Clipper Race fleet heading for China

Clipper Race fleet heading for China

After a relaxing break in the Whitsundays, the Clipper Race fleet bid farewell to Australia today to race to China; and fittingly at this halfway stage in the 2017-18 edition, it is the destination’s two team entries, Sanya Serenity Coast and Qingdao, which lead the overall race standings.

Ahead of departing for her team’s home port, Sanya Serenity Coast Skipper Wendy Tuck said: “I am really, really excited about getting to Sanya. It’s going to be a tough, long race. We don’t have much of a lead in the overall standings but it is a lead nonetheless so that’s great and we are just keeping the little Joker Card up our sleeve to spring it when people least expect it.”

Going into the seventh of thirteen individual races, Sanya Serenity Coast leads the Clipper 2017-18 Race overall standings with 65 points, just head of Qingdao (63), which has already played its Joker Card (which doubles its points for one chosen race), and Visit Seattle (60), which won Race 6 into Airlie Beach.

The start line for Race 7: The Forever Tropical Paradise Race to Sanya, is positioned 150 nautical miles off the coast on the other side of the Great Barrier Reef. Teams are currently making best speed to get there with the race expected to officially get underway with a Le Mans start at 1200 local time tomorrow (02200 UTC).

The first of two races which form Leg 5, the Asia-Pacific Leg, Race 7 is predicted to offer some of the most varied conditions of the entire circumnavigation. At 4,280 nautical miles long, teams will be tested mentally as well as physically as they adapt to a host of changing sailing and climatic conditions.

Clipper Race Director Mark Light explains: “The teams are now off on a pretty long race to Sanya but they’ve enjoyed a great break here in the Whitsundays and they are ready for this next challenge. Fluky winds are an expected feature in this race, meaning high levels of concentration and sail changes will be needed.”

Looking further ahead, Mark adds: “Approaching the equator, the fleet is likely to once again witness some spectacular lightning storms, similar to those experienced in this last race up the coast. The passing squalls can offer some much-needed relief from the heat, but can bring some heavy storm conditions with them.”

In a similar move to Race 1, from Liverpool to Punta del Este, a tactical Doldrums Corridor rule has been added to this race. Visible on the Race Viewer, teams will have the option to decide to motorsail for a maximum of 4 degrees of latitude within the Doldrums Corridor, situated in the vicinity of the Solomon Sea.

Continuing north past the equator, the wind will start to build as the fleet encounters Northeast Monsoon winds where teams will be looking to gain early advantage and pull away from their competition. From here, tactics will be at play as teams enter the South China Sea, setting course for the finish line outside Sanya Serenity Marina.

Though Race 7, the Forever Tropical Paradise Race to Sanya is a long one, Race Director Mark Light is expecting some exciting racing. He says: “It’s been really close racing so far in the Clipper 2017-18 Race. There have been some very exciting and incredibly close finishes in the first four legs and the standings are also pretty tight so I’m really looking forward to see what happens next.”

Laying on the southern tip of Hainan Island, the tropical paradise of Sanya awaits and promises to give crew a taste of the ‘Oriental Hawaii’. Explaining the race name choice, Sanya Vice Mayor Zhenling Xu says: “The name Forever Tropical Paradise Race was chosen to reflect Sanya’s unique tropical climate and culture.

“As a renowned domestic and international tourism destination, Sanya has abundant tropical natural resources such as its year-round balmy climate, clean air, sunshine, lush greenery, pristine seawater, soft beaches, fresh seafood, international high-end hotels and resorts. Sanya has a very profound and rich tropical island culture. Its marine culture, resort culture, Li and Miao culture form a splendid contrast to the tropical scenery, making it a unique tropical paradise in China.”

Following the fleet’s departure from Abell Point Marina, Airlie Beach, the teams competed in a short course exhibition race to determine the order for the Le Mans start line. Visit Seattle took line honours so will have the advantage of being the windward boat, with PSP Logistics and Sanya Serenity Coast to be the second and third boats respectively.

Once the fleet reaches the Race 7 start position, Unicef Skipper Bob Beggs will lead the Le Mans start as directed by the Clipper Race Director Mark Light.

The race to Sanya is expected to take between 23 to 27 days, with the fleet expected to arrive into the Sanya Serenity Marina between the 21 and 25 of February. To follow the progress of the teams, keep an eye on the Race Viewer and also the team pages for the daily Skipper Reports and Crew Blogs from the boats.

The 40,000 nm Clipper 2017-18 Race started in Liverpool on 20 August last year and will return there on 28 July this summer. The only event on the planet which trains amateur sailors to become ocean racers and complete a circumnavigation, the Clipper Race is the sailing equivalent of climbing Mount Everest.

 ENDS

 

OVERALL CLIPPER 2017-18 RACE STANDINGS (BEFORE RACE 7)

1   SANYA SERENITY COAST         65

2   QINGDAO                               63*

3   VISIT SEATTLE                        60

4   DARE TO LEAD                        56*

5   GARMIN                                  53*

6   PSP LOGISTICS                       53

7   GREAT BRITAIN                       49*

8   UNICEF                                   36

9   LIVERPOOL 2018                     34

10   HOTELPLANNER.COM             33

11   NASDAQ                               25

(* Already played Joker Card)

 

 

You can track the progress of the rest of the fleet via the Clipper Race Viewer at www.clipperroundtheworld.com/raceviewer.

 

About the Clipper Round the World Yacht Race
www.clipperroundtheworld.com

The eleventh edition of the unique biennial Clipper Race will visit six continents and include six ocean crossings. Almost 5000 novices have been turned into ocean racers during the past twenty years of the Clipper Race, though still more people have climbed Mount Everest than circumnavigated the globe.

The eleven Clipper Race teams compete on the world’s largest matched fleet of 70-foot ocean racing yachts. Around 710 crew come from all walks of life and from all around the world, with over 40 different nationalities represented. Crew can complete the full circumnavigation, or one or more of the eight legs that make up the Clipper Race.

After completing the second stopover of the Clipper 2017-18 Race in Sydney, the teams are heading to The Whitsundays before continuing on to Sanya, Qingdao, Seattle, Panama and New York before a final crossing of the Atlantic Ocean towards Derry-Londonderry.

After crossing six oceans and visiting thirteen stopover ports on six continents, the fleet will return to Liverpool’s Albert Dock almost a year later for Race Finish on Saturday 28 July 2018, where one of the teams will be awarded the illustrious Clipper Race trophy.

Hong Kong Stopover. HGC In-Port Race Hong Kong. 27 January, 2018. ( Photo © Pedro Martinez/Volvo Ocean Race )

Hong Kong Stopover. HGC In-Port Race Hong Kong. 27 January, 2018. ( Photo © Pedro Martinez/Volvo Ocean Race )

Team AkzoNobel took the win in the HGC In-Port Race Hong Kong on a challenging afternoon on the waters of Kowloon Bay.

The wind during race time was a 6 to 10 knot Easterly, but it was very shifty and puffy, and with a tidal current running on the race course, it was a difficult day for the tacticians.

Hong Kong Stopover. HGC In-Port Race Hong Kong. 27 January, 2018. (Photo © Pedro Martinez/Volvo Ocean Race )

Hong Kong Stopover. HGC In-Port Race Hong Kong. 27 January, 2018. (Photo © Pedro Martinez/Volvo Ocean Race )

“We had a fantastic race, pretty exciting. We planned to sail our own race today. It was tricky enough with the tide and the windshifts,” said team AkzoNobel skipper Simeon Tienpont.

Hong Kong Stopover. HGC In-Port Race Hong Kong. 27 January, 2018. ( Photo © Pedro Martinez/Volvo Ocean Race )

Hong Kong Stopover. HGC In-Port Race Hong Kong. 27 January, 2018. ( Photo © Pedro Martinez/Volvo Ocean Race )

“The team sailed an unbelievable race and the guys in the back of the boat played the tactics very well… It’s good when things come together. It’s a nice reward for all the effort the team has put in.”

Dongfeng Race Team finished in second place, with Team Brunel third. The two swapped places on the third lap of the course after a solid upwind leg by Brunel gave them the lead, but the Dongfeng crew fought back on the run to secure second place.

Hong Kong Stopover. HGC In-Port Race Hong Kong. 27 January, 2018. (Photo © Pedro Martinez/Volvo Ocean Race )

Hong Kong Stopover. HGC In-Port Race Hong Kong. 27 January, 2018. (Photo © Pedro Martinez/Volvo Ocean Race )

A fourth place finish on Saturday by the series leader MAPFRE means Dongfeng vaults to the top of the table.

But it’s a tight leaderboard and it could compress further following Sunday’s Around Hong Kong Island Race, when results of the weekend of racing will be combined to assign the points from this stopover.

Hong Kong’s hometown heroes Sun Hung Kai/Scallywag had a fantastic start, but fell back and battled to a fifth place finish over Turn the Tide on Plastic on Saturday. Both teams will be determined to move up with a better result on Sunday.

Hong Kong Stopover. HGC In-Port Race Hong Kong. 27 January, 2018. (Photo © Pedro Martinez/Volvo Ocean Race )

Hong Kong Stopover. HGC In-Port Race Hong Kong. 27 January, 2018. (Photo © Pedro Martinez/Volvo Ocean Race )

The Around Hong Kong Island Race is scheduled to start at 11:30am local time in Hong Kong (0330 UTC). There will be live coverage of the start and finish of Sunday’s race on www.volvooceanrace.com, on Facebook and Twitter @volvooceanrace. Fans will be able to follow the full race on the tracker via www.volvooceanrace.com.

Vestas 11th Hour Racing will not race this weekend or on Leg 5 to Guangzhou next week as the team coordinates repairs to its boat – see more here.

Hong Kong Stopover. HGC In-Port Race Hong Kong. 27 January, 2018. (Photo © Pedro Martinez/Volvo Ocean Race )

Hong Kong Stopover. HGC In-Port Race Hong Kong. 27 January, 2018. (Photo © Pedro Martinez/Volvo Ocean Race )

Current Volvo Ocean Race In-Port Race leaderboard 
Dongfeng Race Team – 24 points
MAPFRE – 23 points
team AkzoNobel – 18 points
Team Brunel – 18 points
Vestas 11th Hour Racing – 12 points
Sun Hung Kai / Scallywag – 9 points
Turn the Tide on Plastic – 7 points

*** Note: The above leaderboard reflects full points assigned from Saturday’s HGC In-Port Race Hong Kong. On Sunday, the results of the Around Hong Kong Island race will be combined with Saturday’s HGC In-Port Race to award the overall leader from this weekend’s racing a maximum of seven points from Hong Kong.

Hong Kong Stopover. HGC In-Port Race Hong Kong. 27 January, 2018.  (Photo © Ainhoa Sanchez/Volvo Ocean Race )

Hong Kong Stopover. HGC In-Port Race Hong Kong. 27 January, 2018. (Photo © Ainhoa Sanchez/Volvo Ocean Race )

Hong Kong Stopover. Ocean Summit. Mark Towill, Co-founder & Team Director, Vestas 11th Hour Racing &.Charlie Enright. 22 January, 2018. ( Photo © Pedro Martinez/Volvo Ocean Race )

Hong Kong Stopover. Ocean Summit. Mark Towill, Co-founder & Team Director, Vestas 11th Hour Racing &.Charlie Enright. 22 January, 2018. ( Photo © Pedro Martinez/Volvo Ocean Race )

 

By Mark Towill and Charlie Enright

Vestas 11th Hour Racing has informed Volvo Ocean Race that the team will not be participating in inshore racing in Hong Kong and Guangzhou, China, as well as Leg 5 from Hong Kong to Guangzhou.The team is currently coordinating necessary repairs to the boat caused by the collision with a non-racing vessel on Saturday 20th January. For more information, see here. 

“First and foremost, our thoughts and condolences are with the families affected by this tragic incident,” said Mark Towill from Hong Kong.

“At this time, we are still assessing all of our options to return to the race,” said Charlie Enright. “We once again thank everyone for their continued support.”

Practice racing today, followed by the In-Port Race and Around Hong Kong Race this weekend as well as pro-am racing at the start of next week, are all programmed to take place in Hong Kong.

Hong Kong Stopover. Hong Kong United Doackyards. The Boatyard working hard to get the boats ready for the next Leg. 21 January, 2018. Hong Kong Stopover. ( Photo © Pedro Martinez/Volvo Ocean Race )

The fleet of Volvo Ocean 65s will then depart in Leg 5 for Guangzhou on January 31st for the next stopover in mainland China.

eg 4, Melbourne to Hong Kong, day 17, Photo by Amory Ross/Volvo Ocean Race. 18 January, 2018.

Leg 4, Melbourne to Hong Kong, day 17, Photo by Amory Ross/Volvo Ocean Race. 18 January, 2018.

The Volvo Ocean Race can confirm Vestas 11th Hour Racing, one of the teams competing in the 2017-18 race, has been involved in a collision with a non-race vessel before the finish of Leg 4, near Hong Kong.

The team has retired from Leg 4 and is proceeding to Hong Kong unassisted and under its own power.

Race Control at Volvo Ocean Race headquarters was informed of the collision by the team moments after it happened at approximately 17:23 UTC on Friday January 19, 2018 (01:23 local time on Saturday morning).

The Vestas 11th Hour Racing team issued a Mayday distress call on behalf of the other vessel, alerting the Hong Kong Marine Rescue Coordination Centre (HKMRCC) and undertook a search and rescue mission.

HKMRCC has informed Race Control that a commercial vessel in the area was able to rescue nine of the crew and that a tenth crew member was taken by helicopter to hospital.

All of the crew on Vestas 11th Hour Racing are safe. Their boat suffered damage and the team has officially retired from the leg, but the team is able to motor to shore.

The Volvo Ocean Race is deeply saddened to inform that the collision between Vestas 11th Hour Racing, a team competing in the Volvo Ocean Race 2017-18, and a fishing vessel has resulted in a fatality of a crew of the fishing vessel.

On behalf of the Volvo Ocean Race and Vestas 11th Hour Racing, we offer our deepest condolences to the loved ones of the deceased.

The incident occurred approximately 30 miles from the finish of Leg 4, outside of Hong Kong waters. Race Control at Volvo Ocean Race headquarters was informed of the collision by the team moments after it happened at approximately 17:23 UTC on Friday January 19, 2018 (01:23 local time on Saturday morning).

The Vestas 11th Hour Racing team, none of whom were injured in the collision, issued a Mayday distress call on behalf of the other vessel, alerting the Hong Kong Marine Rescue Coordination Centre (HKMRCC) and undertook a search and rescue mission.

HKMRCC informed Race Control that a commercial vessel in the area was able to rescue nine of the crew and that a tenth crew member was taken by helicopter to hospital. HKMRCC has since confirmed the death of the air-lifted crew member.

Volvo Ocean Race and Vestas 11th Hour Racing are now focused on providing immediate support to those affected by this incident.

All involved organisations are co-operating with the authorities and are fully supporting the ongoing investigation.

 

 

Leg 4, Melbourne to Hong Kong, arrivals. 19 January, 2018. (Photo by Pedro Martinez/Volvo Ocean Race )

Leg 4, Melbourne to Hong Kong, arrivals. 19 January, 2018. (Photo by Pedro Martinez/Volvo Ocean Race )

Team Sun Hung Kai/Scallywag have won Leg 4 of the Volvo Ocean Race, leading the fleet into their home port of Hong Kong.

It’s an historic win for skipper David Witt and his team who had to overcome significant setbacks on the leg before grabbing the lead with a bold tactical call out of the Doldrums last weekend.

“We had a bit of a plan and we stuck to it. Sometimes it works, sometimes it doesn’t and this time it worked for us,” Witt said.
But late in the crossing, after falling behind the fleet again, Witt and navigator Libby Greenhalgh made the decision to cut the corner, and turn to the west earlier than the opposition who kept pressing north in search of stronger winds.

The move paid dividends nearly immediately on the leaderboard as Scallywag had less miles to sail to the finish line, but pundits cautioned that the teams in the north would almost certainly overhaul them as the tradewinds filled in from the northeast.

It never happened.

Even when the team dropped miles recovering a man overboard after Alex Gough was swept off the boat by a wave, after executing a flawless recovery, Scallywag returned to racing and extended to nearly a 100-mile lead.

But then, the chasing boats began chipping away at the lead. Two days out from the finish, the margin had been cut significantly and the pressure mounted.

“I was really impressed by the way we operated over the past couple of days,” Witt said. “We had a pretty big lead and then through no fault of our own, about two-thirds of it got taken away. But we stuck to our guns, did what we thought was right and it’s worked out.”

Leg 4, Melbourne to Hong Kong, arrivals. 19 January, 2018. ( Photo by Pedro Martinez/Volvo Ocean Race)

Leg 4, Melbourne to Hong Kong, arrivals. 19 January, 2018. ( Photo by Pedro Martinez/Volvo Ocean Race)

With the Leg 4 win, Scallywag picks up 8 points (7 points for first place plus a one point win bonus). It will vault the team up to mid-fleet on the overall leaderboard, in a very respectable fourth place.

“It was always going to take us longer than the others to get up to speed as we were the last to enter,” Witt said. “All teams need a bit of confidence and I think one thing that is underrated in sport is momentum and this will certainly give the Scallywags plenty of that… We’re all still learning and we’re going to keep getting better as we go on.”

Witt has acknowledged the significance of the win as the local team leading the fleet into the first ever Volvo Ocean Race stopover in Hong Kong. For the team owner, Seng Huang Lee, who has supported Scallywag sailing over the years, it’s a big moment.

“We’re a privately owned team and our owner Mr. Lee has poured his passion and enthusiasm and vision into this project and this win will be very special for him… Winning this leg will be a massive platform for Scallywag going forward.”

Behind Scallywag, Vestas 11th Hour Racing and Dongfeng Race Team are battling for second place and expected to finish approximately two and three hours behind the winner. The rest of the fleet is forecast to finish at intervals over the following 12 hours.

Leg 4, Melbourne to Hong Kong, arrivals. 19 January, 2018. ( Photo by Pedro Martinez/Volvo Ocean Race)

Leg 4, Melbourne to Hong Kong, arrivals. 19 January, 2018.

Leg 4 – Provisional Results at Friday 19 January (Leg 4, Day 18) at 20:17 UTC

1. Sun Hung Kai/Scallywag — FINISHED – 17:45:42 UTC
2. Vestas 11th Hour Racing — RACING
3. Dongfeng Race Team — RACING
4. team AkzoNobel – RACING
5. MAPFRE — RACING
6. Team Brunel — RACING
7. Turn the Tide on Plastic — RACING

Volvo Ocean Race – Current Leaderboard

1. MAPFRE — RACING — 29 points (after Leg 3)
2. Dongfeng Race Team — RACING — 23 points (after Leg 3)
3. Vestas 11th Hour Racing — RACING — 23 points (after Leg 3)
4. Sun Hung Kai/Scallywag — FINISHED — 19 points (after Leg 4)
5. Team Brunel — RACING — 14 points (after Leg 3)
6. team AkzoNobel — RACING — 9 points (after Leg 3)
7. Turn the Tide on Plastic — RACING — 6 points (after Leg 3)

Leg 4, Melbourne to Hong Kong, arrivals. 19 January, 2018.

Leg 4, Melbourne to Hong Kong, arrivals. 19 January, 2018.

© Chris Schmid / Spindrift racing

SPINDRIFT 2 DISMASTS ON WAY TO START OF ROUND THE WORLD RECORD. ( Photo © Chris Schmid / Spindrift racing )

 

As the giant trimaran made its way to the Créac’h lighthouse (Isle of Ouessant) for a second attempt at the Jules Verne Trophy, Spindrift 2 dismasted at about 1615h today (Monday 15 January 2018), south of Pointe Saint-Mathieu in a strong 30 knot westerly breeze and rough seas.

Spindrift 2 was ready for this new attempt around the world with a relatively favourable weather window, after a long two-month stand-by at La Trinité sur Mer and then in Brest, Brittany.
With strong winds around Brest, the start from the pontoon was delayed to 1430h. Once Spindrift was into the Iroise, an area of open sea in front of Brest between the Atlantic and the Channel, the sea state was already well formed and the wind blowing at more than 30 knots with strong gusts. As the boat tacked towards the Ouessant Channel, with no warning suddenly Spindrift 2 dismasted. No crew member was injured in the incident.

“Everything happened very fast! In a few seconds, the mast was down. We have been waiting for two months for this new attempt on the Jules Verne Trophy: this window was our last chance. It is a big disappointment for the whole team, both at sea, and on land as we were all ready. We have spent a lot of time optimising the boat, and everything collapses in a few moments,” said Yann Guichard

SPINDRIFT 2 DISMASTS ON WAY TO START OF ROUND THE WORLD RECORD

“We were heading to the start line: there were relatively strong conditions with 30 knots of wind and three metre troughs. A few moments before we were going to tack towards Pointe Saint-Mathieu, the mast broke for some unknown reason. The most important thing is that there were no injuries on board. Unfortunately we had to drop the mast into the sea as we did not want to take  any unnecessary risks for the crew because we were very close to the rocks at Toulinguet. Operations are currently underway to recover the mast and rigging as quickly as possible, as the weather is set to deteriorate early tomorrow (Tuesday) morning. We will now start the process of understanding what has happened,” he concluded.

 

LA TRINITE-SUR-MER, FRANCE, OCTOBER 17TH 2017: Spindrift racing (Maxi Spindrift 2) skippered by Yann Guichard from France, training for the Jules Verne Trophy 2017 attempt.

LA TRINITE-SUR-MER, FRANCE, OCTOBER 17TH 2017: Spindrift racing (Maxi Spindrift 2) skippered by Yann Guichard from France, training for the Jules Verne Trophy 2017 attempt. © Chris Schmid / Spindrift racing

 

Yann Guichard and his crew arrived in Brest last night to start the Jules Verne Trophy. Despite a good though not ideal weather window, after two months on stand-by Spindrift racing has decided to take its chance and will leave the dock late this morning to be at the Créac’h lighthouse in the afternoon.

The team was planning to start a week ago, but the weather further down the course did not materialise as anticipated.  However, the area of depression that is currently sitting off the coast of Brittany has finally given the team the opportunity to start their challenge on the Jules Verne record. With strong conditions forecast for the start, the current files show the team reaching the equator in just over five days (5d 5h – 5d 10h), which will give them a cushion on the reference time set by Francis Joyon and his crew (5d 18h ​​59′).

The team is aiming to catch an area of depression off the coast of Brazil to give them a quick crossing of the South Atlantic towards the Cape of Good Hope.

Portrait of skipper Yann Guichard leaving for the Jules Verne Trophy.

© Chris Schmid / Spindrift racing

“We are now Code Green: the latest weather files confirm our departure from the pontoon around noon today, with a Jules Verne Trophy line crossing following quickly.  The 25-30 knot wind from west to north-west will strengthen as we cross the Bay of Biscay, and we are expecting big seas with five metre waves.  It looks like the first 12 hours will be hard going, but then the wind will soften off Cape Finisterre to more moderate trade winds, and we will be doing a lot of gybes towards the Canary Islands,” commented Yann Guichard as the last of the fresh food was taken on board Spindrift 2.

The Jules Verne Trophy record has been held by IDEC Sport (Francis Joyon and his crew) since January 2017, with a time of 40 days 23 hours 30 minutes. During that challenge the team took 12 days 21 hours 22 minutes to reach the tip of South Africa, so improving this time is one of the first objectives of Yann Guichard and his eleven crew.

2018 JULES VERNE TROPHY CREW:
Yann Guichard (skipper): watch the portrait
Erwan Israël (navigator): watch the portrait
Jacques Guichard (watch captain / helm / trimmer): watch the portrait
Christophe Espagnon (watch captain / helm / bow): watch the portrait
Xavier Revil (watch captain / helm / trimmer): watch the portrait
François Morvan (helm / trimmer): watch the portrait
Antoine Carraz (helm / trimmer): watch the portrait
Thierry Chabagny (helm / bow): watch the portrait
Ewen Le Clech (helm / trimmer): watch the portrait
Sam Goodchild (helm / bow): watch the portrait
Thomas Le Breton (helm / trimmer): watch the portrait
Erwan Le Roux (helm / trimmer): watch the portrait
Router: Jean-Yves Bernot

 

A NEW DEDICATED WEBSITE
With a departure imminent, Spindrift racing has launched its website platform dedicated to following the record attempt with real-time cartography and an interactive dashboard:
WWW.SPINDRIFT-RACING.COM/JULES-VERNE

(Photo @Rolex/ Daniel Forster)

(Photo @Rolex/ Daniel Forster)

Sydney, 24 December 2017 – For over seventy years, Australia has stood still at lunchtime on the 26 December to mark the start of one of the world’s great sporting institutions. 2017 is no exception with 102 yachts set to embark on the 73rd edition of the Rolex Sydney Hobart Yacht Race. Four 100-footers will lead the famous 628nm charge south, followed hard by the remainder of the highly competitive fleet representing some 27 countries from both northern and southern hemispheres. With two days to go, attention has turned firmly to who might prevail in the battle to be first to finish and the contest to win overall, the sought-after main prize.

Organized by the Cruising Yacht Club of Australia, with the support of the Royal Yacht Club of Tasmania and partnered by Rolex since the 2002, the Rolex Sydney Hobart starts at 13:00 AEDT on Tuesday, 26 December. The current weather forecast suggests an upwind start from Sydney Harbour into a 5-10 knot easterly. Once outside the heads, the wind strength will increase to around 15 knots, and turn towards the north east later on Tuesday afternoon. This direction is set hold until early on Thursday morning. The fastest boats are predicting a quick run, although the record of 1 day, 13 hours, 31 minutes and 20 seconds set in 2016 by Perpetual LOYAL does not appear threatened.

PEDIGREE PERFORMERS
The four expected front-runners, all from Australia, come with some serious pedigree in both their achievements and their crews. A fierce contest is expected with the conditions likely to favour each yacht at different times. Forecast wind transitions will test the resolve and skill of these powerhouse yachts. At a press conference this morning, featuring the skippers of LDV Comanche (Jim Clooney), Wild Oats XI (Mark Richards), InfoTrack (Tom Slingsby) and Black Jack (Mark Bradford), the collective view was that LDV Comanche looks to have the upper hand. Her crew features some rare talent, including James Spithill, Stan Honey and Brad Jackson, able to push this rocket-ship hard. “There’s a period of time when we think conditions will be very good for Comanche, but I think conditions are good for all of us and there will be parts of the race where one boat will shine more than the others,” opined Clooney. “We’re looking at one of the most intense and exciting races for a long time.”

Wild Oats XI is a former two-time treble winner (line honours, course record and overall victory). Despite not finishing the last two races, undone by frustrating breakages, and a lightning strike a week ago that led to a flurry of unplanned activity to put her right, Mark Richards is confident that the boat is prepared and ready for the contest ahead: “We couldn’t ask for a more comfortable forecast and it will be an exciting race between the four fastest 100-footers on the planet.”

Black Jack is a near-sistership of Wild Oats XI in terms of design. Her race set-up, though, is different and she is in new hands since winning line honours in 2009. Mark Bradford can see real opportunities with the forecast: “We are hedged pretty heavily for light air, but everyone’s going to get their moments. The first bit is going to favour us and hopefully the last bit.”

Formerly Perpetual LOYAL, InfoTrack carries the weight of 2016 record-breaking glory. This means little to new owner, Christian Beck – embarking on his first ever Rolex Sydney Hobart – or his stellar afterguard which includes Grant Simmer on his twentieth race and former Rolex World Sailor of the Year and Olympic gold medallist, Tom Slingsby. Simmer believes that though they are perhaps the least favoured there will be some chances: “We just need to be smart. These boats are so big, so powerful and so difficult to make any sail change. You can lose a lot in a sail change. Managing and planning ahead is what’s important for us.”

OVERALL WIN CONTENDERS
Race aficionados believe the 2017 Rolex Sydney Hobart is set to provide conditions most suited to yachts in the 50-foot range. With close to thirty yachts around this size, it is a tough call to pick a single standout contender.

Matt Allen’s Australian TP52 Ichi Ban, launched this year, is well-regarded. The boat has proved fast and competitive in early season racing. Allen’s experience and that of his crew is substantial with over 150 races between them.

The similar-sized Quest may be older, but skipper Bob Steel has two overall wins to his name and the confidence that comes with that: “The Rolex Sydney Hobart used to be a marathon, and now it’s a sprint race. You have to change the mentality. There’s a gate every 50 miles and you have to get to that gate first. Then you start the next sprint. You cannot settle back, you have to be intense from minute one. You have to do everything well and at speed.”

The international contingent is also strong in this size bracket. A number of crews will be challenging Australian hegemony. The Italian Cookson 50 Mascalzone Latino is a former winner of the 605nm Rolex Middle Sea Race. Her crew is highly-tuned and are not here to make up the numbers, according to tactician Adrian Stead: “We are here to give ourselves the best chance of winning. We think we’ve got a good boat, we’ve got a great sailing team and we’ve come here to try to win this race on handicap. We know there are a lot of others that have that same goal. Looking at the weather it’s not bad for us and we’re quite excited.”

It is not clear-cut. Smaller boats, too, see possibilities. Andrew Weiss from the USA with his 43-foot Christopher Dragon is fulfilling a life-long dream, and with the overriding ambition to perform: “We’ve done a lot of racing over the years. When we race, we try to do well. It’s a huge organizational challenge to get here and we are not here just to tick the event off the list.”

One of the smallest boats in the fleet is 35-foot Banque de Nouvelle-Caledonie, owned by Michel Quintin. In 2015 Quintin finished second overall behind a TP52. He counts among his crew 2015 Rolex Fastnet winner Alexis Loisin, a formidable sailor: “We’re good in all conditions. The forecast looks okay at the moment, certainly the start and down to the bottom of Australia. The last part looks less clear- maybe with wind, maybe no wind, even a lot of rain and with a big transition of the wind. We’ll see.”

What is certain is a rousing reception in Hobart for each and every crew participating in the race. And, at the final prize giving, on 31 December the eventual winner will have their achievement acknowledged with the historic Tattersall Trophy and a Rolex timepiece, the recognized reward for excellence.

The 73rd edition of the Rolex Sydney Hobart Yacht Race starts on Tuesday, 26 December at 13:00 AEDT. Daily video highlights will be available on the Rolex Yachting YouTube channel throughout the race.

(Photo @Rolex/ Daniel Forster)

(Photo @Rolex/ Daniel Forster)

 

ENTRIES

Abracadabra, Allegro, Another Painkiller, Arch Rival, Ariel, Banque de Nouvelle Caledonia, Beau Geste, Black Jack, Black Sheep, Blunderbuss, Calibre, Celestial, Chancellor, Charlie’s Dream, China Easyway , Christopher Dragon, USA4304, Chutzpah , Climate Action Now, Concubine, Dare Devil, Dare to Lead, Dark and Stormy, Derucci, Dorade,
Duende, ENVY Scooters Beachball, Enchantress, Enigma, Euphoria II, Eve, Extasea, Flying Fish Arctos, Freyja, GPB Yeah Baby, GREAT Britain, Garmin, Grace O’Malley, Gun Runner, Hartbreaker, Helsal 3, Highfield Caringbah, Hollywood Boulevard, HotelPlanner.com, Ichi Ban , Imalizard, Indian, Infotrack, Invictus Games, Invictus Games, Jazz Player, Khaleesi, Kialoa II, Koa, Komatsu Azzurro, LDV Comanche, Liverpool 2018, M3, Magic Miles, Maluka, Mascalzone Latino 32, Mayfair, Merlin, Merlion, Mister Lucky, Mondo, Nasdaq, Ocean Gem, Opt2Go Scamp, Oskana, PSP Logistics, PYR-ArnoldCo/Wot Eva, Patrice, Pekljus, Qingdao, Quest, Ran Tan II, Reve, Rockall, SailDNA, Sanya Serenity Coast, Seamo Racing Mahligai, She, She’s The Culprit, Smuggler, Snowdome Occasional Coarse Language Too, Sonic, St Jude, TSA Management, Takani, Triple Lindy Triton, Unicef, Vanishing Point, Visit Seattle, Warrior Won, Weddell, Wild Oats X, Wild Oats XI, Wizard, Wots Next, XS Moment