Race leaders enter Bass Strait

  • Racing
  • NEWS
  • By Jennifer Crooks
  • 27 Dec 2008 06:31:00
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Andrew Short's ASM Shockwave in the Rolex Trophy Passage Race

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For most of yesterday the top six boats in the Rolex Sydney Hobart Yacht Race chewed up the miles, the 30 metre maxis peaking at 20 knots of boat speed before the winds lightened off considerably just before midnight. This morning, frontrunners Wild Oats XI and Skandia are virtually side by side, but are off record pace.

0530HRS, 27 DECEMBER 2008

For most of yesterday the top six boats in the Rolex Sydney Hobart Yacht Race chewed up the miles, the 30 metre maxis peaking at 20 knots of boat speed before the winds lightened off considerably just before midnight.  This morning, frontrunners Wild Oats XI and Skandia are virtually side by side, but are off record pace.

Just one mile separated the two leading maxis as they entered Bass Strait around 5am this morning in a moderate 15 knot breeze.  The two yachts have returned to speeds of around 16 knots in this morning’s freshening breeze after decelerating in the light patches overnight.

The maxis were the first to reach the lighter winds allowing the mid-range boats to close in.  But their joy was short lived.  They too found the lighter breeze which is when the maxis began to reassert their dominance.

By 5am the two front runners were sailing side by side, Grant Wharington’s Skandia closer to the rhumbline with Wild Oats XI just a little further out to sea.  About twenty miles behind them were Black Jack, ASM Shockwave, Ichi Ban, Loki, Limit and Yendys.

Skandia’s performance has been quite outstanding.  Set up to maximize her chances of an outright win on handicap she was never expected to match Wild Oats XI in straight-out boat speed.

Wild Oats XI’s skipper Mark Richards has made no secret that he is focused totally on a record fourth line honours in a row at the expense of his rating.  What everyone expected to be a one horse conga line to Hobart has become a tense and exciting match race.  

After a perfect start on Sydney Harbour yesterday afternoon the Rolex Sydney Hobart Yacht Race has again lived up to its reputation as one of the world’s toughest ocean races with dramas overnight for the Victorian Farr 53 Georgia.

In reasonably benign conditions, including a good sea state, skippers Graeme Ainley and John Williams issued a Mayday 32 miles east of Point Perpendicular at Jervis Bay after losing their rudder and taking on water.

The crew of 14 successfully transferred to race entrant Telecoinabox Merit via life raft before the boat motored to rendezvous with the Police launch Nemesis.  At 0540hrs this morning the crew of Georgia was transferred from Merit to the launch.  They are due to arrive at Batemans Bay shortly.

In the all important handicap stakes there are few surprises this morning given the overnight north nor’east breeze, conditions well suited to the lighter weight mid-range downwind performers including current overall leader Quest (Bob Steel) and Bruce Taylor’s Victorian IRC 40 Chutzpah.

Geoff Ross’ Reichel/Pugh 55 Yendys has this year had specific modification to its keel bulb to improve their performance downhill and those mods, plus the smart decision to stay offshore where the current is favourable, appears to have turned the all rounder into a downwind sprinter.

Bob Oatley's Wild Oats XI established the current course record of 1 day 18 hours 40 minutes 10 seconds in 2005.  In order to better this time the first yacht needs to be at the finish in Hobart before 0740 AEDT tomorrow morning, Sunday 28 December.

Geoff Ross' Yendys during the first afternoon of the 2007 Rolex Sydney Hobart Image: ROLEX/Carlo Borlenghi

Geoff Ross' Yendys during the first afternoon of the 2007 Rolex Sydney Hobart

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