Thursday, December 30, 2010

Barcelona World Race Drama

Hugo Boss to start Barcelona World Race

While competitors enjoy their last dry, warm night in bed, one skipper remains stuck in hospital. Alex Thomson underwent emergency surgery for acute appendicitis two days ago and will not be skippering his boat Hugo Boss over the start line. Fortunately, Dutch skipper Wouter Verbraak will sail the boat until Thomson is fit to re-join the race. The race-committee announced the decision this afternoon, a major win for a team that’s had more than their fair share of bad luck.

Dockside here in Barcelona it’s all about finishing touches. Michel Desjoyeaux’s new Foncia stands out for its twin chines and odd proportions. The new Vibac-Paprec of Jean-Pierre Dick/Loick Peyron is the pick from the latest designers and remains a firm favourite. In general, the whole fleet looks well prepared and this will be a very close race.

The forecast for the start is light, yet the locals will be packing the beaches and wharves to bid the fleet farewell. There has been a massive lead up to this event: the Barcelona World Race symbol is everywhere you look, from milk cartons to the corner of your television.

Half of the competitors are Spanish , a huge shift from the days when the French dominated. Volvo Ocean Race veterans Iker Martinez/Xabi Fernandez (ESP – 45+) will be the local team to watch.

Simon McGoldrick in Barcelona

Secret Mens Business 3.5 Declared Rolex Sydney to Hobart Handicap Winners and claim the Tatersalls Cup

Photo: Rolex/Daniel Forster
Photo: Rolex/Daniel Forster

Wednesday, December 29, 2010

And the yachts continue to populate Constitution Dock

Shogun, the fist of the modified TP52 footers, racing in the Rolex Sydney to Hobart  has just pulled into Hobart's Constitution Dock crossing the finish line in a respectable 11th position. She was behind the 55's, Rodd & Gunn Wedgetail and Living Doll
 Shogun Photo: Rolex/Daniel Forster  
Later on today Syd Fischer's Ragamuffin is due in followed by Vamp and Chutzpah. Current handicap leader Victoire, a Benetaeu First 45, owned by Sydney plastic surgeon Darryl Hodgkinson, is looking good for overall honours aka the Tattersalls Cup if she can hold on and cross the line by 3:16 am tomorrow morning.
 Shogun Photo: Rolex/Daniel Forster  
For the crew of Limit the party is in full swing at Customs House. the traditional watering hole, where they are raising their glasses high after narrowly crossing ahead of near sister ship, Loki. For AB and his merry men it is certain to be one messy night.
Photo: Rolex/Daniel Forster  
In other news, the hearing continues for the protests lodged by the Race Committee against Wild Oats XI and RAN for failing to radio before entering Bass Strait.

Lulu Roseman in Hobart

Richo Confident that Protest will go Wild Oats XI's way

While the boat is on its way back to Sydney for it's next ocean race, Skipper Mark Richards won't know if his charge has won line honours until after an International Yachting Jury convene at 1:00pm today.

Earlier this morning at Custom's House, Richo looked relaxed enjoying a few drinks with his crew.

Not much puff for Sydney to Hobart Fleet in the Derwent

The Derwent River played its favourite game with tired Rolex Sydney Hobart ocean racers last night.

While Wild Oats XI sliced up the river in majestic style at 8:30 mid-evening to take provisional line honours, second placed Investec Loyal barely scraped across the line three and a half hours later after an agonising 2 knot crawl in virtually no breeze over the final 10 miles of a race that has at times turned on brutal 40 plus knot winds.
 Rán Photo: Rolex/Carlo Borlenghi
Then the River really shut down. Lahana had hung in there with the race leaders for 610 nautical miles to Tasman Island, but it was to be another three hours before she finished; six and a half hours behind Wild Oats XI.

The story was even worse for Matt Allan's Jones 70, Ichi Ban.

Allen and his crew had sailed a magnificent race. The whole way they had been in the breakaway pack of four leading yachts, snapping at the heels of their much bigger rivals and ahead of the remaining super maxi Wild Thing and Rán, the hi-tech British greyhound that has been the boat to beat in regattas around the world for the past two years.
Ichi Ban Photo: Rolex/Carlo Borlenghi
Up to Tasman Island, it was all looking pretty good.

"Up to 11:00pm o'clock last night we had great running conditions. Our approach to Tasman Island was in a good northerly breeze," Matt Allen said when he finally stepped onto Constitution Dock after finishing at 5:52 am this morning.

"The breeze was still reasonable to Tasman Light, but then it got light at Cape Raoul. It picked up a bit later, but when we got to the Iron Pot it fell apart. There was no wind anywhere on the Derwent River. It didn't matter where you were on the River, there was nothing."

It was so cruel, and oh so Derwent River. The record books will show that Wild Oats XI beat Ichi Ban by almost 10 hours. Worse, those hours becalmed on the Derwent will have eliminated any chance Allen had of winning on handicap.

Grant Wharington’s 98ft Wild Thing (Vic) finished 23 minutes behind Ichi Ban at 6:15 and the Judel/Vrolijk 72 Rán followed seven minutes later at 6:22am.

Rán, a thoroughbred from the United Kingdom, also faces the same protest as Wild Oats XI from the CYCA’s Race Committee, though owner Niklas Zennstrom would not be drawn on the pending International Jury hearing this afternoon when he stepped ashore. "We will speak to the Race Committee and sort it out," was all he would say.

Zennstrom was more vocal about this, his second Rolex Sydney Hobart. Last year he was surprised that it had been such a placid race, so different from its reputation. "I think I have now definitely seen what the race is all about," he declared. "It was tough crossing Bass Strait; 35 knots of wind and big seas.

"Yesterday morning was very difficult. We were drifting around trying to find wind in the lee of Tasmania. Approaching Tasman Island, we were surfing big waves at 18 to 20 knots in a 25 knot breeze.

“Two or three hours before rounding Tasman Light, we crossed gybes with Wild Thing a couple of times, just 100 metres apart. Once around the Island, though, the wind became very light and shifty.

"The whole experience has been fantastic," Zennstrom stated.

CYCA Media Team

Tuesday, December 28, 2010

Lahana followed Loyal, Ichi Ban is due very soon

The noise levels at Customs House this morning might be quite deafening but there still aren't that many sailors in the main bar. Crew from Wild Oats XI. Loyal and Lahana are yet to be joined by Ichi Ban and the boys from RAN.

Lulu Roseman

Loyal Crosses The Line - Rolex Sydney to Hobart Race

Photo: Rolex/Daniel Forster
The sporting celebrities might not be viewed by many in sailing fraternity as really hard core sailors but regardless of anything, sucking up this year's gale force conditions is a real personal achievement no matter what your skill level or experience. It was what is classified as a 'real' Hobart race with 40-50 knot winds lashing the fleet.
Photo: Rolex/Daniel Forster
For Wild Oats XI sailmaker and midbow woman, Stacey Jackson, racing in her seventh Hobart it was bitter sweet experience.

"Half way through the race Mothy (aka Steve Jarvin) said to me ‘if you’ve never done a real Hobart, then you have now’," a weary but elated Jackson said this morning.

"I am delirious so it is hard to pinpoint any one particular defining moment about the race however you do learn so much where you are racing in these kinds of conditions,” she said.

Stacey had little time to rest as she prepared the boat for it's return delivery to Sydney for the Pittwater to Coffs Harbour Race on January 2, 2011. But after that she will jump ship to become the boat manager for Mark Bradford's Black Jack, which will see her return back home to South East Queensland.

"It was too good to knock back and it's a great career opportunity for me to be managing a boat of my own."

Loyal crew member and surfing legend Layne Beachley, who has ridden some of the wildest waves and racked up seven World Championships was stricken by seasickness for most of the journey. She was happy to see the back end of the boat as she stepped ashore this morning into the comforting arms of her husband, Kirk Pengilly.

"What a way to lose weight," Beachley exclaimed. "Any time I tried to get out of my bunk I had to put my head in the bucket."

Lulu Roseman

Victoire is currently leading the handicap standings

Another Wild Oats XI Win - Rolex Sydney Hobart Yacht Race

Wild Oats XI has claimed her fifth line honours victory in the Rolex Sydney Hobart Yacht Race crossing the finish line at 8:37pm tonight.
Photo: Rolex/Daniel Forster
Wild Oats XI has been named the provisional line honours winner of the Cruising Yacht Club of Australia organised race pending the decision of the International Jury over a protest by the Race Committee regarding their HF radio. The jury will convene at 1:00pm on Wednesday 29 December at the Royal Yacht Club of Tasmania, the race finishing club.
Photo: Rolex/Daniel Forster
The Reichel Pugh 100 footer, led the 87-strong field out of Sydney Harbour after the 1:00 pm start on Sunday afternoon and held pole position for the entire 628 nautical mile race, finishing 30 nautical miles ahead of her nearest rival, Sean Langman and Anthony Bell’s supermaxi Investec Loyal, with Matt Allen’s Ichi Ban a further 51 nautical miles behind and currently in third place.

Wild Oats XI’s elapsed time was 2 days 7 hours 37 minutes 20 seconds with an average speed of a tad over 11 knots of boat speed over the challenging course.
Photo: Rolex/Daniel Forster
This year the boat contested many more offshore races and spent significant time on the water ironing out the wrinkles and perfecting the teamwork of a crew comprising some of the biggest names in Australian and New Zealand ocean racing, and now with a staggering 220 Rolex Sydney Hobarts between them. A number of modifications were also made to the boat to improve her upwind performance.
Photo: Rolex/Daniel Forster
Richards has long resented suggestions that Wild Oats XI was just a fair wind flyer. Her dominance throughout one of the toughest Rolex Sydney Hobarts in recent years should silence the sceptics once and for all.
Photo: Rolex/Daniel Forster
As in previous years Wild Oats XI will only have a short stopover in Hobart, the delivery crew due to push off between 9:00am and midday tomorrow, Wednesday 29 December, as planned to return to Sydney for the annual Pittwater to Coffs ocean race which starts January 2, 2011.

CYCA Media Team

Cold Night Ahead for The Stayers

Pain and pleasure are all about perspective. Even when you are cold, tired, and the boat beneath you is slamming off six metre waves, there can be plusses as well as minuses as the Rolex Sydney Hobart fleet is finding out.

Modern maxi yachts need very little wind to reach incredible speeds. But in big seas and gale force winds the order of business quickly shifts to boat preservation, shedding those acres of sail and trying to steer through waves rather than launching into the void off the top of them at speed. So after more than a day of this, spirits soar with the return of the sun and a moderate breeze.

"We are in full race mode now," Lahana trimmer and helmsman Geoff Cropley reported late this morning as his yacht left Bass Strait to skirt wide round the north Tasmanian coast.

"Everybody is pumped and we're going very hard. The sky is clear, we're in a breeze from the south west, we have a full mainsail up and a Code 2 headsail."

The relief in his voice is palpable. For so much of this Rolex Sydney Hobart it has all been about self preservation.

"I'd be lying to say it wasn't tough," Cropley says.

"It was a tough day, bloody miserable and cold. This particular boat spent a fair amount of time in the air, slamming off waves which made life pretty uncomfortable."

"We had to be pretty conservative. Reduce sail. Steer through the waves, not slam off them. Slamming is how you break the boat," Cropley added.

"We're pretty up now," said Investec Loyal skipper Sean Langman at 11am today. "We had some seasickness in the crew but everyone's up in the sun now.

"The water/electronics problem on these boats is constant. We've been working round the clock to keep the systems going.

“We are in reasonably good shape though we didn't realise until this morning that we had a substantial leak in the bow and took on a ton and a half of water. When we opened the watertight bulkhead the water came gushing out."

Both Investec Loyal and Peter Millard and John Honan’s 98 footer Lahana are drawing heart from the expected lightening of the breeze as they chase Wild Oats XI down the final stretch.

"Our strategy is to be the most easterly boat (furthest out to sea) and stay quite deep for a number of hours before we start shunting up towards the Tasman light," Cropley says.

"We do not want to get sucked into the coast too early."

"A lot of it (getting past Wild Oats XI) is the time of arrival. We'll arrive at Tasman Island as the breeze fades, the sun goes down and the wind shuts down (in the Derwent River)."
Variable breeze on the river just might offer the tactical opportunity that has eluded Wild Oats XI's challengers so far.

UK navigator Mike Broughton reports the water getting into the fuel tank on Chris Bull’s Cookson 50 Jazz almost cost them a chance to complete the great Aussie blue water classic.

“We’ve had some power problems with water getting into our diesel onboard, hence we have had to severely restrict use of power,” said Broughton.

“Morale onboard is good as we slowly sort out our engine. Anthony (Ski) Haines our boat captain has been up to his elbows in diesel trying to sort the problem out, not much fun in a seaway.

“He thinks we have so much water in the fuel that we will have to pump out the whole system when we get to Hobart.

“For a while this was nearly a turn back to Eden issue, we were so worried about it about half way across Bass Strait. The boat stank of diesel for most of yesterday, all good fun in 40 knots of wind!

“I am working hard to thread our way between what looks to be two areas of light wind ahead and so far this looks to be working and we are making good progress south with 210 miles to run to Tasman Island,” Broughton added.

Not everyone is pleased that the breeze has softened. Unlike the supermaxis, Matt Allen's Volvo 70 Ichi Ban was built for round the world racing. She has relished the big southerly and has sailed a great race, lying fourth behind Wild Oats XI, Lahana and Investec Loyal and ahead of bigger rivals.

"We've been really pleased with how it's been going," Allen says, "the hardest part will be when we encounter light airs. Wild Oats XI is better than us in light airs so hopefully we can keep the (wind) pressure going.

"It's been pretty easy compared to the worst scenarios we've seen over the years. The boat handled it really well. We didn't have any issues apart from the wind gear at the top of the mast. We are not confident yet of putting someone up to look at it.

"Certainly when you look at the worst years we've had, this was a long way short of those bad years."

For Rolex Sydney Hobart first-timer Matt Hayden the whole experience on Investec Loyal has been a baptism of fire, the former Australian Test Opener likening his debut race to a cricket boot camp.

"The last 28 hours have been pretty hectic; pretty big seas, a lot of people getting sick, lots of things not going to plan,” said Hayden.

“But it's been a great experience - there are enormous technical things that I don't understand but I have enjoyed watching as they’ve crafted out strategy and tactics.

"I'm not sorry I signed up. Even last night at 3am in the morning it was a very surreal experience. What it is like to be on the most remote part of the planet. The moon was out, the seas steady and 10 to 16 dolphins illuminating the water with the phosphorous from their noses, similar to fireworks going off in the water. They're experiences you never forget."

It has been an extraordinary initiation for an athlete more at home on a flat cricket pitch.

"I'd be lying to say I'm not looking forward to the finishing line,” he said.

“Hopefully we'll have our noses in front."

Rolex Sydney Hobart Yacht Race - Photo Gallery

Wild Oats XI
Wild Oats XI

Last Drinks For Bacardi in This Year's Sydney to Hobart

Bacardi crewman Matthew Feore was lying on his bunk on the starboard (right-hand) side of the Victorian boat when skipper Martin Power made the call for reduced sail. It was blowing 35 knots; they were in heavy seas, with waves up to six metres.
The 26 time Rolex Sydney Hobart veteran competitor Bacardi was carrying a number 3 headsail and had two reefs in the mainsail. Power ordered even less sail. He called for the number 3 headsail to be replaced by the smaller number 4.

“One moment Matthews’s lying there preparing to come up to make the change, the next moment the roof opens up and he’s looking at the sky and water coming in,” Power said.

When the Victorian Peterson 44 lost its mast off the southern NSW coast yesterday afternoon, the force was so great it ripped the two chainplates from the starboard side of the deck, the fittings through which the side stays, or shrouds, are secured. When the boat is on starboard tack, with the wind coming over the right-hand side, the shrouds on that side are under enormous pressure.

“There was an explosion when the deck disintegrated,” Power said. “I saw the mast go. That was quiet, but when the chainplates peeled the deck away, there was a tremendous noise. Down below, Matthew is suddenly looking at the sky, an instant skylight.

“The mast, still attached by the forestay and the headsail, was gyrating into the boat, then when it went over the side the cross-trees on the mast began banging against the hull,” Power said.

In 95 Bass Strait crossings he had never seen anything like this. In 26 previous Hobart races, Bacardi had never failed to finish.

Bacardi is built like a tank. It has rod rigging, attached by pins. All of the running rigging is of Spectra, almost impossible to cut. Knives and hacksaws are useless. Clearing away the debris is a job for boltcutters.

Feore and the rest of the crew, uninjured but understandably soaked and shocked by the turn of events, took more than an hour to cut away the mast, rigging and sails and commit them to the deep. They even lost their winches. The deck was so badly damaged they had to secure parts of it using a block and tackle.

A close competitor, Peter Mosely’s Local Hero, lived up to her name and stayed on station nearby, ready to give assistance.

Eventually, Power was able to point what remained of the yacht to Ulladulla.

“We speared down waves at 13 knots, under motor, faster than we had sailed during the race,” Power said. They made Ulladulla by 10.45pm. This morning Power was waiting to speak to his insurance man.

Ninety Seven Smashes Through Bass Strait First in Melbourne to Launceston Race

Photo: Lulu Roseman
Ninety Seven, the boat that won the storm tossed 1993 Sydney Hobart race is expected finish the Melbourne to Launceston race at around lunchtime today. What a wonderful place to get to, given it's culinary delights and laid back ambiance, after a rough ride across Bass Strait that is more like being tossed around in a washing machine for most of the race.
Photo: Lulu Roseman
She has just over 35 nautical miles to travel and leads Seven, the new Beneteau First 45, which is in second place. Andrew Steenhuis and the crew are undertaking their first ocean voyage with the new boat and for many of them, it is their first time across Bass Strait.
Photo: Lulu Roseman
In third place is Tony Folwer's Ocean Skins, which is a further 10 nautical miles astern of them. All the leading vessels are powering along a into the sou'westerly breeze. It has been all on the one tack for them, with sprung sheets the order of the day. The race record set by Cadibarra in 2003 of 19 hours, 55 minutes and 43 seconds, is unlikely to be broken.

Lulu Roseman

Monday, December 27, 2010

Three more boats out of the Sydney to Hobart Race

There was a further three retirements overnight in the 66th Rolex Sydney Hobart Yacht Race among the small to mid size boats, bringing to 15 the total number to have retired with 72 still at sea.

Last night the southerly smacking off the New South Wales south coast continued to pummel those yet to pass Green Cape and enter what typically is the most notorious stretch of the 628 nautical mile course, Bass Strait.

With more favourable conditions predicted later today, the race is set to enter its next phase, downwind flying and the chase for the coveted Tattersall’s Cup, the stunning silver trophy for the overall winner of the Cruising Yacht Club of Australia’s premier race.
Wild Oats XI
Race leaders Wild Oats XI and Investec Loyal are 16 nautical miles apart and both well out to sea east of Eddystone Point on Tasmania’s north-east coast. They are travelling at about 10 knots having set their laylines for the next mark of the course, Tasman Island.

Yacht Tracker was showing Grant Wharington’s Wild Thing as third, nine nautical miles behind Investec Loyal and 25 behind Wild Oats XI.
Investec Loyal
The fleet is still experiencing south-westerly weather, but much gentler with conditions abating from midnight last night. The forecast for today is for winds to swing clockwise from the south-west to the west at 10 knots by about midday before the wind is due to turn north-easterly this afternoon, building to 20 knots during the day and up to 30 knots tonight. They are ideal conditions to bring the remainder of the fleet down the Tasmanian coast and forward of the computer-predicted time of the first boat, which a short time ago was 9.30am tomorrow.

Leading the race on corrected time is veteran Syd Fischer’s TP52 Ragamuffin. The 83 year old, the oldest skipper in the fleet and contesting his 42nd Rolex Sydney Hobart, last won overall in 1992 with a previous Ragamuffin.
Rodd and Gunn Wedgetail
On board Bill Wild’s Rodd and Gunn Wedgetail, navigator Will Oxley said this morning he believed the next eight hours would be important for those vying for the overall win, the period when the weather is expected to shift from south-west around to the north. However, once the frontrunners reach Tasman Island, anything’s possible.

“Tasman to the finish is in the hands of the gods,” Oxley said.

“The miles we can make up until then are very important. Will the eastern route win out or will those closer to the rhumbline take the prize?

“The contrasting moods of Bass Strait are on show as it is now largely dry on deck with very shifty winds as we work our way through the clouds and lighter patches of wind.

“All well on board. Conditions we experienced were rough but not out of the ordinary,” Oxley added.

The three overnight retirees were Nemesis (an undisclosed problem), Pirelli Celestial (mainsail damage) and Salona II (steering). Nemesis is the only one yet to make the port of Eden but is expected later today.

Injured Dodo crewman Brian Moore was transferred off the 66 foot yacht at Eden at around 1:00 am this morning to a police vessel after his broken arm was strapped up by ambulance staff. He was taken to Pambula Hospital.

The fleet can be tracked on Yacht Tracker at:

The Marvellous Melbourne to Hobart and Launceston Races

Photo: Lulu Roseman
The Melbourne to Launceston and Melbourne to Hobart yacht races left Portsea today bound for Tasmania. Forty-four boats are competing across three different races that will see them plough their way across Bass Strait over the next few days.
Photo: Lulu Roseman
Some boats will sail straight to Launceston, while others will race to Hobart either along the east coast or west coast of Tasmania.
Photo: Lulu Roseman
John Curnow from the Ocean Racing Club of Victoria said there are two particular yachts to watch.

"The race is on between the east and west to get to Hobart first," he said. "This year it's Gusto, which broke the record for the Boxing Day Dash yesterday, and on the east coast it is Goldfinger. She's looking for the record down the east coast, and also try and knock off Gusto who will be racing on the west coast."

Lulu Roseman

Storm forces five yachts out of Sydney to Hobart

Storm force conditions are taking their toll on the Rolex Sydney Hobart Yacht Race fleet with five retirements in less than an hour this afternoon as the fleet battles 40 to 50 knot winds off the New South Wales south coast.

Nick Athineos' modified 66 footer Dodo (The Stick) is heading to Eden, their ETA 7:00 pm this evening, to drop off an injured crew member. They have not retired from racing and will assess the situation once they reach the coastal port.

Steven Proud’s Sydney 38, Swish was the first to retire within the drama filled hour, at 3:15 pm this afternoon, reporting that their radio wasn’t working and they were withdrawing from the 628 nautical mile ocean classic which is living up to its fearsome reputation, after having dished out a number of light and straightforward races in the past few years.

At 3:25pm Ludde Ingvall’s 90 foot entry YuuZoo, a former line honours winner, retired from the race, advising the race committee they had a torn headsail. They also tweeted from the boat that they had structural and rigging problems.

At 3:43pm Tony Donnellan’s Victorian Reichel Pugh 47 Shamrock advised they were retiring with rudder bearing damage and heading to Sydney, giving an ETA of 8am Tuesday.

At 3:52pm Andrew Wenham’s Volvo 60 Southern Excellence retired from racing, citing rig failure.

At 3:55pm the Sailors with DisAbilities crew on the TP52 Wot Eva reported that diesel issues have brought their assault on Australia’s best-known blue water event to a sudden halt.

This afternoon’s gale force headwinds have churned the waters, tossing the boats around like a bucking bronco trying to throw its rider.

Rolex photographer Carlo Borlenghi flew over the fleet at lunchtime today and reported seeing yachts with triple-reefed mains, some with storm headsails or racing bare-headed (no sails). He said that in a decade of covering the race he’d never seen seas like those today.

The total number of retirements is now six with Dodo heading to Eden but still classed as racing. Jazz Player retired yesterday.

The forecast for tonight is for winds west to south-westerly 25 to 35 knots and locally reaching 40 knots in the east then moderating to 20 to 25 knots overnight, with squalls and associated showers. Seas are expected to abate overnight, down from three to four metres to two to three metres later in the evening.

Sunday, December 26, 2010

Rough and Ready Ride for Rolex Fleet

Despite a night of 20 plus knot southerly winds, hail, thunderstorms and steep uncomfortable seas, the Rolex Sydney Hobart fleet has remained intact with no further retirements since Jazz Player withdrew with a torn mainsail last night.

In the early hours of this morning, Bob Oatley’s 100ft Wild Oats XI held a slim lead over her contemporaries in the Rolex Sydney Hobart, clocking boat speeds of 13-15 knots in a 20-25 knot southerly wind, but a fifth line honours victory is not in the bag just yet.

The Mark Richards skippered Wild Oats XI (NSW) is 434 nautical miles from the finish line, sailing north of Green Cape on the NSW south coast this morning, yet to reach Eden. Hot on her heels is the Sean Langman skippered Investec Loyal (NSW), around 19 miles behind the race leader and Grant Wharington’sWild Thing (Vic) approximately 8 miles astern. There is a further 12nm to Peter Millard/John Honan’s Lahana(NSW).

Wild Thing’s navigator Graeme Taylor reported this morning: “We’ve been sailing in 15-25 knots throughout the night and this morning. We‘re taking things relatively easy as we set up for a south-westerly change.

“The change should hit us around 9.00am and will build up to 30-35 knots, but it will die off this afternoon, so it only gives us a short window of opportunity,” said Taylor who confirmed the Victorian yacht was positioned south of Tathra on the NSW south coast.

With the southerly buster hitting the fleet early last evening, slowing the pace down, Wild Oats XI is behind her race record of one day 18 hours 40 minutes set in 2005. And as her navigator Adrienne Cahalan prophesied yesterday, the bulk of the fleet is hugging the coast, sailing inside the rhumbline course to the Apple Isle.

At this stage of the race last year, the Reichel/Pugh designed supermaxi had travelled beyond Eden, the last port of call before hitting Bass Strait, with 411 nautical miles to reach the finish line on the Derwent River.

Ludde Ingvall’s 90ft Yuuzoo is currently in eighth place. They have reported a man overboard incident yesterday, though the two hapless crew were quickly recovered. “Greg Homann and Will Mueller spent about 10 minutes having an unauthorised swim (yesterday afternoon). Both are well and in good spirits.”

At 5.00am, Ingvall reported: “We’re closing on the coast south of Montague Island waiting to launch into Bass Strait. We’re not happy with boat speed at present, as we are still learning about the new settings.

“We just woke up to the forward compartment full of water. Our log through-hull fitting has either broken or popped through its fitting, leaving a 40mm hole in the bow. We think that we have it fixed, but there’s half a metre of water between keel and forward hatch. What drama. Not funny. What on earth have we done to deserve this?”

All is happy aboard overall race favourite Loki, the RP63 owned and skippered by Stephen Ainsworth . Navigator Michael Bellingham, reported: “At the moment we are just south of Montague Island. Spirits are high, the boat is dry and wind is 20-25 knots from the south.

“Breeze has remained constant in speed and direction. We expect it to build over the next six hours and come from the south-west building to 30-40 knots - and the seas to build as well. At the moment, the sea is around 2 metres; short and sharp. Crew are all well and looking forward to the challenge ahead.”

Bellingham,who maintains “we are comfortable and looking OK on handicap,” said Loki was in touch with Ran (the JV72), Limit and the old Yendys, Rodd & Gunn Wedgetail.

Meanwhile Rodd & Gunn Wedgetail’s navigator, Will Oxley told: “We have had no wind instruments since the pre-start, which has made driving overnight more challenging. The boys did an excellent job of helming. We also had an alternator issue with the batteries not charging, so that caused us a worrying two hours while Jeff Scott sorted it out.

“As for sailing, we’ve had a pretty good night and have just tacked onto starboard about 15nm north of Montague Island. Wind has started to come around as predicted, but we have a nasty head-sea left over from the earlier south-south-easterly wind. We are looking forward to dawn so we can see the tell tails!

“The boat is going well and we are settling in for a long haul on starboard,” Oxley said.

Polaris of Belmont has maintained her rear-guard position now 8nm miles south of Kiama. So far, despite the heavy southerly, there has only been one casualty, Jazz Player, which retired last evening with mainsail damage and is now back at the CYCA marina in Rushcutters Bay.

In the early stages of the race, Syd Fischer’s Ragamuffin (NSW) is leading Wild Oats XI, Wild Thing and RAN,  in the chase for overall honours and the Tattersall’s Cup.

Rolex Sydney Hobart Yacht Race Update

Photo: Rolex/Carlo Borlenghi
The fleet settled in for the first night of what is expected to be a rather  rough and ready ride to Hobart.
Photo: Rolex/Carlo Borlenghi
As expected Wild Oats XI is charging ahead of her rivals, Loyal and Wild Thing as they power down the New South Wales coast towards Bass Strait.
Photo: Rolex/Carlo Borlenghi
Lulu Roseman

The fleet gets off to a flying start filled with drama

Grant Wharrington's maxi Wild Thing klunked into one of the media boats after getting a brilliant start off the line, but Wild Oats XI looked the goods as she led the 87 strong fleet out of Sydney Heads this afternoon.
Photo: Lulu Roseman 
Lulu Roseman

Saturday, December 25, 2010

Sir Robin Knox Johnson is racing in the 2010 Rolex Sydney to Hobart Yacht Race

RA: Is this your first RSH race?

SRKJ:Yes, believe it or not, I’ve never done one before, so I’m looking forward to competing in this event.

RA: Why the RSH?

SRKJ: Well, mainly, it’s one of the major races that I haven’t competed in and besides I’ve always wanted to do it. I mean, after all, the Rolex Sydney Hobart is one of the world’s toughest and well-known classic races.

RA: How do you think you’ll do?

SRKJ: Ah, well, we’re a cruising boat, not a racing boat. If the winds are favorable to our type of vessel we’ll do Okay, unlike the bigger racers who will be in trouble. If the winds are against us it will be hard going.

RA: How old are you?

SRKJ: You mean how young am I? I’m 71.

RA: Is sailing, racing tough at your age?

SRKJ: No, not at all—It’s all in the mind. Besides, I keep fit. I love the challenge. Remember, it was only four years ago that I sailed around the world

RA: Are you looking forward to the race?

SRKJ: Bloody yes! I can’t wait.

RA: When you started sailing you used a sextant and chronometer. Today, we have GPS. How has technology changed sailing? Is it for the better or worse?

SRKJ: Oh, I think it’s for the better. I mean, if you know celestial navigation that I think is a good thing. However, today you really don’t need to as we’ve got satellites. Such technology allows more people to enjoy sailing so I think that’s good.

Robert Stedman

Friday, December 24, 2010

THE NIGHT BEFORE HOBART - To Everyone Racing: Be Safe and Good Sailing

Thanks to our good mate and favourite RIB Driver, Glen "Glenno" Ormerod for this witty rant:

The Night Before the Rolex Sydney to Hobart Yacht Race

It was the night before Hobart, and all through the club
Not a crewman was stirring, they’d been to the pub.
Their seaboots were hung round the cockpit with care,
In hopes that The Owner soon would be there.

The crew were nestled all snug in their beds,
While visions of line honours danced in their heads.
The girlfriend and I all tangled in rope,
Had just settled in for a long evening grope.

When out on the docks there arose such a clatter,
I sprang from the bunk with no clothes on don’t matter,
To see what sailed in on the nor-easterly blow
And opened the hatch before I threw up below.

The moon on the whitecaps did heavenly glow
And gave the lustre of midday to the water below,
When what to my wondering eyes next arose,
But an IRC clunker with four hiking pros.

Hard on the breeze, the boat on its head,
I instantly knew it was The Owner on sked.
More rapid than eagles his coursers they came,
And he whistled, and shouted, and called them by name;

"Now bowman, now trimmer. Now main and pit.
Whatever your job is just do it, damn it
I you don’t speed up I’ll get you a zimmer,
No wonder they don’t think that we are a winner"

On new spectra sheets the sails were taut,
A spinnaker ready for setting to port,
So on to the pier end the courses they flew,
The boat full of swag and The Owner too.

And then, in a twinkling, I heard from a far,
The stumbling and bumbling of this sailing star.
I drew in my head and was turning around,
When chequebook in hand The Owner came with a bound.

His loot was complete, nothing to sort,
Loaded up with the best gear he’d found in the port,
No shortage of booty he’d flung on his back,
The elves at the chandlery had filled up his pack.

His face all flushed, his eyes, road map red
His skin all chaffed and his nose well enough said
His loud little mouth, it dribbled a lot,
And his gait was uneven as he spilled a tot.

A fag hill and coke held tight in his hand,
His wrist wearing last year’s QLD band,
Upending his drink, he focused his stare,
On mountains of crew gear piled up near the stair.

A new carbon main was straining his back,
A code zero furler came from his sack,
With a wink of his eye and a twist of his head,
An unpacked asso that the bowman so dreaded

He spoke not a word, sorting it all,
Provisions and sails now decked the hall,
Forecasts and grib files from “Clouds” could be found
With EPIRBS and harnesses strewn all around.

His chequebook now empty, the loot now dispersed,
Down the dock he went and the crew now he cursed.
I heard him exclaim as they sailed out of sight, "Off to Hobart we are, keep Oz on the right."

Glen Ormerod

Weather Briefing: Rolex Sydney to Hobart

Seven Time World Champion Surfer Set to Sail

Twirler's new BFF got some nice ink today in the SMH, check out the link below.
Photo: Lulu Roseman

Sailors forced to suck up southerly

Luckily, Santa will have finished his toy run by Sunday as a hot and humid Boxing Day will give way to a traditional thundery, southerly buster during the first 24 hours of the Rolex Sydney Hobart.

The Bureau of Meteorology gave its race outlook to skippers and crews today at the official race briefing, which must be attended by four crewmembers from each boat.

When the 1:00pm gun sounds this Sunday, 26 December, the 87 boat fleet can expect a light harbour start to their 628 nautical mile journey. The first of several fronts is expected to hit the fleet during the first night, with winds dialling up to 35 knots and squalls driving the wind strength higher.

The bureau’s NSW regional director Barry Hanstrum told media that crews should prepare for tough conditions.

“Things will change very dramatically on Monday evening with the arrival of an old fashioned southerly buster off the New South Wales coast,” said Hanstrum.

“There’s a 20-30 knot southerly wind expected to be around Wollongong at 8pm and that will herald a period of strong winds and rough seas for the next 36 hours or so.”

Conditions should temper by Tuesday, which will slow the boats at the back of the fleet and potentially rob them of a chance to be rewarded for the hard slog south with a trophy haul at the finish, once finishing times are corrected to produce the overall winner.

Bass Strait has a reputation: it’s where cold wind from the Southern Ocean meets with the warm waters and air of the Tasman Sea over a shallow shelf.

The 60th anniversary Rolex Sydney Hobart in 2004 was the last time the fleet hit the brick wall of a southerly buster during the first night. From 116 starters just 59 completed the course and, for the smaller boats, 56 hours of pounding headwinds took their toll.

Two years later the fleet started in a southerly which intensified on the first night, claiming early high profile scalps Maximus and ABN Amro, plus seven other boats, all within the first 24 hours.

Since 2006 the fleet has had an easier time and some might have developed a false sense of security, but the seasoned sailors, including Investec Loyalskipper Sean Langman and Wild Oats XI skipper Mark Richards, have never let their guard down.

“It’s not the best of forecasts but a classic Sydney Hobart,” said Richards today.

“People forget that in 2006 we spent eight hours in 45 knots of breeze - the boat has been there before.”

Sean Langman was positive about the forecast and the potential for Investec Loyal as long as he can protect the assets – the 100 footer he co-owns with Anthony Bell and the crew he needs to deliver it to the finish line.

“I believe it’s going to be a good leveler for the front running boats,” said Langman.

“With this forecast we are a very good chance because of the way Investec Loyal was constructed.”

Langman agrees the conditions could mean the race to get to Hobart first may take a back seat when the weather turns.

“There is a time when boat racing stops and seamanship takes over and certainly with the big boats there will be more seamanship than boat racing until we get the other side of this thing [the southerlies],” he said.

For the highly experienced Will Oxley, navigator on Bill Wild’s RP55 Rodd & Gunn Wedgetail which was built for this particular forecast, the practicalities are as important as plotting the best course to Hobart.

“We will eat early [on the first night] and eat well because the next time we will be able to eat well will be off the Tassie coast,” said Oxley.

“We have changed around the meal program so that we can cook when it is easy to cook and the rest of the time it’s freeze-dried.”

Amongst the panel at today’s press conference, held between race briefings, was young Lachlan Hunter, the 19 year old crewman on Rod Skellet’s Pogo 40 Krakatoa II who embodies the ‘butterflies in the stomach’ feeling which is building amongst near 1000 competitors making final preparations.

When asked his thoughts on the forecast, Hunter responded with laidback charm.

“I’m just really excited,” he said.

“I’m not really phased [by the forecast], I think it phases my mum more.”

The 16 foot skiff sailor admitted his friends are a touch jealous, and that going south isn’t hurting his chances with the ladies either.

Thursday, December 23, 2010

Chris Hoskings Arrives

A relaxed and rested Chris Hoskings landed in Sydney this morning and headed straight over to Sydney City Marine to join the rest of the RAN crew as they make final preparations for their Rolex Sydney to Hobart campaign.

Lulu Roseman

Hang On For A Wild Ride To Hobart

THE favouritism of Wild Oats XI for line honours in this year's Sydney to Hobart has been thrown into doubt, with the forecast of rough, "on-the-nose" conditions - including two southerly fronts in the first 48 hours and large seas - opening up the race for the supermaxi's rivals.

The long-range forecast unveiled yesterday by Barry Hanstrum, the Bureau of Meteorology's NSW regional director, brought smiles to faces of rival crews.
But for Wild Oats XI co-navigator Ian Burns, the news prompted a resigned shrug, with the realisation that his bid to be first across the line had become a whole lot harder.
Advertisement: Story continues below

Burns quickly dismissed the idea of Wild Oats XI lowering its race record for the 628 nautical mile race of one day, 18 hours, 40 minutes and 10 seconds in 2005, when it won on debut.

Asked how long he predicted it would take to reach Hobart after Sunday's 1pm start in Sydney Harbour, he said: "Two to 2½ days. It will be hard to tell because with the angle almost straight on the nose - a slight change in that angle will get us down there a lot faster, but worst case: 2½ days.

"For us it won't be a record-breaking year this year, I don't think, but it will have its challenges. On the big boats, I think we will be spending a fair bit of time keeping the boat together in the stronger conditions, keeping everything in one piece and trying to get to Hobart in good shape. We will be slowing down rather than trying to break any records or our opposition. We will be making sure that we don't break ourselves."

All the maxi crews will be reluctant to push their boats if the weather forecast eventuates. That should limit Wild Oats XI's edge over line-honours rivals Investec Loyal, Lahana, Wild Thing and YuuZoo.

''You will see a lot of cat and mouse the first day and night,'' Burns said. ''It will be an interesting strategic race for sure, not to mention that the winds off the Tassie coast could easily leave one of the boats well behind the others."
Mark Richards by Carlo Borlemghi/Rolex
The Bureau of Meteorology yesterday forecast light winds for the 1pm start and a southerly to hit the fleet on the first night at about 8pm with winds between 20 to 30 knots, which Hanstrum said would cause "very unpleasant sailing conditions".

The southerlies should continue into Monday when, late in the day, a low pressure system is expected to arrive and strengthen to gale force at about 30 to 40 knots for the southern stretch of the NSW coast and then the crossing of Bass Strait.

Hanstrum said that period was "likely to be the most testing period of the race, weather-wise, with the combination of gale-force winds and large seas" of four to five metres.
He stressed that "nothing in the weather pattern is indicative of the ferocity of the winds" of the 1998 race when six lives were lost.

The second half of the race would be where it would be "won and lost", according to Bryan Northcote, navigator on the TP52 Ragamuffin, which is a strong handicap chance. "In past years, it has probably been a race in three stages: getting to Eden, across Bass Strait, then the east coast of Tasmania," he said. "This year looks like a race in two stages - 300 miles upwind, then the bogies of the east coast of Tasmania."

But Jonathan Stone, skipper of the 34-footer Illusion - the smallest boat in the race - was upbeat: "We have sailed in these conditions. We believe we can handle them.

"The east coast of Tasmania is going to be testing for us on days three and four.

"It's very much the same challenge [as for the big boats] - keeping the boat together, keeping in the race and then get across Bass Strait and navigating.''

Rupert Guiness/The Sydney Morning Herald

Italian Style on Brinders

eta e Team manager della sezione velica dell’Aeronautica Militare, che sarà il r

Living Legend Sets His Sights On Hobart

Sir Robin Knox-Johnson stood on the dock at the CYCA and pensively looked out towards the Harbour.

Wednesday, December 22, 2010

Records Unlikely to Be Broken

This year’s Rolex Sydney Hobart fleet can anticipate a more traditional upwind ride south with the Bureau of Meteorology today detailing its long range weather outlook with two bursts of strong southerly winds in the first 48 hours and steep seas in Bass Strait promising to test boats and crew.
The calm before the storm...the competitors dockside at the CYCA
The Bureau of Meteorology’s regional director NSW, Barry Hanstrum, presented the race outlook to a panel of skippers and navigators representing the largest in the fleet, Wild Oats XI, to the smallest, Illusion at 34 feet, acknowledging there are going to be a “couple of rough patches”.

Talk of robust headwinds has put a stop to race record prophesising, today’s panel admitting their strategy is going to be focused on keeping boats and crew in one piece.

"When you’re on the boat you’re really just focused on making the right decisions at the right time to get down there as best you can,” said Wild Oats XI’s co-navigator Ian Burns.
Wild Oats XI:  readyaboutimages/Lulu Roseman
“The real challenge I think is [going to be] the first couple of nights and keeping the boat together. We’ll be slowing down rather than trying to break any record, or even necessarily breaking our competition.”

The Bureau is tipping light winds for the 1:00pm start on Sunday 26 December from Sydney Harbour before a southerly change in the afternoon that will push its way up the NSW coast and build to 20-30 knots causing “very rough conditions, pretty unpleasant sailing conditions on the first night,” predicts Hanstrum.
Reinforced by a passage of low pressure on Monday, southerly winds are expected to strengthen to 30-40 knots on the far NSW south coast and in Bass Strait, with 4-5m seas thrown in the mix, “the most testing period of the race weather wise, the combination of gale force winds and large seas,” says Hanstrum.

Winds should moderate on Tuesday as the lead pack makes its way down the east coast of Tasmania to the finish line of the 628 nautical mile ocean classic.

“It’s going to be quite a demanding race but nothing you wouldn’t expect. The Rolex Sydney Hobart is known for being the toughest race of its type in the world and these are pretty much normal conditions for this sort of race,” said Burns.
"For us it won’t’ be a record breaking year, I don’t think, but it’ll have its challenges.”

Jonathan Stone, skipper of the smallest in the 89 boat fleet, the NSW based Davidson 34 Illusion, is circumspect. "We’re forewarned now and the CYCA has made sure we’re forearmed.

"We’ve sailed in those conditions; we believe we can handle them. It’s an adventure, a challenge and that’s why we're in it.”

For Bryan Northcote, 13 time Rolex Sydney Hobart race veteran and navigator of Syd Fischer’s TP52 Ragamuffin, his predictions for the overall winner lie with the 45 to 60 foot boats, stretching to Ran at 72 feet.
“In the past, it’s been a race of three stages, to Eden, Bass Strait, and then the Tasmanian east coast. This year it’s looking like a race in two stages; 300 miles upwind and the east coast of Tasmania,” said Northcote.

"It’s about battening down the hatches the first day and a half, and really looking after the boat and the crew and setting yourself up for the last 300 miles. That’s where the race will be won and lost."

The 2006 Rolex Sydney Hobart was the last time the fleet encountered strong headwinds.

Tuesday, December 21, 2010

Yachting Snapper Paints The Picture

Photo: Dallas Kilponen
“I want to put the readers on board. To show them what it is like racing these boats out on the ocean,” says Fairfax photographer Dallas Kilponen, who has combined the role of photojournalist and crewman in five Rolex Sydney Hobarts.

His photos bring a rare intimacy to a sport that is mostly played out of sight, whether it is frantic drama in huge seas, or the eerie surrealism of a maxi yacht becalmed at dawn on a strangely motionless Bass Strait.
Photo: Dallas Kilponen
Kilponen is no passenger. He is big and strong, always a plus on a racing yacht, with a fine yachting pedigree.

“The first year I went down was in 2004, on the Volvo 60 Indec Merit. I took dad’s ashes on the boat to honour the old man. He was the navigator on Kialoa (the record breaking American maxi of the 1970s)," he said.

“We were forced to retire so it wasn’t until the next year, when I went down on the maxi Konica Minolta that I finally got to scatter some of his ashes on Constitution Dock.

“There are no free rides on these boats. I’m there as crew first, media second. My first priority is to race for the crew and to win. The best time to take photos is when there is a lot on, but when things are happening everyone has to be in synch. You can’t stop to take photos if it will wipe out the boat. So mostly I end up back up on deck with my camera when I am off watch, and hoping I can get a few hours sleep later.

“It can be awkward, though. There is a constant tension between when you are crew and when you can shoot.”

In 2006 Kilponen was on the New Zealand maxi Maximus when her giant mast came crashing down into the cockpit 20 miles off the New South Wales Coast, injuring several of her crew.

“The first priority was making sure everyone was accounted for, triage, and only after everything was in order and the boat safe could I become a photographer. After a while the owner was saying that’s enough shots, but I said I’m here for the glory but I’m also a journalist.”

CYCA Media

Sydney to Hobart Fave Yachting Snaps