On the eve of the third running of Les Voiles de St. Barth, April 2-7, the palm-fringed port of Gustavia, St.Barthlemy quickly filled with an impressive array of race boats: ocean-racing maxis including the 90-foot Rambler and the Swan 112, Highland Breeze; classic beauties such the Olin Stephen-designed Dorade and the Fife-built yawl Mariella; a trio of IRC 52s, multi-hulls including the 66 Gunboat Phaedo, and two large racing classes with a mix of Melges, J/boats, and a mix of 40-footers, including the hot-off-the-press Carkeek 40, Decision.
Over 60 boats are registered for this years edition, up fromwith a large number of returning entries, proof that the regatta has filled the need for spirited competition towards the end of the winter season a time when tourism typically begins to wind down in the Caribbean. Though that was hard to tell yesterday, at the islands tiny airport, as the steady stream of small commuter planes landing were filled with a duffle bag-wielding collection of sailors from the ranks of the Americas Cup, round-the-world-ocean races, and Olympic competition, that included Gavin Brady (Vesper), Scott Vogel (Rambler), Bouwe Bekking (Nilaya), Cam Lewis (Paradox), Charlie McKee and Ross MacDonald (Mayhem), Tony Rey, Jeff Madrigali, and Nacho Postigo (Powerplay), and Dee Smith (Decision).
But its not just the professionals that flock to Les Voiles de St. Barth, the regattas program and mix of courses also appeals to a competitive group of amateur and family racers that hone their skills on the growing circuit of Caribbean regattas that take advantage of this sailing paradise.
While not the easiest of destinations to reach some U.S. west coast sailors logged 16+ hours in transit, while others from Europe only slightly less the island of St Barths itself is a welcome reward at the end of the road: a turquoise blue, crystal-clear sea, pristine white sand beaches, and an array of fabulous restaurants just payoff for a long days journey.
Francesco Mongelli, navigator onboard Jim Swartz IRC52 Vesper, is here racing in St Barths for the first time. The Italian sailor, who sails primarily in Europe, has been racing with the Vesper crew since last October, and was clearly keen to have touched down in this French paradise, Its a mix of all the best sailing places, together with perfect weather and good food. Having spent the afternoon in a tender carefully checking out the coastline and charted (and uncharted) rock outcroppings, Mongelli added, Its pretty similar to Porto Cervo, the difference is that there you more or less know where everything is, and the charts are accurate. You cannot take the same risk here that wed take in Porto Cervo.
Racing will run from Tuesday, April 3 Saturday, April 7 and will feature a mix of Olympic triangles, short coastal courses, and a 20-30 nautical mile round-the island race. The fleet will be split into seven classes: Maxi (> 21 meters), IRC52 (former TP52s that have been optimized for the IRC rule), Spinnaker I + II, Non-Spinnaker (racer/cruiser), Classic (vintage/traditional), and Multihull. Thursday is a layday at Nikki Beach, with lunch and a full afternoon of activities, including a paddleboard competition.
New this year, Les Voiles will offer real-time race tracking with 2D visualization via the internet. Waypoint-Tracking (www.waypoint-tracking.com) developed the system in close collaboration with ISAF. The site will allow enthusiasts to follow the daily racing action live or to replay at a later time.
Many of the competing boats are moored stern-to at the Quai General de Gaulle, site of the Race Village, where all of the daily breakfast and post-race activities and music take place. This evening, skippers and tacticians were on hand for the Skippers Briefing led by Loic Ponceau, Race Committee Chairman, and organizers Francois Tolede, Luc Poupon, and Annelisa Gee. Following that was Les Voiles St. Barth Opening Ceremony, where Bruno Magras, President of the Collectivit of St. Barth, welcomed more than 500 sailors to the weeklong event.
A regular and enthusiastic competitor in the Caribbean, Sir Peter Harrison was named the godfather or patron of this years Les Voiles. Harrison, owner of the 115-foot Farr-designed Sojana, told the crowd, As a visitor from England to this beautiful French island, one of the most beautiful in the West Indies, Im thrilled to be asked to the patron of Les Voiles. Bon vent Les Voiles de St. Barth, and good luck, everyone!
Also sailing on Sojana is Lionel Pan, who is also back for his third Les Voiles. He said, Obviously there are plenty of good reasons to be here, and to come back every year with the same enthusiasm: this place is made for sailing. In a very short time, Les Voiles de St. Barth has become the place to be, very much like Saint Tropez in the Mediterranean. And the word is spreading around. Shortly there will be a waiting list to be a part of the event!
The weather forecast for the next few days calls for light winds, though the breeze is expected to increase throughout the week. Racing is scheduled to start tomorrow, Tuesday, April 3, two miles northwest of Sugarloaf Rock off Gustavia; one race is scheduled with a start time of 12noon.
Newport will once again play host to a J-Class regatta, Governor Lincoln D. Chafee said on Thursday. The announcement was made to a roaring crowd of sailing enthusiasts during a special presentation at the Jane Pickens Theater.
Scheduled for June 15-19, it will be the first competitive J-Class regatta in the United States since the 1937 America’s Cup.
Chafee was joined by Sail Newport Executive Director Brad Read and RI Economic Development Corporation Executive Director Keith Stokes.
The event is being organized by Regatta Partners, and will kick off a summer of world-class racing that could be bookended by the first America’s Cup World Series regatta in September.
According to Sail Newport’s Read, the race will be held within the confines of Narragansett Bay, providing ample viewing opportunities for spectators from Castle Hill to Fort Adams and Jamestown. Indeed, having these boats start from the same point as the popular Thursday night racing series will be a sight to behold.
For his part, Stokes said that committing to support these kinds of events showcasing Rhode Island as an international sailing destination could help lead the state out of recession.
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.
Alfa, with good speed and crew work, as well as tactics, led from the start, holding off all challenges from her arch-rival Bob Oatley’s R/P 100 Wild Oats XI, a very similar design from the same builder, McConaghy Boats in Sydney, launched only a few months apart in 2005, and Mike Slade’s (UK) Farr 100, ICAP Leopard.
At 0015, ICAP Leopard was 35.6nm from the finish making 8.6 kn. There were 93 yachts still to finish from a fleet of 100 starters, with five retired.
Wild Oats XI won their first line honours battle with Alfa in the 2005 Rolex Sydney Hobart Race by an hour and 16 minutes. Crichton then took Alfa Romeo to the northern hemisphere for the Mediterranean regattas in 2006 and 2007 where Alfa and Oats swapped line honours wins until Wild Oats XI broke her mast in the 2007 Maxi Yacht Rolex Cup in Porto Cervo and was shipped back to Australia. This year’s Rolex Sydney Hobart was their first encounter since in a major offshore race.
Crichton’s fears of slowing in a southwest headwind in calms in the River Derwent over the last 11 nautical miles to the finish were unfounded. She stalled only once in a light patch and finally steamed home to get the finishing gun at Battery Point just after 2200, with Wild Oats XI 17nm behind (Wild Oats eventually finished just over two hours later.)
A crowd of several hundred people crowded the Constitution Wharf marina to watch the finish and cheer Alfa in to the dock. Asked, as Alfa Romeo berthed, how he was feeling, Crichton said:”It’s fantastic and the welcome here in Tasmania is unbelievable”.
He praised his crew, half of them New Zealanders and half Australian: “The 22 guys I have are the best crew in the world. The two days coming down the coast was hard work and it was good; the boys did a helluva job on the boat and it was very, very close racing.”
Was the lack of wind frustrating? “Oh no, we were very busy the whole race.”
Did he see the win as sweet revenge for the 2005 defeat by Wild Oats XI? “Every win is a good win. It has taken me four years to come back and do it, so it was even nicer. He added, “Winning the Rolex Sydney Hobart is the ultimate in ocean racing.”
After sailing a near perfect tactical race in extremely difficult conditions, with extremes from a testing 25-knot southerly, with a bumpy seaway through the first night, to a calm in the notoriously rough and windy Bass Strait, Neville Crichton’s Alfa Romeo was first to finish in the 2009 Rolex Sydney Hobart Race, with an elapsed time of two days, 9hrs, 2mins, 10secs for the 628nm course.