Comanche has unfinished business with Wild Oats XI after being bested by just a few miles due to light airs in the middle of the course (Photo by Rolex/Carlo Borlenghi)

Comanche has unfinished business with Wild Oats XI after being bested by just a few miles due to light airs in the middle of the course (Photo by Rolex/Carlo Borlenghi)

 

As far as the America’s Cup winning skipper Jimmy Spithill is concerned, there is now unfinished business between Rolex Sydney Hobart line honours winner Wild Oats XI and the US supermaxi she beat across the finish line, Comanche.

Spithill was one of six helmsmen on Comanche.

“We can’t leave it at that,” he declared after finishing in Hobart. He says that on his watch this morning the boat reached a top speed of 32 knots and knows what she is capable of.

“Everybody got to see the true potential of this boat at the start. I remember looking up at Kenny (Ken Read, the skipper) and he just had this huge grin from ear to ear. Unfortunately we just didn’t see those sort of conditions again until the end of Bass Strait.”

COMANCHE (USA), 2nd across the line in the 2014 Rolex Sydney Hobart Race Finishish Line COMANCHE, Sail n: 12358, Bow n: 58, Design: Verdier Yacht Design & Vplp, Owner: Jim Clark & Kristy Hinze-Clark, Skipper: Ken Read (Phot by Rolex/Carlo Borlenghi)

COMANCHE (USA), 2nd across the line in the 2014 Rolex Sydney Hobart Race Finishish Line COMANCHE, Sail n: 12358, Bow n: 58, Design: Verdier Yacht Design & Vplp, Owner: Jim Clark & Kristy Hinze-Clark, Skipper: Ken Read (Phot by Rolex/Carlo Borlenghi)

Of course, young James doesn’t pay the bills. Logistically it is impossible for Comanche to come back to Australia next year but is 2016 likely?

Skipper Ken Read deferred to co-owner Kristy Hinze Clark who said it was a matter for the Big Chief, husband Jim Clark.

Ken: “Kristy, they want to know if we’ll be back next year?”

Kristy: “They’ll have to talk to big chief!”

Ken: “Big chief is not going to talk about that now!”

Read reflected on the crucial point of the race – the high-pressure ridge in Bass Strait.

“We were about a quarter of the way into Bass Strait and expecting a westerly breeze, and all of a sudden Stan (navigator Stan Honey) came up from down below and said ‘I just got a new weather file, this is not looking good’.

“We were two miles ahead of them, in bumpy seas, and they literally went by us, probably going a knot or two faster at the time, and they just sailed into more pressure and just kept extending on the whole fleet.

“Both boats sailed a flawless race; but they had their day. They had 12 hours where they had Wild Oats’ weather, but that’s racing.

“You can already see Comanche is already changing sailing as we speak,” Read said.

So after this first race have they identified any changes they will make to the boat?

“Here’s the start of my list,” he said, holding up a piece of paper with top-secret to-dos written on it.

“It’s brand new, we’re just starting. Before this race started, we didn’t know what we didn’t know. We knew we had a good boat right off the start line, the way it just took off on that windy reach.

“Unfortunately we’ve always known we had that one blemish in light air, and that became a dominant feature in the race, so that’s unfortunate for us.”

Designer Xavier Guilbaud said he couldn’t take his eyes off the yacht tracker, keeping notes as Comanche changed angles and the wind circled the compass.

And, he was a bit more forthcoming with his list.

“I’m excited to see Ken’s list, but on top of my own list, what I can see, is work on the weight of the boat to try to lighten her up a bit more, to increase performances in light winds,” he said.

“I’ll discuss with the guys here, a little later, the little bits and pieces on the deck to improve manoeuvres, how the boat is sailed. Then on the sail configuration; how to use each sail, in which condition and improve the sail shapes.

“I think we do have a record breaker on our hands. The real answer will be in June next year when it does the Transatlantic Race. I think the boat is really fast.”

Read was effusive in his praise of the Wild Oats’ crew.

“Wild Oats deserves all its success,” he said, though fate had been against them on Day 2 in Bass Strait when Wild Oats made the better of negotiating a weather ridge that proved the defining moment of the race.

“This was their day; they had their 12 hours; they had Wild Oats’ weather; but that is boat racing,” he said.

“They deserve their eighth record, Lord knows we tried hard to take it from them. This team, our team, did an unbelievable job, and special credit to the boat builders and the design team because Lord knows we tried to break it, and it wouldn’t break.”

By Bruce Montgomery, RSHYR Media

 WILD OATS XI (AUS) set the actual racecourse record in 2012 Race Start - WILD OATS XI, Sail n: AUS10001, Bow n: XI, Design: Reichel Pugh 100, Owner: Robert Oatley, Skipper: Mark Richards  (Photo by Rolex/Carlo Borlenghi)

WILD OATS XI (AUS) set the actual racecourse record in 2012 Race Start – WILD OATS XI, Sail n: AUS10001, Bow n: XI, Design: Reichel Pugh 100, Owner: Robert Oatley, Skipper: Mark Richards (Photo by Rolex/Carlo Borlenghi)

 

Wild Oats XI  leads the 2014 Rolex Sydney Hobart fleet in for a record eighth line honours win.  Wild Oats Xi finished the race in a time of  :  2 Days,  2 Hours,  3 Minutes and 26 seconds.

The only yacht capable of denying Wild Oats XI and Mark Richards an 8th win and a place in history was the American Maxi Comanche.  Ken Read and crew gave their best but weren’t able to close the 10 mile gap in the final stretch through Storm Bay and the Derwent River and to the finish line in Hobart, Tasmania.

The Mark Richards-skippered Wild Oats XI extended her lead throughout the second night, taking advantage of a high-pressure ridge in the Bass Strait. Wild Oats XI’s lead proved to big for the Comanche team to overcome.

COMANCHE (USA) crashing through the waves on the way south to Tasmania Race Start COMANCHE, Sail n: 12358, Bow n: 58, Design: Verdier Yacht Design & Vplp, Owner: Jim Clark & Kristy Hinze-Clark, Skipper: Ken Read (Photo by Rolex/Carlo Borlenghi)

COMANCHE (USA) crashing through the waves on the way south to Tasmania Race Start COMANCHE, Sail n: 12358, Bow n: 58, Design: Verdier Yacht Design & Vplp, Owner: Jim Clark & Kristy Hinze-Clark, Skipper: Ken Read (Photo by Rolex/Carlo Borlenghi)

The remainder of the fleet are compressed coming down the New South Wales coast and expected to benefit from the dramatic increase in breeze forecast from Sunday evening to Monday morning.

Of the 117 yachts which started the race, nice have been forced to retire. The Maxi Perpetual Loyal

Follow the race on the live tracker:

http://www.rolexsydneyhobart.com/tracker/

 

 

Photo By: Rolex / Carlo Borlenghi

Photo By: Rolex / Carlo Borlenghi

 

Opera House and Harbour Bridge as impressive background for the start of the Rolex Sydney Hobart (Phot by Rolex / Carlo Borlenghi)

Opera House and Harbour Bridge as impressive background for the start of the Rolex Sydney Hobart (Phot by Rolex / Carlo Borlenghi)

Seven hours into the 2014 Rolex Sydney Hobart Yacht Race, Jim Clark’s 100-ft Maxi Comanche(USA) leads the fleet. A memorable edition of the 628-nm race appears certain, with the contest between the fleet’s five Maxi yachts living up to the pre-race hype.
At 8:00pm local time, Comanche leads seven-time line honours winner Wild Oats XI by one nautical mile, with Anthony Bell’s Perpetual Loyal and Syd Fischer’s Ragamuffin 100 just a few miles behind the leading duo. Overnight the breeze is forecast to lighten as a high pressure system approaches. How the frontrunners navigate this transition could be a critical factor in their race.

Comanche makes mark

Racing COMANCHE, Sail n: 12358, Bow n: 58, Design: Verdier Yacht Design & Vplp, Owner: Jim Clark & Kristy Hinze-Clark, Skipper: Ken Read (Photo by Rolex / Daniel Forster)

Racing COMANCHE, Sail n: 12358, Bow n: 58, Design: Verdier Yacht Design & Vplp, Owner: Jim Clark & Kristy Hinze-Clark, Skipper: Ken Read (Photo by Rolex / Daniel Forster)

A fleet of 117 international yachts graced today’s Rolex Sydney Hobart Yacht Race start. The thousands of spectators lining the shoreline in Sydney were treated to a dramatic start as the leading yachts powered their way out of Sydney Harbour and began the famous 628-nautical mile offshore race to Hobart.

Celebrations for the 70th edition of the race commenced with a Parade of Sail of historic Rolex Sydney Hobart competitors before the race start. A fitting tribute to the race, which has become an international icon since its inauguration in 1945.
Comanche had an incredible start reaching the first course mark at record speed.  Race record holder Wild Oats XI gallantly tried to keep pace, watching in awe as Comanche laid down an early indicator of her potential. “Look at that thing go!,” screamed Wild Oats XI skipper Mark Richards.

WILD OATX XI (AUS) SAILING TOWARDS HOBART  Racing WILD OATS XI, Sail n: AUS10001, Bow n: XI, Design: Reichel Pugh 100, Owner: Robert Oatley, Skipper: Mark Richards (Photo by Rolex / Daniel Forster )

WILD OATX XI (AUS) SAILING TOWARDS HOBART Racing WILD OATS XI, Sail n: AUS10001, Bow n: XI, Design: Reichel Pugh 100, Owner: Robert Oatley, Skipper: Mark Richards (Photo by Rolex / Daniel Forster )

“We couldn’t be more ready at this stage,” admitted Comanche skipper Ken Read shortly before the race start. “The team has done a Herculean effort to get the boat ready. We are here to compete, it’s the fun part of our job.”

“Going into a southerly the first night is always a bit of a challenge,” said Mark Richards going into the race. “(The boat) being ten years old though is a little bit of an advantage for us as we know the boat very well.”

MANOUCH MOSHAYEDI'S RIO 100 (USA), ONE OF FIVE 100FT MAXIS IN CONTENTION  Race Start RIO 100, Sail n: USA2121, Bow n: 98, Design: Bakewell-White 100, Owner: Manouch Moshayedi, Skipper: Manouch Moshayedi (Photo by Rolex / Daniel Forster)

MANOUCH MOSHAYEDI’S RIO 100 (USA), ONE OF FIVE 100FT MAXIS IN CONTENTION Race Start RIO 100, Sail n: USA2121, Bow n: 98, Design: Bakewell-White 100, Owner: Manouch Moshayedi, Skipper: Manouch Moshayedi (Photo by Rolex / Daniel Forster)

Shortly after the start, Peter Isler, navigator on Manouch Moshayedi’s RIO 100 reported: “We are definitely learning our boat in these conditions. It’s very rough, sailing upwind in 25-27 knots, pounding hard into short, steep waves.”

The rough conditions have proved demanding for a number of the fleet with four retirements already recorded.

The race record for leading yachts to beat is 1 day, 18 hours, 23 minutes and 12 seconds, set by Bob Oatley’s Wild Oats XI in 2012.

The Rolex Sydney Hobart is organised by the Cruising Yacht Club of Australia (CYCA) and has been sponsored by Rolex since 2002.

Follow the progress of the 2014 Rolex Sydney Hobart Yacht fleet at: http://www.rolexsydneyhobart.com/tracker/

MATT ALLEN'S ICHI BAN DURING THE FIRST EVENING OF THE RACE  Racing ICHI BAN, Sail n: AUS01, Bow n: O1, Design: Carkeek 60, Owner: Matt Allen, Skipper: Matt Allen (Photo by Rolex/Daniel Forster)

MATT ALLEN’S ICHI BAN DURING THE FIRST EVENING OF THE RACE Racing ICHI BAN, Sail n: AUS01, Bow n: O1, Design: Carkeek 60, Owner: Matt Allen, Skipper: Matt Allen (Photo by Rolex/Daniel Forster)

 

Wild Oats XI (Photo by Rolex/Carlo Borlenghi)

Wild Oats XI (Photo by Rolex/Carlo Borlenghi)

Entries for the 70th edition of the Rolex Sydney Hobart Yacht Race officially closed on the evening of Friday 31 October. The resulting line-up of 119 yachts – set to be the event’s largest in a decade – is befitting of such a historic occasion. The presence of five 100 foot Maxis will steal the news headlines, but the impressive nature of the fleet stretches far beyond the fastest boats. Adding lustre to the occasion are a host of yachts that have won the race before, ten international entrants, and an array of Australian crews spearheaded by sailors with over 40 editions of the race to their name.

In keeping with tradition the race starts at 13:00 local time on 26 December, Boxing Day, from Sydney Harbour. The destination is Hobart, Tasmania over a famous 628-nautical mile racecourse. The competition has been sponsored by Rolex since 2002 and forms an integral part of its triumvirate of offshore races comprising the Rolex Fastnet Race and the Rolex Middle Sea Race.

Comanche raider

At the front of the fleet, the quest for line honours promises to be open and competitive. Bob Oatley’s 100-ft Wild Oats XI has been the fastest yacht on the water in seven of the last nine race editions. Experience, guile and knowledge of the conditions ensure the Mark Richards-skippered yacht starts as favourite in the race to be first to finish.

Comanche VPLP 100 (Photo © George Bekris)

Comanche VPLP 100 (Photo © George Bekris)

Anthony Bell, line honours winner in 2011, will be one of those hoping to knock Wild Oats XI off her stride. His yacht Perpetual Loyal has strong pedigree in the race and an excellent crew, which includes 2010 ISAF Rolex World Sailor of the Year Tom Slingsby.

Comanche VPLP 100 (Photo © George Bekris)

Comanche VPLP 100 (Photo © George Bekris)

A layer of the unknown has been introduced with the entry from the United States of Jim Clark’s Comanche. Clark has made a bold statement – shipping his brand new 100 foot Ken Read-skippered yacht to Sydney immediately following its October launch in New England. This will be the boat’s first race – the ultimate baptism of fire! Clark has sought to dilute expectations, asserting Comanche was not designed with the Rolex Sydney Hobart in mind, and pointing to a lack of preparation time: “The boat and crew will have had only a couple of weeks on the water before we ship it to Australia. There’s a lot of work to do before the race start. In the short term, I don’t have high expectations, but in the long term, I think this boat could really set a mark.”

COMANCHE FIRST SAIL VIDEO 

The fourth 100-ft Maxi to watch is Ragamuffin 100. Owner Syd Fischer, at 87 years of age and with 45 Rolex Sydney Hobarts to his name, has virtually rebuilt  Ragamuffin 100 fitting its original deck to a new hull. The ultimate competitor, including line honours winner at the Rolex China Sea Race last April, he has more knowledge of the race than almost any other entrant. Completing the line up of 100 foot Maxis, is the outsider – American entrant RIO 100 previously competed in the race under the guise of Lahana and counts expert American navigator Peter Isler as part of its crew.

Chasing Victoire

The history of the Rolex Sydney Hobart proves that the overall winner of the race can come from anywhere within the fleet. Prevailing conditions often determine whether the larger or smaller yachts are favoured. In 2013, Darryl Hodgkinson’s 50-ft Victoire claimed victory following in the wake of a diverse range of recent winners Two True (40-ft, 2009), Loki (60-ft, 2011) and Wild Oats XI (100-ft, 2012). Victoire is seeking to become the first boat to successfully retain the Tattersall’s Cup since the mid-1960s.

International influence

In keeping with its international reputation and wide global interest, the Rolex Sydney Hobart always welcomes an array of foreign entrants who have to overcome the added logistical challenge of shipping or sailing their boat to Sydney. Along with American entrants Comanche andRIO 100, yachts from the Cayman Islands, Germany, New Zealand, Poland and the United Kingdom add foreign glamour to the 119-strong fleet.

NIKATA  in heavy seas (Photo by Rolex/Carlo Borlenghi)

NIKATA in heavy seas (Photo by Rolex/Carlo Borlenghi)

Festive atmosphere

Pre-race celebrations will include a Parade of Sail of historic Rolex Sydney Hobart entrants before hundreds of thousands of spectators ashore and on the water in Sydney. The race start will be broadcast live throughout Australia and also webcast live to a global audience. Given the wide interest in this 70th edition, victory will have an extra coat of fulfilment.

LINE HONOURS WINNER WILD OATS XI  Crew on the rail (Photo by Rolex / Carlo Borlenghi)

LINE HONOURS WINNER WILD OATS XI Crew on the rail (Photo by Rolex / Carlo Borlenghi)

ONE MORE TIME
While not the record-setting pace, Wild Oats XI still made her indelible mark in the record books, taking the line honours win at the 2013 Rolex Sydney Hobart Race. Close reaching up the Derwent River, the 100-footer crossed the finish line off Battery Point in Hobart, at 7:07pm local time (AEDT). Wild Oats’ elapsed time of 2 days, 6 hours, 7 minutes, 27 seconds gave sWild Oats XIkipper Mark Richards and crew their seventh line honours win, which ties the record held by the yacht Morna/Kurrewa IV.

Thousands of spectators lined the shore and docks of Constitution Dock and neighboring piers on a beautiful summer’s evening to cheer Wild Oats XI as their crew tied up to the dock. Stepping ashore, a tired looking Mark Richards said, “It was all hard…a lot of testing conditions, a lot of light air and mentally very draining. We had a bit of everything that was the great thing about it.

BOB OATLEY, OWNER OF WILD OATS XI AND SKIPPER MARK RICHARDS RECEIVE THE ROLEX YACHTMASTER TIMEPIECE

BOB OATLEY, OWNER OF WILD OATS XI AND SKIPPER MARK RICHARDS RECEIVE THE ROLEX YACHTMASTER TIMEPIECE Photo By: Rolex / Carlo Borlengh

Greatest thrill of my
life…seven!
Bob Oatley – Wild Oats XI owner

“This is one of the best wins you could probably have. There’s a lot of new competition and a lot of anxiety, no one hadany idea how we were going to go against each other. To sail away from these guys throughout the race was pretty amazing.” Wild Oats XI owner, Australian winemaker Bob Oatley, joined Richards ashore and exclaimed, “Greatest thrill of my life…seven!”

Following was a dockside presentation where skipper Mark Richards and owner Bob Oatley were presented with the JJ Illingworth Trophy and a Rolex timepiece as the first yacht to finish.

WILD OATS XI, Sail No: 10001, Bow No: XI, Owner: Robert Oatley, Skipper: Mark Richards, Design: Reichel Pugh 30 Mtr, LOA (m): 30.5, State: NSW off Tasman Island

WILD OATS XI, Sail No: 10001, Bow No: XI, Owner: Robert Oatley, Skipper: Mark Richards, Design: Reichel Pugh 30 Mtr, LOA (m): 30.5, State: NSW off Tasman Island

The Reichel/Pugh-designed boat, built in 2005, showed itself as still competitive in this year’s race, up against the toughest fleet ever assembled – which included 100-footers Perpetual Loyal and Ragamuffin 100, Volvo 70s Giacomo and Black Jack, and the newly launched 80-footer, Beau Geste. Richards said “To see a nearly nine-year old boat like this perform against the greatest and latest ocean racing boats in the world is pretty impressive.”

Ian Burns, Wild Oats’ strategist recalled a key part of the race, “The first night proved to be a huge parking lot for us and a lot of boats cleverly maneuvered through that, and really gave us quite a hard time to catch up. Luckily we had quite light conditions, which I don’t think suits them (Perpetual Loyal) anywhere near as well as us. We were able to chip away slowly, you know a 1/10th of a mile at a time.  Just after we got past them we came into a really light zone of wind and we managed to keep going – and they got parked up in the same zone and lost a huge amount of distance there.

“It started off (first day) if you were in front, you sort of lost to the guys behind you; but the second half of the race, once you got in front you got richer and richer, the wind got stronger, and more shift to you. We were able to leverage that pretty heavily and make some steady gains right through the whole race right down to Tasman.”

Perpetual LOYAL (Photo by Rolex /  Daniel Forster)

Perpetual LOYAL (Photo by Rolex / Daniel Forster)

Anthony Bell’s Perpetual Loyal was second across the finish line with a time of 2 days, 9 hours, 19 minutes, 56 seconds. Bell is familiar with the front of the fleet – the skipper took line honours in the 2011 Rolex Sydney Hobart Race on his previous boat Investec Loyal. That boat, now in the hands of Syd Fischer as Ragamuffin 100, was on track to be third over the finish line, givingWild Oats and Loyal a run for their money.

Ragamuffin 100  ( Photo by Rolex / Daniel Forster)

Ragamuffin 100 ( Photo by Rolex / Daniel Forster)

When the bulk of the race fleet reached Bass Strait earlier today, the notorious body of water proved somewhat benign, with a 20 – 25 knot northeasterly providing perfect downwind sailing conditions. But the threat of the approaching low pressure that is forecast to bring a 30 – 40 knot southwesterly has the boats pushing to get as far south, as fast as possible.

Overnight tonight, a closely grouped pack of bigger boats are due to finish including Black Jack, Beau Geste, Giacomo, and Wild Thing.

The race for overall handicap winner is still up for play. With the changing weather conditions, competitor’s chances have been reshuffled. At 10pm local time AEDT, Bruce Taylor’s Caprice 40, Chutzpah was leading IRC overall on handicap.

Ninety boats are still racing – today Wilparina retired for unknown reasons, while Canute retired with rudder bearing problems.

 

Leg 4, Race 6, Day 1 During the Sydney Hobart 2013

Leg 4, Race 6, Day 1 During the Sydney Hobart 2013 (Photo courtesy Clipper Round the World Race)

With just four miles separating the top five Clipper Race teams as they pass the halfway mark, tensions are reaching summer boiling point. The race leader and fleet positions change frequently and podium positions are anything but predictable as Race 6 continues its thrilling progress.
In a dramatic morning’s racing, GREAT Britain (44th overall in the Rolex Sydney Hobart Race)moved up four fleet positions to take over the Race 6 lead momentarily from Henri Lloyd (42ndoverall) who has just now regained its front spot.
Derry~Londonderry~Doire (45th overall) has made terrific gains this morning and whilst writing this report has now moved into third (50th overall) with Old Pulteney (51st overall) who had led the fleet for the previous 36 hours, now fourth.
Providing his take on the race so far, Deputy Race Director Mark Light said: “The fleet has left the sunshine shores of South East Australia and passed Cape Green, entering the notorious Bass Strait. This stretch of water can be ferocious, like a raging animal baring its teeth. At the moment it is more akin to a small kitten asleep in the sunshine, but the latest weather forecasts are showing things are going to change.
“Coming up to the approximately the halfway mark in this iconic race is where things will start to get very tactical as the yachts race to get across Bass Strait as quickly as possible to avoid the worst of the conditions and begin to negotiate the tricky East Tasmanian Coast while at the same time trying not to wake the weather animal asleep in the corner.
“The fleet is incredibly compact still so the next 36 hours are going to make for some very nail biting watching. Race Tracker viewers following at home will be glued to their screens I am sure.”
Clipper Race founder Sir Robin Knox-Johnston who is racing aboard Clipper 68, CV10 is keeping up with the Clipper 70s which he helped to design, currently sitting in 55th place overall in approximately the middle of the Clipper Race fleet.All positions reported as at the time of writing and are changing frequently. Check the Clipper Race tracker for the latest positions. It is updating every 10 minutes during this race.
To read all the skipper reports, CLICK HERE

To follow the Clipper Race 6 tracker, CLICK HERE

To follow the Clipper Race yachts in the overall Rolex Sydney Hobart Yacht Race standings, CLICK HERE.

FROM SYDNEY, INTO THE FRAY

Rolex Sydney Hobart Start 2013 by Daniel Forster

Rolex Sydney Hobart Start 2013 (Photo by Rolex / Daniel Forster)

The low pressure system that brought rain to the Sydney area yesterday moved out to sea, providing picture perfect conditions today – a 15-18 knot southeasterly, sunshine and blue skies – for the 94-boat fleet starting the Rolex Sydney Hobart Race.

Boxing Day spectators lined the Sydney shoreline, and pleasure boats, ferries and all manner of craft jockeyed for a place outside the harbour’s exclusion zone, to watch the 94-boat fleet, go off at the 1:00pm (AEDT) starter’s cannon. The size and speed of the top end of this year’s fleet required a change to three staggered start lines.

The bigger boats, on the forward-most line, set their giant code zero headsails and were quickly off on a starboard reach: while 100-footers Wild Oats XI and Perpetual Loyal were drag-racing in front, just behind were Beau Geste, Ragamuffin, and Wild Thing along with the Volvo 70s, Black Jack and Giacomo. The 80-foot Beau Geste, with the pedal down, rounded the turning mark second, behind Wild Oats XI.

Maxis at Sydney Hobart Start by Carlo Borlenghi

Maxis at Sydney Hobart Yacht Race 2013 Start (Photo by Rolex / Carlo Borlenghi)

The south-southeasterly breeze, combined with the spectator fleet wash, outside of the race exclusion zone, caused a washing machine-like chop, but that will pale with what is predicted for the fleet further down the 628-nautical mile race track.

The forecast is for lighter winds tonight and tomorrow, before a north-northeasterly fills in, providing ideal downwind conditions. For tacticians on the bigger, faster boats how they manage this transition will be key. For now they will endeavour to get as far south, as fast as they can.

Behind them, the smaller boats will be facing westerly gale-force winds predicted for late Saturday night (60 hours after the start) in Bass Strait and down to Tasman Island. Adding to these punishing conditions will be a westerly swell upwards of ten meters.

But the race more often than not, serves up tough conditions. Prior to the start, many of the skippers and crews, chalked up the forecast as fairly typical. Roger Hickman, skipper of Wild Rose, is a race veteran, having started in 35 races, and completed 33 of them.  Hickman said, “It is what it is. Tonight should be quiet, tomorrow quiet and then I believe we’re going to get a real pasting in Bass Strait, fresh to frightening, gale-force winds, but that’s the way it is.

The experience, the talent and the sea
miles that are in this race are astounding
Roger Hickman, skipper of Wild Rose

Hickman acknowledged that the boats and crew were up to the task, adding, “There’s a great fleet of boats here, but what’s more important is the crew. Every one of these magnificent boats is full of competitive, competent, solid yachtsmen. The experience, the talent and the sea miles that are in this race are astounding.”

Brendan Garner, on the Beneteau 45, Senna, will be racing for the first time as skipper, having done the race five races before. Garner said, “It’s going to be a complicated race; there’s going to be a lot of gear changes. We’ve done a fair bit of work with our sail systems and set-ups, so we’re quite comfortable with that. Overall we’re not too fussed with the forecast, we’re quite happy with it.”

A successful Etchells-class sailor, Garner commented on the change up from one-design to offshore and said, “You’re out there for a long time, you have to be mentally and physically prepared. It’s a race of endurance.”

Crowds at Sydney Hobaret 2013 (Photo by Rolex / Carlo Borlenghi)

Crowds at Sydney Hobaret 2013 (Photo by Rolex / Carlo Borlenghi)

By late afternoon, many of the bigger boats had headed offshore looking for more favorable breeze; the front-runners were 15-25 nautical miles east of Kiama, making 15-16 knots of speed upwind.

Tracker

Current status of the race will be available on the online tracker at: http://rolexsydneyhobart.com/tracker/

EVENT PROGRAMME

From Saturday, 28 December

Arrival of the first boats in Hobart

Wednesday, 1 January
11:00 Final prize giving, Royal Yacht Club of Tasmania (RYCT)

Sydney Hobart Start by Daniel Forster

Sydney Hobart Start (Photo by Rolex / Daniel Forster)