Ben Ainslie (GBR) and Lijia Xu (CHN) were named the male and female winners of the 2012 ISAF Rolex World Sailor of the Year Awards at a ceremony held at the Mansion House, Dublin, Ireland on Tuesday 6 November.
The ISAF Rolex World Sailor of the Year Awards takes place during the International Sailing Federation’s (ISAF) Annual Conference, which this year is being held in Dun Laoghaire. The award ceremony welcomes the pinnacle of the sailing world including sailors, officials and conference delegates.
The annual Awards, sponsored by Rolex since 2001, are the highest honour a sailor can receive and is recognition of achievement in a twelve-month period, in this case from 1 September 2011 to 31 August 2012.
Competition for the 2012 Awards was formidable, with four outstanding female and five equally exceptional male candidates short-listed from a list of nominations made by the public at large. The winners were decided by the votes of the over 130 Member National Authorities of ISAF. Suspense was maintained until the very last minute, with the nominees and guests unaware who had won until the official announcement itself.
Ben Ainslie (GBR) – History Boy
The greatest of his generation. Four Olympic gold medals and now as many ISAF Rolex World Sailor of the Year Awards. Ben Ainslie is the most successful Olympic sailor of all time. The 35-year old’s achievement at London 2012 elevated him to five Olympic medals (four gold, one silver), surpassing Rolex Testimonee Paul Elvstrøm (DEN), winner of four gold medals between 1948 and 1960. On receiving the award, Ainslie paid tribute to the team that has supported him: “Winning the ISAF Rolex World Sailor of the Year award is a huge honour, especially for everyone who has helped me. There is a huge team in the background from family, friends, coaches and sponsors who helped make it happen. It is an honour to be part of such a group of exceptional sailors who were put forward for this award.”
Ainslie headed into his home Olympics under a colossal weight of expectation. He was given the honour of welcoming the Olympic torch on its arrival in the United Kingdom, and was chosen as the first of 8,000 torchbearers. Fittingly, after making history on the waters off Weymouth, Ainslie was selected as Team GB’s flag bearer at the Closing Ceremony. “To take part in a home Olympics was a completely unique experience,” reflected Ainslie. “I have never felt quite the same level of expectation but also level of support.”
Once competition started, it was another Dane – Jonas Høgh-Christensen – who contrived to stand between Ainslie and his fourth Olympic Gold. Ainslie began the 2012 competition better than any previous Games, but not as well as Christensen. Ainslie needed to react and he used a racecourse incident during the second half of the week to channel his competitive energy. The reigning Olympic champion found a new level, won two of the last four races and went into the decisive medal race needing to beat the relentless Dane but avoid conceding too many points to his other closest rivals. In front of a partisan crowd and following a nail-biting encounter, Ainslie emerged victorious. He cut an exhausted and emotional figure on the finish line. “These Olympics were not that easy for me, sometimes it flows, sometimes you have to fight for it,” he admitted. “It was tough fight all the way to the finish. Taking the gold medal in front of a home crowd – I don’t think I will ever experience an emotion quite like that again.”
Ainslie has been at the top for 20 years, enduring enormous self-sacrifice in his quest for perfection. A pursuit that involves never giving an inch in training sessions and a relentless competition schedule. His remarkable career has seen him claim nine European titles and ten world championships – the first back in 1993. Few sportsmen, in any discipline, have been at the forefront of their profession for such a sustained period.
He has given the sport some of its finest moments including two epic battles with Rolex Testimonee Robert Scheidt (BRA) at the 1996 and 2000 Olympic Games – duels that drew a wider public to sailing.
Driven and passionate, Ainslie is a compelling character whose future in the sport is expected to concentrate on his desire to launch a British America’s Cup challenge. As part of his ‘apprenticeship’ Ainslie is part of Team Oracle under the stewardship of two-time ISAF Rolex World Sailor of the Year Russell Coutts, and alongside the 2010 ISAF Rolex World Sailor, Tom Slingsby.
There are a lot of fantastic sailors out there and when
you look at someone like Paul Elvstrøm, he
revolutionised the sport of sailing in his day and I
certainly don’t think I can claim to have done that
Ainslie’s excellence in the sport has been recognised with this record fourth ISAF Rolex World Sailor of the Year Award following titles gained in 1998, 2002 and 2008. However, Ainslie remains modest about his momentous achievements: “There are a lot of fantastic sailors out there and when you look at someone like Paul Elvstrøm, he revolutionised the sport of sailing in his day and I certainly don’t think I can claim to have done that. I am very fortunate to have had the support to do what I have.”
Lijia Xu (CHN) – Immense Competitor
The inspirational Lijia Xu etched her name in the history books in August 2012 becoming the first Chinese, and indeed Asian, sailor to win an Olympic Gold medal in a dinghy sailing boat. “I didn’t expect to be the winner,” admitted Xu. “It is an honour to be named ISAF Rolex World Sailor of the Year and become the first sailor from China to receive this award. I hope this award can inspire more children in China to take up the sport.”
It is an honour to be named ISAF Rolex World
Sailor of the Year and become the first sailor
from China to receive this award
Xu triumphed in the Laser Radial, one of the tightest and most dramatic competitions at London 2012. This after the Shanghai-born sailor hardly made an auspicious start to competition, finishing in the top three positions in only one of the first six races. During the second half of the week, Xu’s class came to the fore. In a manner reminiscent of her fellow 2012 ISAF Rolex World Sailor of the Year, she showed grit and determination to put herself in pole position for the deciding medal race.
Going into that final race, Xu could not afford to slip up with three rivals all in strong contention. In a winner takes all finalé, the 25-year old Chinese sailor sailed best, winning the race and adding Olympic Gold to the Bronze she claimed in Beijing. Her victory lap following the dramatic medal race was one of the sailing competition’s iconic moments. “It was a fantastic medal race that will be remembered forever,” said Xu. “On crossing the finishing line I realized not only my own dream but also the whole nation’s dream. Many people strived for this gold for so many years and despite all the difficulties and setbacks we conquered it.”
Victory in London proved the crowning achievement following an impressive year, where she won three ISAF Sailing World Cup regattas and peaked at the right time after claiming an impressive silver medal during a highly competitive Laser Radial World Championship in May.
A keen swimmer in her youth, Xu’s passion for sailing began from the age of 10 when she started Optimist sailing in Shanghai. She took to the sport immediately. By 2001, at the age of 14, she was Girls’ Optimist World Champion, a title she reclaimed in 2002. Her story is one of resilience. Xu has battled significant hearing and sight problems and missed out on a place at the Athens Olympics in 2004, when a routine medical examination revealed a tumour in her leg that subsequently required major surgery.
Xu bounced back and in 2006 won the Laser Radial Women’s World Championship. That success, together with the Bronze medal gained at Beijing, on the back of a serious hand injury, propelled Xu onto the international stage. “The most challenging part of my career has been facing injuries. It is important to never give in, never yield,” added Xu.
Xu, who was also her nation’s flag bearer at the Closing Ceremony of London 2012 is assessing whether to mount a campaign for the 2016 Games in Rio. In the meantime, she is taking time to complete her studies and reflect on the love she has for her sport: “Sailing has given me the chance to chase my dreams and the stage to show my potential. It has provided me with the opportunity to see, feel and explore the world. Sailing leads me to a path of a better life, a life full of vitality, excitement and joyful experiences.”
Xu is only the second Asian sailor to be named ISAF Rolex World Sailor of the Year following in the footsteps of female windsurfer Lee Lai Shan (HKG) who won in 1996.
Double Olympic gold medallist and World Sailor of the Year in 2000, Shirley Robertson, hosted the ceremony. The Awards were presented by ISAF President of Honour HM King Constantine and Joël Aeschlimann of Rolex SA. Both winners were presented with a Rolex timepiece and an ISAF Rolex World Sailor of the Year trophy.
A Stellar Supporting Class
In addition to the two winners, the list of nominees for the 2012 ISAF Rolex World Sailor of the Year Award included:
Mathew Belcher & Malcolm Page (AUS) – Men’s 470 – London 2012 Olympic Gold Medallists, 2011 and 2012 World Champions & 2011-12 ISAF Sailing World Cup Champions
Nathan Outteridge & Iain Jensen (AUS) – 49er – London 2012 Olympic Gold Medallists & 2011 and 2012 World Champions
Loïck Peyron (FRA) – Outright Around the World Record
Tom Slingsby (AUS) – Laser – London 2012 Olympic Gold Medallist & 2011 and 2012 World Champion
Tamara Echegoyen, Angela Pumariega and Sofía Toro (ESP) – Women’s Match Racing – London 2012 Olympic Gold Medallists
Helena Lucas (GBR) – 2.4mR – London 2012 Paralympic Gold Medallist and 2011-12 ISAF Sailing World Cup Champion
Saskia Sills (GBR) – RS:X – ISAF Youth Sailing World Champion & European Youth Champion
With the exception of Loïck Peyron all of the nominees attended the Awards Ceremony, celebrating a year of outstanding achievement.
ISAF Rolex World Sailor of the Year Awards
The winners of the ISAF Rolex World Sailor of the Year Awards are decided by vote by the over 130 Member National Authorities of ISAF following a worldwide selection process that begins with an open invitation for nominations. Two awards, one for a female sailor/crew and one for a male sailor/crew, are presented to the individuals who are deemed to have most distinguished themselves during the qualifying period.
For Further Information
Please visit the ISAF Rolex World Sailor of the Year Awards microsite at: www.sailing.org/worldsailor
A tactically challenging and meteorologically intriguing 33rd Rolex Middle Sea Race is developing. Thirty hours into the contest, all 83 yachts are still racing with the bulk of the fleet negotiating the infamous Strait of Messina. Leading the fleet, and midway between the Strait and Stromboli, are the 30.48m/100-ft Esimit Europa 2 (SLO), and two 21.94m/72-ft Mini Maxis Rán 2 (GBR) and Stig (ITA). Currently sailing at a meagre two knots, the three are separated by less than one mile.
Esimit Europa 2 has not broken away from the pack in the manner she has become accustomed to in previous editions. The first night proved frustrating for Igor Simcic’s crew, caught in a fading breeze that allowed her rivals to close in. On the approach to the Strait this morning, Rán 2 took advantage of a positive current to close the gap on Esimit, and even take the lead. By midday the two boats were only 100m apart exiting the Strait together, destination Stromboli.
“We enjoyed some good breeze through the Strait and are very satisfied with our progress. However, we expect conditions to be very light on the stretch to Stromboli,” reported the crew on Esimit.
Steve Hayles, navigator on Rán 2, confirmed: “It was a very tricky first night. The smaller boats made quite a big gain at one point. Our long-term strategy was to be furthest offshore. We made a considerable loss initially but managed to stretch away this morning. The race is going to be a bit like an elastic band. It’s about trying to stay on the right side of your competitor and focused on where next breeze is coming from. For us the focus is staying ahead of Stig.” The Italian boat lost ground during the morning but were able to close the gap after exiting the Strait.
Further down the fleet, things are equally intense. Philippe Falle, skipper of the 13.10m/43-ft Trustmarque Quokka (GBR), added: “It was quite a tactical night, pushing and trimming hard. It was an important night to get right. This is one of those races which will see a lot of bungee effects.”
18 yachts have now passed the Strait of Messina. The current advantage on handicap belongs to defending champion – Lee Satariano’s J/122 Artie (MLT). It is a precarious lead as the fleet heads into the second evening and a frustrating search for breeze.
Live race tracking from the 33rd Rolex Middle Sea Race is available here as a record-breaking 83 international entries contest this classic offshore race.
The 2010 venue – the second time the Rolex Farr 40 World Championship has been hosted in the Caribbean – makes full use of the stunning 7,000 acre Casa de Campo Resort and Marina located on the southeast coast of the Dominican Republic. The Marina offers great access to sailing conditions the Caribbean is well known for: steady south-easterly breezes, turquoise waters and shirt-sleeve sailing.
Lining up Barking Mad in their sights, will be more than a few teams who have proven in the past that they are capable of winning not just races, but more importantly whole series: Helmut Jahn on Flash Gordon 6 (USA) with tactician Bill Hardesty, won the 2009 Rolex Farr 40 North American Championship and is fresh from winning the Farr 40 class at the 2010 Miami Grand Prix last week. Most of the Miami fleet will be moving on to the Dominican Republic and if the racing in Florida, where Flash Gordon held off 2nd placed Nerone (ITA) by a mere point, is any indication, the Worlds will be hotly contested. Jahn, who shares helming duties with his son, Evan, said about Miami, “we moved up (in the standings) every day, we didn’t let ourselves get too excited, just another race, and another, and then it came down to the last one. The lead changed every day; we had to win the first race on the last day, and we did, but three boats could still have won the regatta.” Jahn is pragmatic as he attributes Flash Gordon’s success to more time in the boat with the same core team, “we’re doing better lately, more focused, fewer mistakes, as well prepared as can be, but still something can always go wrong!” Finishing 2nd in Miami, behind Flash Gordon, was Massimo Mezzaroma, on Nerone, with tactician Vasco Vascotto onboard. Nerone was the 2003 Rolex Farr 40 World Champion and 2009 European Champion.
Still other teams offer up a strong challenge, including Guido Belgiorno-Nettis on Transfusion (AUS), with tactician Tom Slingsby, who last week in Sydney won the 2010 Farr 40 Australian Championship for the second year in a row; Wolfgang Schaefer on Struntje Light (GER); Doug Douglass on Goombay Smash (USA), with tactician Morgan Larson; Alex Roepers on Plenty (USA), with tactician Tony Rey; Alberto Rossi on Enfant Terrible (ITA); Lisa & Martin Hill on Estate Master (AUS), with tactician Hamish Pepper; and Alessandro Barnaba on Fiamma (ITA). New to the Farr 40 fleet this past year is Nico Poons on Charisma (MON), who is the reigning Swan 45 World Champion.
Richardson, defending World Champion and Farr 40 Class President said, “we are very much looking forward to the 2010 Rolex Farr 40 Worlds at Casa de Campo in the Dominican Republic. With 11 strong teams representing Italy, Germany, Australia, Monaco and the United States, we are expecting a highly competitive regatta. As evidenced by the recently concluded Miami Grand Prix Race Week, where four different boats led after each day of racing, the Class remains incredibly balanced. Our Barking Mad team knows we will have our hands full defending the Championship we won a year ago in Porto Cervo. “Having scouted the venue personally, we are certain that the sailing conditions and ambience of this venue will be second to none. Great sailing, tropical weather and Casa de Campo, a spectacular five-star resort, make all the ingredients for a fantastic championship. We can’t wait to get there next month!”
To date, the Farr 40 class is well represented with 11 entries from five countries. The fleet will warm up with two days of racing in the Rolex Farr 40 Pre-World Championships on Saturday, 17 April and Sunday, 18 April. The Rolex Farr 40 World Championship racing begins on Wednesday, 21 April and finishes on Saturday, 24 April.
The Rolex Farr 40 World Championship is organised by the Casa de Campo Yacht Club and the Farr 40 Class Association. The racing will be held in the waters off La Romana, Dominican Republic. Racing will be led once again by Principal Race Officer Peter Reggio, with Henry Menin as Jury Chairman. The Race Committee intends to conduct as many races as practicable on each scheduled day of racing, with up to a maximum of ten races for the series.
A charity fundraising golf tournament for the competitors, on the famed Pete Dye-designed “Teeth of the Dog” golf course, will be held on Monday, 19 April. Monies raised from the tournament will be donated to benefit the Haitian disaster relief effort, through Partners in Health (PIH), a Boston-based non-profit organization that has been on the ground in Haiti for over 20 years. PIH operates world-renowned clinics and health care programs with 120 doctors and nearly 500 nurses and nursing assistants in eight sites across Haiti. For more information, go to www.standwithhaiti.org/haiti.
In the end, smaller production yachts topped the podium. Two of the new Farr-designed Beneteau First 40s, Two True (Andrew Saies) and Wicked (Mike Welsh) placed first and second.
Third and fourth were two of the Murray, Burns & Dovell Sydney 38 one-designs, Next (Ian Mason/Jay Krehbiel), and Swish (Steven Proud).
These first four boats followed a similar strategy; heading well out to sea from the start, staying mainly east of the rhumb line and chasing the current eddies. And they pushed each other hard, racing one-design.
The two Sydney 38s ended their 628nm match race with a gybing duel over the last 11 miles in the River Derwent. Next crossed half a boat length in front to win the Sydney 38 One Design division ahead of Swish, but placed fourth behind Swish on IRC overall because she has a slightly higher IRC overall handicap for carrying a masthead spinnaker.
Next’s skipper Ian Mason said: “It was a very tough race. It was just match-racing for nearly 400 miles with Swish. We were never more than about 800 metres apart and then she beat us by five seconds.”
Two True also won the ORCi division, introduced into the race for the first time this year in response to a growing push among Australian owners for a more measurement-based, transparent rule than IRC.
Ragamuffin’s veteran skipper Syd Fischer, strongly behind the move towards ORCi was surprised and gratified that 33 boats in the 100-boat fleet, raced under ORCi as well as IRC. “I think it will be a great rule because it’s fully measured, transparent and we don’t have anyone’s input into it other than the measurements,” he said.
“It’s fair. I can’t stand anything that isn’t fair because people spend a lot of money on these boats. If you look around the world there’s billions of dollars spent on them and they’ve come into what’s a club rule.”
At the presentation, Matt Allen, Commodore of the race organizer, Cruising Yacht Club of Australia, who sailed his first Hobart race in 1976 and the 21st this year on his own modified Volvo 70 Ichi Ban, said: “The race to Hobart has certainly captured my imagination. Now it has never been in better health and I’m convinced that the best years are ahead.”
Matteo Mazzanti from Rolex SA presented overall winning skipper Andrew Saies from Two True with a Rolex Yacht-Master timepiece, and the Tatersall’s Cup for the overall handicap winner in IRC.
Sailes, sailing in his fifth Rolex Sydney Hobart, but on a brand-new boat this year, was clearly touched and said, “You can’t win without a great boat, a great team and an ounce of Hobart luck..This is an iconic race, if you’re a yachtie in Australia, you want to win this race.”
Alfa Romeo, Neville Crichton, (NZ), Reichel Pugh 100
1. Two True, Andrew Saies (AUS), Beneteau First 40
2. Wicked, Mark/Mike Welsh (AUS), Beneteau First 40
3. Next, Ian Mason (AUS), Sydney 38
IRC Div 0: Alfa Romeo, Neville Crichton, (NZ), Reichel Pugh 100
IRC Div 1: Ran, Niklas Zennstrom, (UK), Judel-Vrolijk 72
IRC Div 2: Tow Truck, Anthony Paterson (AUS), Ker 11.3
IRC Div 3: Next, Ian Mason (AUS), Sydney 38
IRC Div 4: Two True, Andrew Saies (AUS), Beneteau First 40
PHS Div 1: Wasabi, Bruce McKay, (AUS), Sayer 12
PHS Div 2: She, Peter Rodgers, (AUS), Olsen 40 MOD
Sydney 38: Swish, Steven Proud, (AUS), Sydney 38
ORCi: Two True, Andrew Saies (AUS), Beneteau First 40
Cruising: Holy Cow!, John Clinton (AUS), Oceanis 50
Andy Saies’ Two True survived a protest this afternoon to be confirmed as overall winner of the Tattersall’s Cup, the major prize in the 2009 Rolex Sydney Hobart Yacht Race for the overall IRC handicap winner.
After a two-hour hearing, the International Jury dismissed the protest entered by the Inglis 39 She’s the Culprit (Todd Leary), the Hobart yacht damaged in a crush of boats approaching the first rounding mark after the race start on Sydney Harbour.
Two True, one of the first new Farr-designed Beneteau First 40 stock production racer/cruiser to be imported into Australia, won IRC overall by 42 minutes from another new First 40, (Mike Welsh) after a close race-long duel in which they followed a similar strategy – stay well east of the rhumbline.
Ian Mason’s Sydney 38 Next, in third place, another 1hr 19min behind, was similarly pushed by close competition in the six-boat Sydney 38 fleet racing one-design, as well as on IRC handicap. Another Sydney 38, Swish (Steven Proud) from the strong Sydney fleet, was fourth and Tony Kirby’s Jeppersen X-41 Patrice Six, fifth.
In sixth place was the 2009 Rolex Fastnet Race winner Ran (Niklas Zennstrom), from the UK.
Two True, from the Cruising Yacht Club of South Australia, is the first yacht from South Australia to win the Tattersall’s Cup since Kevan Pearce’s win with SAP Ausmaid in 2000. The South Australians continue to be strongly committed to the Rolex Sydney Hobart Race, sailing 1000 nautical miles just to get to the start.
Owner-skipper Saies said he was absolutely elated at the win after being in the surreal situation of not knowing the outcome until after the protest hearing. “Obviously we are very happy with the jury’s decision. We believe we did everything in the circumstances to avoid significant damage to the other boat. We gave our intention to protest, we did a 720 (degree penalty turn), though the damage to the other boat was minor and superficial.”
“I respect the decision of the skipper of She’s the Culprit not to continue racing in those circumstances, but obviously we are very happy and delighted with the outcome.”
He thanked his crew, which raced the two prior Sydney Hobart Races on his previous boat True North, a Beneteau First 40. “The Rolex Sydney Hobart Yacht Race cannot be won without a great team, a great boat and an ounce of Sydney Hobart luck. Our team are fabulous guys. We have worked together for the past three years on my previous boat True North.” Saies particularly thanked Brett Young, his team and boat manager. “Energetic, tireless work ethic, great understanding of the rules.”
He said the race was a physical endurance event over 628 miles. “The wind was in, the wind was out, we drifted, we went backwards, we lost internet access, we didn’t know what was going on until the last few minutes. It was a classic Rolex Sydney Hobart event and we were in it up to our back teeth and it came our way in the end.
“Great boat, this new Beneteau it just jumps out of the water, jumped a bit too hard in the last day or so in those big short waves. It’s a fast boat, we had belief that this boat was going to rate well and do okay in this event, if the weather conditions allowed a small boat event.
“We may be privileged enough to have a boat and a team that gets to this position as people have in the past. But in yacht racing to have everything going right in one event at the right time is probably a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity.
“So it meant so much to get this right this time. So celebrations, back to normal, business as usual, great boat, great team looking forward to the next regatta in Melbourne, the next Sydney Hobart.”
The last boat to finish, Chris Dawe’s Polaris of Belmont (AUS/NSW) was due to cross the finish line at 0830pm tonight.
The 100-boat fleet that started the 65th Rolex Sydney Hobart had crews representing the USA, UK, New Zealand, Spain, the Netherlands, and New Caledonia, as well as every Australian state.
IRC overall: 1, Two True (Andy Saies, SA), Beneteau First 40, corrected time 04 days 07hr 57min 43sec; 2, Wicked (Mike Welsh, Vic), Beneteau First 40, 04:08:39:08; 3, Next (Ian Mason, NSW), MBD Sydney 38, 04:09:48:54.
IRC 0: 1, Alfa Romeo (Neville Crichton, NZ), Reichel Pugh 100, corrected time 04 days, 12hr, 11min, 51sec; 2, Evolution Racing (Ray Roberts, NSW), Farr Cookson 50, 04:14:32:46; 3, Ichi Ban (Matt Allen, NSW), Jones Volvo 70, 04:16:27:22.
IRC 1: 1, Ran (Niklas Zennstrom, UK), Judel/Vrolijk 72, 04:10:48:21; 2, Shogun (Rob Hanna, Vic), J/V 52, 04:13:09:50; 3, Ragamuffin (Syd Fischer, NSW), Farr TP52, 04:15:18:43.
IRC 2: 1, Tow Truck (Anthony Paterson, NSW), Ker 11.3, 04:11:16:18; 2, AFR Midnight Rambler (Ed Psaltis/Bob Thomas), modified Farr 40, 04:11:26:24; 3, Chutzpah (Bruce Taylor, Vic), Reichel/Pugh IRC 40, 04:14:06:32.
IRC 3: 1, Next Ian Mason, NSW), 04:09:48:54; 2, Swish (Steven Proud, NSW), 04:10:17:42; 3, Patrice Six (Tony Kirby) Jeppersen X-41, 04:10:24:32.
Sydney 38 One Design: 1, Swish, 04:00:16:54; 2, Next, 04:00:16:59; 3, Subzero Goat (Bruce Foye, NSW), 04:06:37:59.
ORCi (ORC International): 1, Two True (Andrew Saies, SA), Beneteau First 40, 04:07:57:43; 2, Wicked (Mike Welsh, Vic), Beneteau First 40, 04:08:39:08; 3, Zephyr Hamilton Elevators (James Connell/Alex Brandon, NSW), Farr 1020, 04:10:52:17.
PHS 1: 1, Wasabi (Bruce McKay, NSW), Sayer 12m, 04:19:02:33; 2, Sailors with disAbilities (David Pescud, NSW), Lyons 54, 04:21:26:15; 3, Mahligai (Murray Owen/Jenny Kings, New Zealand), Sydney 46, 04:21:26:15.
PHS 2: 1, She (Peter Rodgers, NSW), Olsen 40; 2, Flying Fish Arctos (A.Fairclough, NSW), McIntyre 55, 04:13:41:02; 3, Namadgi (Canberra Ocean Racing Club, ACT), Bavaria 44, 04:16:12:30.
The smallest boat in the fleet, Zephyr Hamilton Elevators, was as of this evening, still well in the running to win the IRC overall handicap division of the 2009 Rolex Sydney Hobart Race.
Zephyr is a Sea Nymph 33 co-owned by James Connell and Alex Braddon from the Cruising Yacht Club of Australia. She won division E in the 2007 Rolex Sydney Hobart Race.
The Sea Nymph 33 design is extremely fast downwind and is well-suited to the strong northerly wind prevailing on the lower Tasmanian east coast, forecast to reach 20-30 knots by evening.
The final 40 nautical miles of the 628nm course, with the northerly forecast to blow at 15-25 knots with gusts to 30 knots, which will put Zephyr on the wind, and will certainly slow and may end her chances of winning the Tattersall’s Cup for IRC overall handicap.
At 1550, Zephyr had 46 miles to go, and was doing 9.7 knots for an estimated finish at 2311, well inside the time she needed to take first place (0131 on Dec 31).
Second and third on corrected time standings were two of Beneteau’s new First 40s, which have already finished: Two True (Andrew Saies) from the Cruising Yacht Club of South Australia and Wicked (Mike Welsh) from Sandringham Yacht Club.
The Farr-designed First 40 is a replacement for the successful Beneteau 40.7. A Beneteau 40.7, First National Real Estate skippered by Michael Spies, was the overall handicap winner of the 2003 Rolex Sydney Hobart Race.
Two True, in second spot, still has to face a protest by the Tasmanian Inglis 39, She’s the Culprit (Todd Leary), which was badly damaged after the race start in a jam of boats converging on the first rounding mark at Sydney Heads and had to retire.
With some of the boats named in the protest documents still racing, the International Jury has deferred the protest until tomorrow morning (Dec 31).
Zephyr has also signaled by radio to the race committee that she will lodge protests against three boats, without specifying who they are, after finishing. That protest could also arise from the crush of boats in the 100-boat fleet converging to leave Sydney Harbour.
Two True and Wicked finished fast under spinnakers before a moderate southeasterly sea breeze early this afternoon, with Two True crossing 22 minutes ahead of Wicked.
Saies said: “It was a very difficult and frustrating race. Having had a couple of light patches on the way down, we thought we were through it and then we got a third one, 25 miles from Tasman Light last night; around 3:00am we were flapping around for three hours.”
Tactician Brett Young said Two True had followed a strategy of always being well east of the rhumbline and had received a favourable push from the current in two major eddies.
“Our routing was always east of the rhumbline,” said Young. “It’s the first time I’ve ever done that. And we had really good competition from Wicked. They sailed hard, but we got through them. We really stuck to our game plan, even with the weather not being anything like what it was originally forecast. We only came into Tasmania when we could lay Tasman Island.”
Young said the First 40 had performed well in the bumpy seaway following the southerly front. “Last night was a tough night, but that’s when this boat comes into its own. In a seaway, it just goes faster.”
Mark Welsh, boat manager and tactician on Wicked for his owner-skipper father Mike Welsh, said: “We chose the design after a lot of searching around the world for one that would be very competitive in IRC racing and it looks like we might have chosen successfully.”
A third new First 40 was racing, Paca (Philippe Mengual) from the Cruising Yacht Club of Australia. “So our race really depended on watching the other two boats, said Mark. “All credit to Two True, they sailed an absolutely sensational race.
“On the second night out, even though we were with them off Gabo Island, we couldn’t hold them. They sailed very, very well that night, got through us and from there we were just playing catch-up and we couldn’t catch them. They did a great job.”
The only IRC division decided, with all boats finished, is Division 0 for canting-keeled boats. The line honours winner Alfa Romeo (Neville Crichton), a Reichel Pugh100, won from the Cookson 50 Evolution Racing (Ray Roberts), with the modified Jones Volvo 70 Ichi Ban (Matt Allen) third.
With 48 yachts finished, and five yachts retired, there are 47 yachts still racing to the finish in Hobart.
The Rolex Sydney Hobart Yacht Race has entries representing the USA, UK, New Zealand, Spain, the Netherlands, and New Caledonia as well as every Australian state.
A strong southerly to southwesterly change sweeping up the Tasmanian coast this afternoon slowed the 87 yachts still at sea in the 2009 Rolex Sydney Hobart Race.
At 1600, the Bureau of Meteorology issued a strong wind warning for the lower east coast, from Wineglass Bay to Tasman Island for southwest to southerly winds of 30 knots in open waters at first, easing to 5 to 15 kn by late evening, with two to three metre seas and a southwest swell of 2.5 to 3.5 metres.
The winds would then tend northeast to northerly at 10 – 20kn during tomorrow morning before increasing during the afternoon to 20 – 30kn by evening.
For the yachts covering the remaining miles of the 628 nautical mile race, the forecast meant a bumpy, wet night of tacking upwind before the strong northerly picks up the fleet still at sea and propels them towards Tasman Island at a very fast pace on a wild spinnaker ride.
That scenario removes any certainty about the computer calculations of the likely winner of the Tattersall’s Cup for the overall IRC handicap winner.
But it is comforting for a leading contender for the Tattersall’s Cup, already tied up at the Kings Pier Marina in Hobart. At 1800, Niklas Zennstrom’s Judel/Vrolijk 72 Ran (UK), was showing up in 15th position on corrected time calculations.
Ran’s tactician, Adrian Stead, said: “We’re in good shape; we got Neville (Alfa Romeo) by 50 minutes or so, which is good and we sailed really well. All we can do now is wait and see how we shape up.”
Also at 1800, Tony Kirby’s X41 Patrice 6 was calculated to be leading IRC overall handicap from an eclectic mix of designs and sizes. She was 12nm east of Cape Sonnerat, between the coastal villages of Swansea and Triabunna, making seven knots with 96nm to sail.
Second was Andrew Saies’ Beneteau First 40 Two True, followed by Wicked (Mike Welsh), another Beneteau First 40. Then came the Spanish entry Charisma (Alejandro Perez Calzada), a 1970 Sparkman & Stephens IOR rule design that should revel in the strong upwind conditions.
One IRC handicap result that is certain is the win of Neville Crichton’s 100ft super-maxi Alfa Romeo, the line honours winner, in IRC division 0 for canting keel-powered boats and the second place in that division for Matt Allen’s modified Jones-design Volvo 70, unbeatable in second place on current position reports.
Allen said the Volvo 70 was a very good boat for upwind and in high-wind pressure sailing. In the sou’-wester of up to 25 knots on the first night, she worked up to within a half mile behind Wild Oats XI.
“We were not overly surprised to see that, but we knew the next night in the lighter airs and with the bigger sails the maxis carry, giving away rating, they would get through that first light-air gate. Only the three boats got through and the next morning we were there with all our fellow-sized boats stuck for five or six hours.”
Allen said that every night there were challenges. “You’d sail through the day, with quite a few wind shifts, but generally the night-time sailing was tricky. Every night we parked up. Tactically it was a very interesting race, because you had to work out where you were going to get through in the next transition.
“Last night we’d had a 30-knot nor’-westerly and we were doing 25 knots, white water coming over the boat. It lasted for an hour and-a-half and within minutes it went down really quickly: to ten knots, to five and then zero. So we went from having 30 knots to being in no wind with leftover swell and you could only go in one direction, with the waves.
“The big transition zones had the navigators really on their toes, playing the angles and trying to work out how to handle the next transition.”
With eight yachts finished, and five yachts retired, there are 87 yachts still racing to the finish in Hobart.
The Rolex Sydney Hobart Yacht Race fleet has crews representing the USA, UK, New Zealand, Spain, the Netherlands, and New Caledonia as well as every Australian state.
Fifth home, at 0927, was Niklas Zennstrom’s Ran from the UK, a Judel/Volijk-designed 72-footer that was overall handicap winner in the 2009 Rolex Fastnet Race.
Ran has a chance of winning the race’s major trophy, the Tattersall’s Cup, for the first yacht on IRC corrected time. She has certainly beaten Alfa Romeo, which led the IRC overall standings for a time yesterday, denying Crichton the rare handicap/line honours double.
Wild Oats’ Mark Richards was gracious in defeat. “It was a tactical race and we never got a look in really,” Richards said. “They had a little edge on us on the first night and the next morning we were in a big parking lot together. They got out first and put 30 miles on us before we knew what had happened.”
Mike Slade had an historical perspective of the close three-way battle of the maxis: “When Napoleon turned up at Waterloo he knew he was in for a bad day, he had a bad day at the office didn’t he? I’ve been a bit like that. It was a fantastic race and well done Alfa, bloody marvellous.”
Slade said that Leopard had gambled by sailing farther offshore than Alfa and Oats down the east coast of Australia rather than sailing in Alfa’s wake. “We went offshore because there was no point in covering Alfa’s tracks; she had about 20 miles on us and we just got locked out. We had about four shut-downs and it was as frustrating as hell. We sat there for hours, watching them go away. That cost us. We got punished.”
Rounding Tasman Island was the worst Slade had experienced. “There was no wind and appalling seas; really nasty because it’s a lee shore, you’ve got no steerage because there’s no wind, but the seas were huge and that took us a couple of hours.
“Alfa and Oats had already gone round. The rich get rich and the poor get poorer, that’s what the game’s all about. So it was a shocker but we loved every minute of it. We will be back to do another one I think – the boat’s a glutton for punishment.”
Ran, after performing well in the fresh upwind work on the first night, parked in calms before zooming back into handicap contention with a blistering run on the new nor’-west breeze off Flinders Island.
Ran’s owner/skipper Niklas Zennstrom said: ” “The race at times was frustrating, we got parked up. Yesterday afternoon we had a fantastic run, we were reaching at up to 24 knots of boat speed, averaging 18 and 19 knots. It was excellent sailing.
“This morning was also very good; last night we had a few stops and goes. But we are happy with how the boat performed on corrected time and we will have to wait and see how the other boats are going on handicap.
“At times it looked really, really bad for us and really good for the small boats, but that’s how it is. All you can do is sail as good as you can and avoid making as many mistakes as possible. I don’t think we made too many mistakes.”
Ran’s tactician Adrian Stead said that after riding the nor’-wester fast, Ran hit a light spot last evening, 20 miles northeast of Maria Island. “We got through that and sailed the last bit up here pretty well, very conscious that 10:20 was our deadline to beat Alfa,” he said.
With six yachts finished, and five yachts retired, there are 89 yachts still racing.
The Rolex Sydney Hobart Yacht Race fleet has crews representing the USA, UK, New Zealand, Spain, the Netherlands, and New Caledonia as well as every Australian state.