales||Jones 70|
|Illusion||5356||New South Wales||Davidson 34|
|Jazz Player||S390||Victoria||Bakewell – White 39|
|Jazz||5299||New South Wales||Cookson 50|
|Kioni||6146||New South Wales||Beneteau First 47.7|
|KLC Bengal 7||JPN4321||Japan||Humphreys 54|
|Lahana||10081||New South Wales||30m Maxi|
|Living Doll||R55||Victoria||Farr 55|
|Local Hero||1236||New South Wales||BH 36|
|Loki||AUS 60000||New South Wales||Reichel Pugh 63|
|Love & War||294||New South Wales||S & S 47|
|Luna Sea||8339||New South Wales||Hick 35|
|Lunchtime Legend||RQ14||Queensland||Beneteau First 40|
|Maluka of Kermandie||A19||Tasmania||Ranger|
|Occasional Coarse Language Too||8008||New South Wales||Sydney GTS 43|
|Ocean Affinity||RQ64||Queensland||Marten 49|
|Papillon||6841||New South Wales||Archambault 40RC|
|Patrice Six||360||New South Wales||X41|
|Peugeot Surfrider||7771||New South Wales||Beneteau 45|
|Primitive Cool||S777||Victoria||Farr 40 Mod|
|Quest||52002||New South Wales||TP 52|
|Ragamuffin Loyal||SYD100||New South Wales||Elliott 100|
|Rikki||NZL8008||New Zealand||Reichel Pugh 42|
|Sailors with disAbilities||6953||New South Wales||Nelson Marek 52|
|She||4924||New South Wales||Olsen 40|
|Southern Excellence||NOR2||New South Wales||Volvo 60|
|St Jude||6686||New South Wales||Sydney 47|
|This Way Up||RF360||Western Australia||Sydney 36CR|
|Toybox 2||MH4||New South Wales||XP 44|
|TSA Management||MH60||New South Wales||Sydney 38|
|Two True||YC400||South Australia||Beneteau First 40|
|Wicked||SM4||Victoria||Beneteau First 40|
|Wild Oats XI||10001||New South Wales||RP100|
|Wild Rose||4343||New South Wales||Farr 43|
|Zen||3838||New South Wales||Sydney 38|
The 2011 Rolex Sydney Hobart Yacht Race was notable for an unexpected winner of the coveted line honours trophy, a worthy overall winner and a slow passage home for the smaller boats.
The Boxing Day start of the 628 mile race south to Hobart was spectacular, with the 88-strong international fleet setting off from the heart of Sydney Harbour, with its iconic bridge and Opera House as a backdrop. The Heads and shoreline were teeming with spectators as news helicopters flew overhead. Leading the charge on the beat out of the Harbour was Bob Oatley’s maxi Wild Oats XI, the line honours winner in five out of the last six Rolex Sydney Hobarts.
Weather-wise the start of the race was fairly conventional with some fast running conditions for the afternoon, but with a dramatic 180 degree wind shift into the south forecast for the first evening. A swell from the north generated by the ex-tropical cyclone Fina, combined with this wind shift, created a horrific confused sea on the opening night, as the 30 knots southerly wind kicked in with a punch, gusting up to 40 knots. But it is these brutal, testing conditions competitors expect when they set out on the Rolex Sydney Hobart and give the event its reputation as one of the world’s toughest offshore yacht races.
For the crews it was a case of battening down hatches and muscling through and by the first morning there was an impressively low attrition rate with just two retirements. They were joined later by a third, the 2003 line honours winner Grant Wharington’s Wild Thing, suffering sail damage.
24 hours in and race favourite for line honours, the Mark Richards-skippered Wild Oats XI ,was 11 miles ahead of Anthony Bell’s maxi Investec Loyal, these two having broken away from Peter Millard’s Lahana with singlehanded round the world sailor Alex Thomson on Hugo Boss holding fourth on the water. On IRC handicap Roger Hickman, an old hand in the Rolex Sydney Hobart, competing in his 35th race, had pulled into the lead aboard his 1993 race winner, Wild Rose.
For this Rolex Sydney Hobart Wild Oats XI had been ‘turboed’ with the addition of new twin daggerboards and a larger square-topped mainsail, but her dominance as the fastest boat in the race was called into question when at 20:00 on the second evening of the race she was overtaken by the similarly-sized, but older, Investec Loyal.
With the wind lightening and backing from the southwest into the southeast, so Wild Oats XI was caught in a wind hole. Her co-navigator, Ian Burns explained what happened: “They [Investec Loyal’s crew] were keeping track of how we were doing and the moment we stopped under a cloud with no wind under it, they basically sailed right around the outside of this large hole we were stuck in and came back above us. It was good work on their part.”
The theoretically faster Wild Oats XI managed to catch up and overtook Investec Loyal at 07:30 on the second morning of the race as the two boats were sailing down the east coast of Tasmania. For the rest of the morning followers of the race were on the edge of their seats as the two boats match raced around the remainder of the course.
As they rounded the south side of Tasman Island, so Wild Oats XI was becalmed again and, taking their chance, Investec Loyal once again pounced, sailed around the outside of them to regain the lead. Crossing Storm Bay and sailing up the Derwent River to the finish, the Wild Oats XI crew, sailing with many of Australian yachting’s elder statesmen and women on board, threw all they could at Investec Loyal, but it was not enough. Investec Loyal crossed the finish line at 19:14:18 local time, after 2 days 6 hours 14 minutes and 8 seconds at sea, just 3 minutes and 8 seconds ahead of Wild Oats XI. This was the fourth closest finish in the 67 year history of the Rolex Sydney Hobart.
Unfortunately celebrations were dampened when the line honours winner was protested by the race committee. This was over a conversation between Investec Loyal tactician Michael Coxon and a helicopter pilot on the first morning of the race in which Coxon enquired about whether the mainsail or the trysail was being used on board Wild Oats XI. Investec Loyal’s line honour victory was finally confirmed when, after a three hour long protest hearing, the International Jury concluded that Coxon, in his capacity as Managing Director of North Sails Australia, had made the enquiry about Wild Oats XI’s new 3Di mainsail for professional reasons and this in no way had benefitted Investec Loyal’s performance during the race.
“It was one of the great experiences in my life,” said Anthony Bell, Investec Loyal’s owner and skipper of his win. “The whole thing from the very start, right through to the finish line, was exhilarating. It was a really tough fought out race, but the crew believed in the boat and the cause right from the start and we are so happy to have got past the finish line first.”
Bell’s campaign doubled as a vehicle to raise money for charity (it raised Aus$ 1 million in 2011) on this occasion for the Humpty Dumpty Foundation, which purchases vital medical equipment for 178 children’s hospitals around Australia and East Timor. For this reason among their crew were a number of celebrities including sports stars, such as Australian rugby union internationals Phil Kearns and Phil Waugh.
As the slower boats were becalmed in Storm Bay and up the Derwent River, so it became evident that this year’s Rolex Sydney Hobart would be one for the smaller large boats, including the competitive 50ft fleet. However the stand-out boat in this size range was Stephen Ainsworth’s Reichel Pugh 63, Loki. Over the last 18 months this has proved to be one of the most successful campaigns in on the Australian circuit. Under IRC, Loki’s corrected time was 50 minutes faster than that of Michael Hyatt’s Farr 55 Living Doll, with 84 year old Syd Fischer’s modified TP52 Ragamuffin third and the Cookson 50 Jazz of Britain’s Chris Bull, fourth.
“We are elated. It is a fantastic feeling, a huge thrill to win this race,” said a jubilant Ainsworth, after being presented with a Rolex Yacht-Master timepiece by Patrick Boutellier of Rolex Australia and the coveted Tattersall’s Cup, for winning IRC handicap honours. “Having done 14 races, I know how hard it is to win this race. So many things have to go right for you and the wind gods were with us. Our race went extremely well. The aim for the navigators was to avoid stopping and we successfully did that, although we came close a couple of times. Look at what happened to Wild Oats XI – that could easily have happened to us.”
Ainsworth’s crew, led by Irish round the world sailor Gordon Maguire, was 18 strong, but of these only one third were professionals. “The handicap win came when the big boats parked up,” said Maguire. At one point the maxis had extended to almost 120 miles in front of them, but as they had slowed, so Loki had managed to reel back 60 miles.
Earlier in the race the competitive 40 and 45ft Beneteaus had been among the most promising on handicap along with Roger Hickman’s Wild Rose. However the progress of the smaller boats was hampered as the wind shut down for them as they manoeuvred around the east coast of Tasmania into Storm Bay and up the Derwent River leading up to Hobart.
Darryl Hodgkinson, skipper of the First 45 Victoire summed it up best: “I thought it was going to be a carbon copy of last year’s race where we sat in the Derwent. This year we actually camped in Derwent! The last miles from the Tasman Light to the finish typically take six to seven hours. On this occasion it took 15.”
A pre-race favourite among the smaller boats was the new Ker 40 AFR Midnight Rambler, but co-owner Ed Psaltis, winner of the race in 1998, said they had made some wrong tactical choices and, entering Bass Strait, ended up in a giant wind hole, entrapping them for six hours.
While there had been a strong turn-out in Hobart’s Constitution Dock to witness the end of the match race marathon between Investec Loyal and Wild Oats XI, this was rivalled when Australian youth solo round the world sailing phenomenon Jessica Watson arrived aboard Ella Baché another Challenge. Watson’s crew have now entered the history books as the youngest to take part in the Rolex Sydney Hobart, but having spent two and a half months training as a team prior to the start Watson was delighted with taking second place in the Sydney 38 class.
“It was really, really good, everything you would expect,” said Watson on her arrival. “We had three quite bouncy nights on the nose. We didn’t see any severe conditions, but there was some pretty uncomfortable stuff for quite a while there.”
Having previously sailed solo, Watson was full of praise for her crew. “The crew were awesome. It was the best sailing we’ve ever seen them do. It’s what we have been training for and they did exactly that. Everyone did an amazing job. All credit to them – I just held on for the ride.”
The last boat to arrive, crossing the line late in the afternoon on New Year’s Eve, was that of Sydney boatyard owner Sean Langman. Langman is best known for his attempts to win line honours in previous races, but on this occasion was sailing the wooden 1932 coastal cruiser/fishing boat, Maluka of Kermandie as crew for his 18 year old son Peter.
This year’s race once again proved that to earn victory in the Rolex Sydney Hobart is something that takes persistence. As Gordon Maguire concluded: “I won this race in 1991 on an IOR 2 tonner Atara with Harold Cudmore. It was my second Hobart race and I thought ‘easy’. It has been 20 years since I won it again. I have won an awful lot of regattas in between and I do this race almost every year, so it is not an easy race to win. You can’t just come down here with the best boat in the world and win it. You have to come down here with the best boat in the world and have all the luck in the world – all that has to happen in the same race. It is a very unusual beast.”
With the wind fading for the smaller boats, so this morning (local time) Stephen Ainsworth’s Loki was announced the handicap winner of the 2011 Rolex Sydney Hobart Yacht Race.
At a presentation on board their white four year old Reichel Pugh 63 footer, Ainsworth and his crew were presented with a Rolex Yacht-Master timepiece by Patrick Boutellier of Rolex Australia and the much coveted Tattersall’s Cup, for winning IRC handicap honours, by Garry Linacre, Commodore of the Cruising Yacht Club of Australia, and Graham Taplin, Commodore of the Royal Yacht Club of Tasmania.
“We are elated, it is a fantastic feeling, a huge thrill to win this race,” said a jubilant Ainsworth. “Having done 14 races, I know how hard it is to win this race. I have been trying for a long time. So many things have to go right for you and the wind gods were with us. Our race went extremely well. The aim for the navigators was to avoid stopping and we successfully did that, although we came close a couple of times. Look at what happened to Wild Oats XI – that could easily have happened to us.”
The present Loki was launched three years ago after Ainsworth’s previous boat was lost after she was abandoned in severe conditions when her rudder broke during the 2007 Rolex Middle Sea. The new boat was built for offshore racing and specifically to win the Rolex Sydney Hobart. This was Ainsworth and his crew’s fourth attempt in the latest Loki.
Ainsworth and Loki are one of the most successful teams racing in Australia at present. Last year they won the Australian IRC Championship, the Audi Sydney Gold Coast Yacht Race and this year Audi Hamilton Island Race Week. Personally, this month Ainsworth was voted the Cruising Yacht Club of Australia’s joint Ocean Racer of the Year.
Typically they sail offshore with 18 crew and of these only one third are professional, led by Irish Volvo Ocean Race veteran, Gordon Maguire. On board typically Maguire helms while Ainsworth trims the main sheet. The other pros on board for the Rolex Sydney Hobart included other much capped round the world race sailors Anthony Merrington, Jeff Scott and sailmaker Alby Pratt, while a regular with Ainsworth is his long term navigator Michael Bellingham.
However, Maguire points out that many of their ‘amateur’ crew are among the most talented sailors in Australia. “We have really good sailors from all walks of life. It is more rewarding when you line up against fully pro crews.”
For the Rolex Sydney Hobart this year, Loki was fitted with a new, bigger mainsail and for the first time they had an on board weather expert to assist Bellingham in the form of British navigator Will Best.
According to Maguire, during the race they were always in contention, but down the east coast of Tasmania the 100ft maxis had stretched away. “They were getting out to 120 miles in front of us and at that distance it was hard to stay in touch on handicap. But they parked up at Tasman Island and that brought us right back into them. We took 60 miles out of them that morning. So the handicap win came when the big boats parked up. We were always very confident that we had time on the boats behind us, particularly with how the weather patterns were going to shape up from halfway down the east coast to the finish.”
Ainsworth said Loki would return to the Rolex Sydney Hobart next year to defend her title.
Slow boats up the Derwent
Meanwhile for today’s finishers the pace had distinctly slowed. Over 11 and a half hours, last night and into this morning, just one boat arrived as the water turned to glass on Storm Bay and the Derwent River leading up to Hobart.
Darryl Hodgkinson, skipper of the Beneteau First 45 Victoire summed it up best: “I thought it was going to be carbon copy of last year’s where we sat in the Derwent. This year we actually camped in Derwent! The last miles from the Tasman Light to the finish typically takes six to seven hours, on this occasion it took 15.
Ed Psaltis, co-owner of AFR Midnight Rambler arrived in Hobart suffering from an infected arm and unhappy with their performance. “It was very disappointing, our race. We made a few wrong choices. Entering Bass Strait we were in good shape against all the opposition and doing well overall, but we found a hole [in the wind] bigger that anyone else did and we sat there for six hours going nowhere. We also had northerly, adverse current in Bass Strait so we did very well going the wrong way.”
Between two scheds AFR Midnight Rambler lost 25 miles, but once the wind turned favourable and they could set the kite on their new Ker 40, they managed to make up the deficit. Then they too had a slow finish. “It was probably the slowest passage I’ve had from Tasman Light to the finish – and this is a pretty quick boat. But that’s how it is,” said Psaltis. “Next year it will be a lot better than it was this year.”
Australia’s solo sailing star arrives
This afternoon the marina of Constitution Dock was packed five deep with spectators waiting patiently for the arrival of 18 year-old Australian solo sailor Jessica Watson. Since 2010 when she became the youngest person ever to have completed a singlehanded voyage non-stop around the world, Watson has become a media sensation in Australia.
In this year’s Rolex Sydney Hobart Watson achieved her ambition to lead the youngest crew ever to compete in the race. She and her seven crew – among them fellow youth solo round the world sailor, Britain’s Mike Perham – raced in the Sydney 38 class aboard the pink hulled Ella Baché Another Challenge.
“It was really, really good, everything you would expect,” said Watson upon her arrival. “We had three quite bouncy nights on the nose. We didn’t see any severe conditions, but there was some pretty uncomfortable stuff for quite a while there.”
Having previously sailed on her own, Watson was full of praise for her crew. “The crew were awesome. It was the best sailing we’ve ever seen them do. It’s what we have been training for and they did exactly that. Everyone did an amazing job. All credit to them – I just held on for the ride.”
Her round the world voyage also didn’t involve competition, something which she seems to have relished in this Rolex Sydney Hobart. “The last leg in was amazing, some really close racing with the Sydney 38 fleet, changing positions all the time. Then to come in second was just awesome. It was as good as anyone could hope for. We had a really close battle with The Goat.” She added: “The race wouldn’t have been the same if we didn’t have that close boat-on-boat racing.” Watson was especially pleased to have beaten their coaches, sailing on Deloitte As One.
Since lunch time, boats have been flooding into Hobart, with 26 arriving between 13:23 (local time) and the latest arrival at 17:24 of Tony Warren’s Kiss Goodbye to MS, the 49th finisher. 28 boats remain still racing with John Bankart’s Eressea, bringing up the rear, some 137 miles from the finish.
The closest finish in the last 29 years of the Rolex Sydney Hobart Yacht Race took place this evening when Anthony Bell’s maxi Investec Loyal fended off repeated challenges from Bob Oatley’s perennial line honours victor Wild Oats XIto win by just 3 minutes and 8 seconds, after 2 days 6 hours 14 minutes and 8 seconds of racing on this classic 628 mile course.
The competition for line honours in this race was one of the closest in its 67 year history with the two Australian maxis gunning for each other from the moment the canon was fired on Sydney Harbour on Monday afternoon. Wild Oats XI led until 20:00 local time (09:00 UTC) on Tuesday when they were becalmed.
“They [Investec Loyal’s crew] were keeping track of how we were doing and the moment we stopped under a cloud with no wind under it, they basically sailed right around the outside of this large hole we were stuck in and came back above us. It was good work on their part,” described Wild Oats XI’s co-navigator, Ian Burns.
Fortunately the wind filled in soon after for Wild Oats XI and they were able to resume the fight and, from this point on, the event became truly a gloves-off match race between the two 100 footers.
Finally this morning at 07:30 local time, Wild Oats XI regained the lead. With rarely more than two miles separating the two boats, it was not until Wild Oats XI was becalmed again just short of Tasman Island and the entrance to Storm Bay, that Investec Loyal managed once more to skirt around the wind hole. This time they took up residence directly ahead of their opponent and from that point, despite the best efforts of the Wild Oats XI crew led by Mark Richards, Investec Loyal was not going to be passed.
Much to the delight of spectators thickly lining Hobart’s Constitution Dock, the two ocean racing giants came into sight up the Derwent River, but it was Investec Loyal and her crew, including sports stars, such as Australian rugby union internationals Phil Kearns and Phil Waugh, which was first home. They arrived at 19:14:18 local time, their elapsed time for the course being 2 days 6 hours 14 minutes and 18 seconds.
“It was one of the great experiences in my life,” said Anthony Bell, Investec Loyal’s owner and skipper with a beaming smile. “The whole thing from the very start, right through to the finish line was exhilarating. It was a really tough fought out race, but the crew believed in the boat and the cause right from the start and we are so happy to have got past the finish line first.”
Michael Coxon, tactician on Investec Loyal shared his thoughts on their win: “It has a very competent professional crew and a great owner who does it all for the right reasons. It is like a fairy tale – a boat that supports charity. This boat raised Aus$ 1 million this year for charity. That is the way it should happen. I am very happy for Anthony Bell. We sail with people who have never gone sailing before and they did a really good job.”
In what was principally a tactical victory for the older Investec Loyal, Coxon paid tribute to their American navigator. “The difference is a gentleman called Stan Honey,” he said. “He is an absolute legend – just amazing. His knowledge of weather and weather routing and the information he provides to me…at the end of the day he is just so good.”
Investec Loyal – provision winner at this stage
However at present Investec Loyal’s line honours victory in the 2011 Rolex Sydney Hobart is provisional. The event’s Race Committee, led by Tim Cox, is protesting Anthony Bell’s boat over a believed infringement of Racing Rule of Sailing 41 entitled ‘Outside Help’. This involved the audio recording of a conversation that took place at 06:30 local time on 27th December between the pilot of an ABC TV station helicopter and an Investec Loyal crewman seeking information on the sail plan in use on Wild Oats XI – in particular whether she was flying a trisail. “This is assessed to breach Rule 41 by soliciting help from an outside source,” explained Garry Linacre, Commodore of the Cruising Yacht Club of Australia, organiser of the Rolex Sydney Hobart.
The case is to be heard by the race’s international jury at 10:00 local time tomorrow, 29th December.
Gracious in defeat
On board second placed Wild Oats XI, skipper Mark Richards was categorical about the outcome. “Those guys won on the water and we came second. That’s all there is to it. They did a great job those guys and they deserve the win.”
Richards added that he thought it had been a fantastic race. “We had to work our butts off until the end and we came in second. That’s the way it is. They sailed very well. We were very unlucky in a few situations, but those guys did a great job and when it came to the crunch. Their boat was little bit quicker than us downwind in the lighter air and they just managed to keep their nose in front and got to the line first.”
The next two boats expected to arrive in Hobart at around 01:00 tomorrow morning are Peter Millard and John Honan’s maxi Lahana and Stephen Ainsworth’s Reichel Pugh 63, Loki.
The race for the Tattersall’s Cup, for handicap honours under IRC, remains wide open with Michael Hiatt’s Farr 55 Living Doll ahead earlier this evening, but with Australian sailing legend, 84 year-old Syd Fischer and his modified TP52 Ragamuffin having taken the lead under IRC at the time of writing. Line Honours
At 11:00 local (midnight UTC ), Wild Oats XI was leading the drive south in the Rolex Sydney Hobart Yacht Race. She was just setting out to cross Bass Strait with Anthony Bell’s Investec Loyal 11 miles astern. These two have now broken away from the fleet with Peter Millard’s Lahanathird, 39 miles off the lead.
Further back still, Alex Thomson’s IMOCA 60 Hugo Boss is fourth on the water, doing well to fend off the advances of Stephen Ainsworth’s all conquering Reichel Pugh 63, Loki.
Yesterday evening local time, the fleet saw the wind clock around through 180 degrees as the front passed overhead, the wind kicking in with some violence from the south, putting the boats hard on the wind.
As Mike Broughton, navigator on Chris Bull’s Cookson 50 Jazz recounted: “The front passed last night with quite a punch, with pelting rain that lasted for about 40 minutes, but kept things busy for Andy Hudson and the bow team, as we quickly had to change sails.” The rapid change in wind direction, and with the wind now counter to the south-going current, has kicked up an evil sea. Broughton described this as being 3-4m high, short and confused.
In the all-important IRC handicap battle for the Tattersall’s Cup, nothing clear is transpiring yet. At the time of writing Wild Oats XI, the biggest fastest boat in the fleet, had eased ahead, but previously leading had been the 1985-built Farr 43 Wild Rose, winner of the Rolex Sydney Hobart in 1993 and skippered by race veteran Roger Hickman. The smaller Beneteaus were also performing well – in particular Darryl Hodgkinson’s much tipped Beneteau First 45 Victoire, Paul Clitheroe’s 45 Balance and Andrew Saies on his 2009 Rolex Sydney Hobart winning First 40, Two True.
At present the bulk of the fleet are still hugging the New South Wales coast where the wind is in the south and they are hard on the wind. However conditions have momentarily improved for the maxis out in Bass Strait where the wind, currently blowing 25-30 knots, has veered into the southwest allowing the boats to head south on starboard tack. But the forecast is indicating stop-start progress for the 100 footers. The wind is due to fizzle out this afternoon (local time) as a small bubble of high pressure eases east off the coast of Tasmania. But once the high gets offshore, some northerly pressure could build close in to the Tasman coast, allowing the big boats to forge south once more.
Despite a first testing night at sea, to date there have only been three retirements from 88 starters. Just before midnight local time Sam Haynes’ Rogers 46 Celestial withdrew having suffered a broken gooseneck, while Marc and Louis Ryckmans GP42 Accenture (Yeah Baby) pulled out with unspecified gear failure.
Hot off the press is that 2003 line honours winner, Grant Warrington ‘s Wild Thing is the latest retirement, having suffered sail damage. At the time of her pulling out she was holding third place on the water.
88 international crews are to set sail on Monday, 26th December in the 67th Rolex Sydney Hobart Yacht Race. Conditions this year are set to be diverse and challenging, but initial forecasts are not showing any extreme weather.
According to Rob Webb, Regional Director of the Australian Government Bureau of Meteorology, Monday’s start from Sydney Harbour, at 1300 local time, will be accompanied by 15-20 knot northerlies, providing an initial blast south for the crews. But this will be shortlived. Later that afternoon, southerly/SSWerly headwinds are expected to fill in on the north side of Bass Strait and up the New South Wales coast. Two days in and the weather on the south side of Bass Strait and down the east coast of Tasman turns into a lottery, with light patchy wind dominating the course until an area of high pressure moves in from the west later in the week.
Clear favourite for line honours is of course Bob Oatley’s 100ft maxi Wild Oats XI, first to Hobart in five of the last six races and winner of the ‘triple’ (line and handicap honours, plus the course record) in 2005. Anticipating stiff competition this year from American George David’s Rambler 100 (until her keel snapped off in the Rolex Fastnet Race this August), so Wild Oats XI has over the last 18 months been significantly turboed, with twin daggerboards replacing her forward ‘canard’, a new keel, the canting angle of her keel increased and her mainsail and spinnakers enlarged, etc. But given the latest forecast, even with her increased horsepower, tactician Iain Murray says Wild Oats XI is still only going to get down to Hobart in two days four to five hours, some way outside of her one day 18 hour and 40 minute record.
“We will barrel out of Sydney, probably look for some leverage in the east so that we get some runway to land us back on the coast as the breeze starts to turn to the southwest,” says Murray. “Then we’ll go straight across Bass Straight and after that it is pretty sketchy how it is going to be off the east Tasmanian coast. It is always difficult there. You end up with patches of no wind and the breeze goes over the top of Tasmania.”
The last half is all up in the air and that could be good for us Stan Honey – INVESTEC LOYAL
Sailing with the celebrity crew, including Australian rugby union internationals Phil Kearns and Phil Waugh, on Anthony Bell’s maxi Investec Loyal, American navigator Stan Honey does not see much opportunity for their 100 footer until the latter half of the race. “If it was really windy or really light it would be less of a difference. The last half is all up in the air and that could be good for us, but the dice will have to roll in our favour a few times.”
The general consensus is that if the varying forecast is likely to favour one size range this year, then it would be the mid-fleet, the 40-60 footers.
At the top end of this band falls Stephen Ainsworth’s three year old Reichel Pugh 63 Loki, one of Australia’s most successful race boats. Most recently Loki was winner of the 2010-11 Bluewater Pointscore Championship, the result of a spectacular season in which she regularly podiumed, and won line honours and her class in the Audi Sydney Offshore Newcastle Yacht Race.
Slightly down the size range are the eight 52 footers, including five former TP52s. One of the most successful of these is Ragamuffin, the Farr-designed former Pegasus/Morning Light, owned by one of the Australia’s most eminent yachtsmen Syd Fischer. Aged 84, Fischer this year sets off on his 43rd Rolex Sydney Hobart.
Having won the race in 1992, Fischer says the accuracy of the weather forecasts for the race are better these days than they used to be, but does not seem overly bullish in this year’s predictions favouring boats in Ragamuffin’s size range. “I will confirm that when I see it. I don’t trust the forecast and the weather is very volatile at the moment.”
Despite having a slightly shorter boat, Chris Bull, the British owner and skipper of Jazz, says that his Cookson 50 invariably beats the TP52s offshore on handicap, but even he is not confident of their prospects with the present weather forecast.
“We’d like it to be breezy upwind and breezy downwind. But we definitely need some breezy upwind. A couple of days ago it was looking good. Unfortunately the forecast seems to be backing off a bit in terms of the wind strength. It is not looking too bad for us, but not as good as last year when there were pretty gnarly conditions which suited us.”
In fact I would say no race of less
than 2,000 miles is as tough as this one
Chris Bull – JAZZ
Having this year competed in the Atlantic Ocean Racing Series, comprising races in the Caribbean, US east coast, a transatlantic race and then the Rolex Fastnet Race, Bull still believes the Rolex Sydney Hobart is the toughest of the ‘classic 600 milers’: “Conditions are generically tougher – you are in the Southern Ocean, generally you experience stronger winds and every year you get strong winds, which is not true of the others. The water is colder than it is for any of the other 600 mile races. In fact I would say no race of less than 2,000 miles is as tough as this one. I have done Round Britain and Ireland which is 1,760 miles – that’s not as tough as this race.”
At the bottom end of the favoured mid-fleet is a new boat in the hands the handicap winners of the 1998 race. The new AFR Midnight Rambler, owned by Ed Psaltis, Bob Thomas and Michael Bencsik, is a Ker 40 production race boat from British designer Jason Ker. The boat, with its massive flare aft, is unusual for being fast both upwind and downwind while also rating well under IRC.
It is going to be a brutal race for us and quite wet, but if you are going fast the discomfort is quite tolerable
“It is quite unique to have a boat that is strong on all points of sails,” says Psaltis. “We are very pleased with it so far. It is quite radical. It is going to be a brutal race for us and quite wet, but if you are going fast the discomfort is quite tolerable.” However he admits they are on a steep learning curve with the boat having only taken ownership in September.
As to the forecast, Psaltis says they were hoping to get more downwind sailing at the outset, but says they should also be strong when the wind backs into the south. “The first day and a half looks good for us. The Tasman coast is still a lottery. The report today was the different to the report we saw yesterday and it will change again tomorrow.”
A dark horse could be the all-French crew aboard Jacques Pelletier’s X-43 L’Ange de Milon. Among her crew of Pelletier’s family and friends are three sailors who normally compete in the singlehanded Figaro class, among them Nicolas Lunven, 2009 winner of the class’ premier event, La Solitaire du Figaro. While L’Ange de Milon competed in the Rolex Sydney Hobart last year, this is Lunven’s first time and he says he is looking forward to it. However he adds they may not see their ideal weather: “She likes lots of wind and upwind, which is good for the boat, but not very good for the crew!”
Unusually, the bottom end of the fleet is likely to get considerable attention locally as the Sydney 38 class includes Ella Bache. This is skippered by 18 year old, Jessica Watson, who famously sailed around the world singlehanded when she was just 16, becoming a media sensation in Australia in the process. Watson’s youth crew also includes Britain’s Michael Perham, 19, who sailed singlehanded around the world when he was 17.
“I have never sailed in the Rolex Sydney Hobart race, but as a navigator I’ve been studying it a lot recently, looking at the weather patterns and the current around here which are big factors for us small boats,” said Perham, who is down in Australia, after Watson competed with him in the UK this year in the Round the Island Race.
The Rolex Sydney Hobart sets sail at 13:00 local time from within Sydney Harbour.
Rolex Sydney Hobart Race 2011 Entries
|Accenture Yeah Baby||8362||NSW||GP42|
|AFR Midnight Rambler||8338||NSW||Ker 40|
|Alacrity||7447||QLD||Beneteau First 44.7|
|Alchemy III||5976||TAS||Beneteau 57|
|Aurora||N3||NSW||Farr 40 – One Off|
|Cadibarra 8||R420||VIC||Jones 42|
|Carina||USA315||USA||McCurdy & Rhodes 48|
|Chancellor||6834||NSW||Beneteau First 40|
|Deloitte As One||2005||NSW||Sydney 38|
|Dump Truck||A6||TAS||Ker 11.3|
|Ella Bache||2004||NSW||Sydney 38|
|Ffreefire 52||HKG2238||Hong Kong||TP52|
|Flying Fish Arctos||7551||NSW||Radford 16.4|
|Hugo Boss||GBR8055||UK||Open 60|
|Ichi Ban||AUS 03||NSW||Jones 70|
|Jazz Player||S390||VIC||Bakewell – White 39|
|Kioni||6146||NSW||Beneteau First 47.7|
|Kiss Goodbye to MS||S37||VIC||Inglis 39|
|Knee Deep||HY161||WA||Farr 49|
|L’ange De Milon||FRA29999||France||X 43|
|Last Tango||8975||NSW||Salona 44|
|Living Doll||R55||VIC||Farr 55|
|LMR Solar||M161||NSW||Sayer 40|
|Loki||AUS60000||NSW||Reichel Pugh 63|
|Lunchtime Legend||RQ14||QLD||Beneteau First 40|
|Maluka Of Kermandie||A19||NSW|
|Mille Sabords||SM381||VIC||Sydney 38|
|Natelle Two||2555||TAS||Peterson 41 2 Tonne|
|Nemesis||USA69200||USA||C & C 41|
|NSC Mahligai||NZL1||NSW||Sydney 46|
|Ocean Affinity||RQ64||QLD||Marten 49|
|One For The Road||N40||NSW||A40|
|Optimus Prime||CR1||WA||Marten 49|
|Outrageous Fortune||NZ9138||New Zealand||Beneteau First 45|
|Patrice IV||YC271||SA||Beneteau First 45|
|Pretty Fly III||10007||NSW||Cookson 50|
|Scarlet Runner||SM11||VIC||Reichel Pugh 52|
|Shepherd Centre||11407||NSW||Beneteau 40.7|
|Southern Excellence||NOR2||NSW||Volvo 60|
|St Jude||6686||NSW||Sydney 47|
|The Goat||7027||NSW||Sydney 38|
|TSA Management||MH60||NSW||Sydney 38|
|Two True||YC400||SA||Beneteau First 40|
|Victoire||1545||NSW||Beneteau First 45|
|Wasabi||AUS 88||NSW||Sayer 12 MOD|
|Wave Sweeper||7407||NSW||Beneteau First 40.7|
|Wild Oats XI||10001||NSW||RP100|
|Wild Rose||4343||NSW||Farr 43|
|Wild Thing||M10||QLD||IRC Maxi 98|
|Willyama||335||NSW||Beneteau First 40|