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.

Wild Oats XI near finish (Photo by Rolex / Daniel Forster)

DOUBLE TRIPLE WITH ICING ON THE TOP
 
Robert Oatley’s Wild Oats XI was announced this morning as the Overall Winner of the 68th Rolex Sydney Hobart. It had become clear overnight that none of the yachts still at sea could better the corrected time established by the 30.48m (100 foot) maxi skippered by Mark Richards. Wild Oats XI has repeated its historic performance of 2005, when it secured the treble of Line Honours, Overall Winner and Race Record.

 

Aside from Rani, in the very first race, Wild Oats XI is the only yacht ever to have achieved this impressive display of dominance. She has now done it twice. Bob Oatley was understandably impressed: “The main aim was the fastest time. To get the handicap too was fantastic, a real bonus. Getting the record trip was really the icing on the cake.”

By 15:00 AEDT on 29 December, 13 yachts had finished the 2012 Rolex Sydney Hobart including two of the international entries: KLC Bengal from Japan and Ambersail from Lithuania. Last year’s winner, Loki, has so far come closest to unseating Wild Oats XI. Finishing last night at just before 21:00 even she was two hours adrift on corrected time. Black Jack, which arrived an hour before Loki, lies in third overall. Chris Bull’s Jazz holds fourth.

Victorian yacht Calm had appeared to have the best opportunity of the yachts destined to arrive before dawn today. Needing to finish before 01:31, she was behind schedule yesterday afternoon. Owner Jason Van der Slot believed they would pick up pace but had not counted on stalling close to the finish: “We parked for two hours off Tasman Island and for an hour in the Derwent. We were aiming to finish in time to win and up to Tasman Island we were on track. It had all gone according to plan until then.” She eventually finished at 06:06 this morning and holds fifth place.

Five yachts have retired so far and, for the 58 yachts still racing, a difficult evening lies ahead. In the lee of northeastern Tasmania there is a substantial wind shadow. From midway down the eastern seaboard to Tasman Island spindrift is flying off 3 metre waves in a 26 – 36 knot west-southwesterly. These conditions are forecast to prevail through much of 30 December too.

Wild Oats approaching the Hobart finish for 2012 Line Honors (Photo by Rolex / Carlo Borlenghi)

 
        
 
On the morning of 28 December 2012, Wild Oats XI once again stamped her name in the Rolex Sydney Hobart history books. From the moment the start gun fired on Boxing Day the silver wraith seemed intent on condemning her rivals for line honours to the position of also-rans. Wild Oats XI’s finish time of 1 day 18 hours 23 minutes and 12 seconds sliced 16 minutes 58 seconds off her own record. Another commanding performance in a race she has begun to treat as her own.

 

Without doubt skipper Mark Richard’s crew of thoroughbred racers had some luck, but their race was not without problems. The first night saw the wind drop in the scheduled transition and her opponents close down the lead she had worked to establish during the afternoon. The crew held their nerve and once the northeasterly settled in they were off.

Ragamuffin-Loyal’s endeavours to stay in touch with Wild Oats XI were hampered by a headsail gear failure from which the 100-foot maxi never recovered; Syd Fischer’s equally accomplished crew forced to accept the unwelcome role of bridesmaid. Ragamuffin-Loyal finished almost five hours behind Wild Oats XI. Had the apparent error of starting the race too early been converted to a penalty, her crew’s sense of disappointment would have been complete. Fortunately, the International Jury found that race officials failed to notify Ragamuffin-Loyal after five minutes that they had jumped the start, leaving the crew unaware that they should have returned and restarted.

By 20:30 AEDT only four yachts had completed the 628 nm course. Lahana rounded out the maxi contingent just before 19:00, while Black Jack was the first mini maxi some 40 minutes later. Loki and Ichi Ban will be next home. None have so far been capable of posting a time that knocks Wild Oats XI off the overall podium position. The door may be open for a smaller yacht if the weather obliges. Calm, Jazz, Quest and Shogun look best placed to foil a second triple crown. They need the wind to shift substantially in their favour, something it has singularly failed to do so far.

Wild Oats XI near finish (Photo by Rolex / Daniel Forster)

MALUKA OF KERMANDIE the smallest yacht in the fleet by Daniel Forster

MALUKA OF KERMANDIE the smallest yacht in the fleet (Photo by Rolex / Daniel Forster)

The 68th Rolex Sydney Hobart got underway in exceptional conditions. The forecast southerly breeze providing the perfect angle for a spinnaker start and run down the harbour. The angle would prove less kind as the yachts exited the Sydney Heads and made their turn towards Hobart, finding the 20 – 25 knots now firmly on the nose. Mark Richards and Wild Oats XI looked to be in no mood to be interrupted in her bid to claim a sixth line honours, blasting off the line and showing Syd Fischer’s Ragamuffin Loyal a clean pair of heels before popping out of the Heads comfortably in the lead.

 
 
An interesting night lies ahead. The decision how far to head out to sea was the first conundrum facing the crews. So far the bulk of yachts appear firm in the belief that staying inshore, and inside the rhumb line will pay better. Only, one or two boats have shown a determination to head offshore for any length of time. Mike Broughton, navigator on Chris Bull’s Jazz, felt ahead of the start that the fleet would do well to stay inshore for the initial section of the race, certainly until the major swing in wind direction expected during the night. This transition should see the wind back to the northeast and will have the yachts running under spinnaker for an extended period.

 
Start of the 2012 Rolex Sydney Hobart
Earlier this morning, Gordon Maguire, tactician on Stephen Ainsworth’s Loki, indicated some of their pre-race routing suggested the bigger yachts could profit enormously from the predicted northeasterly. If it arrives on cue, they could bite a huge chunk out of the course during the hours of darkness and be lying off Green Cape by mid-morning on the second day, 27 December. The small boats, meanwhile, such as race veteran Roger Hickman’s Wild Rose, might only find themselves parallel with Jervis Bay as dawn breaks. The difference in power between segments of the fleet will be all too apparent at this juncture.

 

Wild Oats XI leads out of Sydney Harbor (Photo by Rolex / Carlo Borlenghi)

WILD OATS XI, after the start
At 17:30 AEDT Wild Oats XI was 8 nautical miles north east of Kiama travelling at 12 knots, with some 50 nm under her belt after 4.5 hours of sailing. Any thought of setting a new record seemed to be on hold as navigator Adrienne Cahalan called in to report the wind speed dropping as evening arrives. Ragamuffin Loyal lies within striking distance just astern. Lahana, Ichi Ban and Black Jack round out the top five on the water. Conditions have been wet and hard on crews during these first few hours and the measure of performance differential between front-runners and back markers is clearly demonstrated by Charlie’s Dream. Averaging just 3.4 knots, Peter Lewis and crew were parallel with Botany Bay having knocked a mere 13 nm off the 628nm course distance.

Black Jack charges down the harbor by Daniel Forster

Black Jack charges down the harbor (Photo by Rolex / Daniel Forster)

The start of the Rolex Sydney Hobart is like few other yacht races. The natural amphitheatre formed by the deep-water harbour offers great viewing potential from the water, at water level from the beaches and coves, and grandstand opportunities from higher ground. Every Sydney-sider has a favourite location, and South Head must be one of the most popular and dramatic. A huge crowd always assembles to watch the fleet barrel down the harbour and make the sharp out into open water. This year’s spectacle was worth the effort involved. After a dreadful Christmas Day, when rain and wind battered Sydney, Boxing Day has been a joy. Blue sky and reasonably warm temperatures brought the locals out in their thousands to cheer the determined and enthusiastic crews off on their compelling adventure.

 

Crowds on the South End enjoy the spectacle. (Photo by Rolex / Carlo Borlenghi)

Entries

Abracadabra 5612 New South Wales Tripp 47
AFR Midnight Rambler 8338 New South Wales Ker 40
Akatea NZL8710 New Zealand Cookson 50
Ambersail LTU1000 Lithuania Volvo 60
Ariel A140 New South Wales Beneteau First 40
Asylum YC10 South Australia Sydney 38
Aurora N3 New South Wales Farr 40 – One Off
Black Jack 52566 Queensland Reichel Pugh 66
Blunderbuss RQ4000 Queensland Beneteau First 40
Brannew 9988 New South Wales Beneteau First 40 Cr
Breakthrough 6834 New South Wales Beneteau First 40
Brindabella 10000 New South Wales Jutson 79
Calm SM5252 Victoria TP52
Carbon Credits 6669 Queensland Beneteau First 45
Celestial-Assistance Dogs 421 New South Wales Rogers 46
Charlie’s Dream RQ1920 Queensland Bluewater 450
Chutzpah R33 Victoria IRC 40
CIC Technology Inca F111 Aust Capital Territory Vickers 41
Copernicus 6689 New South Wales Radford 12
Corporate Initiatives 7407 New South Wales Beneteau First 40.7
Cougar II 5200 Tasmania TP52
Dekadence S20 Victoria DK46
Duende ESP6100 New South Wales JV52
Dump Truck A6 Tasmania Ker 11.3
Enchantress SA346 South Australia Muirhead 11
Eressea 6590 Queensland Hanse 415
Finistere F108 Western Australia Davidson 50
Flying Fish Arctos 7551 New South Wales McIntyre 55
Frantic GBR5211 New South Wales TP52
Geomatic M495 Victoria Hanse 495
Halcyon R75 Victoria Beneteau First 40
Helsal III 262 Tasmania Adams 20
Holdens Secret Mens Business YC3300 South Australia Reichel Pugh 51
Icefire R6572 New South Wales Mummery 45
Ichi Ban AUS 03 New South Wales Jones 70
Illusion 5356 New South Wales Davidson 34
INSX SM5985 Victoria NSX 38
Jazz Player S390 Victoria Bakewell – White 39
Jazz 5299 New South Wales Cookson 50
Kioni 6146 New South Wales Beneteau First 47.7
KLC Bengal 7 JPN4321 Japan Humphreys 54
Lahana 10081 New South Wales 30m Maxi
Living Doll R55 Victoria Farr 55
Local Hero 1236 New South Wales BH 36
Loki AUS 60000 New South Wales Reichel Pugh 63
Love & War 294 New South Wales S & S 47
Luna Sea 8339 New South Wales Hick 35
Lunchtime Legend RQ14 Queensland Beneteau First 40
Maluka of Kermandie A19 Tasmania Ranger
Martela 7075 Tasmania IMX 38
Merit 8679 Queensland Volvo 60
Occasional Coarse Language Too 8008 New South Wales Sydney GTS 43
Ocean Affinity RQ64 Queensland Marten 49
Papillon 6841 New South Wales Archambault 40RC
Patrice Six 360 New South Wales X41
Peugeot Surfrider 7771 New South Wales Beneteau 45
Primitive Cool S777 Victoria Farr 40 Mod
Quest 52002 New South Wales TP 52
Ragamuffin Loyal SYD100 New South Wales Elliott 100
Rikki NZL8008 New Zealand Reichel Pugh 42
Rush B45 Victoria Corel 45
Sailors with disAbilities 6953 New South Wales Nelson Marek 52
She 4924 New South Wales Olsen 40
Shogun 6952 Victoria JV 52
Southern Excellence NOR2 New South Wales Volvo 60
St Jude 6686 New South Wales Sydney 47
This Way Up RF360 Western Australia Sydney 36CR
Toybox 2 MH4 New South Wales XP 44
TSA Management MH60 New South Wales Sydney 38
Tusitala SAM1 Samoa Goss 60
Two True YC400 South Australia Beneteau First 40
Veloce SM602 Victoria Elliott 44CR
Wicked SM4 Victoria Beneteau First 40
Wild Oats XI 10001 New South Wales RP100
Wild Rose 4343 New South Wales Farr 43
Zen 3838 New South Wales Sydney 38

Syd Fischer and Tony Ellis (Photo by Rolex / Daniel Forster)

 

The 68th Rolex Sydney Hobart Yacht Race promises to be one for the true believers; if you admire people who constantly challenge your values, fire your imagination, refuse to quit when the going gets tough, can’t be told that they are too old, are too stubborn to give it away and who keep coming back for more, then this year’s race is a Christmas present you’ll never forget.

At centre stage of the race, again run by the Cruising Yacht Club of Australia, is Sydney yachtsman Syd Fischer, a national living treasure who is still in the grip of finish line fever. At the age of 85, when most men of his age might be shuffling around a retirement village in their slippers with their trousers braced up around their chest, Fischer wants to win line honours in the Rolex Sydney Hobart Yacht race – again.

He’s taken over the boat to do it, Investec Loyal, last year’s first across the line. The 100-foot super maxi becomes the latest iteration of Fischer’s Ragamuffin series, Ragamuffin Loyal.

Syd – lean, leather-skinned, laconic, highly competitive and still the subject of discussion for his exploits on and off the water – personifies Sydney: he won’t lie down.

The challenge he mounts at the front of the 80-boat fleet caps off an indifferent year for Australian sport internationally, a disastrous year for world cycling, but a great year for Australian sailing.

We had success at the Olympics with Mathew Belcher and Malcolm Page in the 470 Men’s, Nathan Outteridge and Iain Jensen in the 49er, Tom Slingsby in the Laser and Olivia Price, Nina Curtis, and Lucinda Whitty in the Women’s Match Racing in the Elliott 6. The TV coverage at the superb Weymouth venue has reinvigorated interest in sailing and helped to demystify it for non-sailors.

Fischer will be on his 44th Sydney-Hobart. He has already won line honours wins with Ragamuffin in 1988 and 1990, with an overall win in 1992 aboard an updated Ragamuffin.

This year he is leasing Investec Loyal with a view to knocking off five-time line honours winner and race record holder (1:18:40:10 set in 2005) Wild Oats XI, whose skipper, Mark Richards, is just young enough to be his grandson.

Last year Loyal, skippered by owner Anthony Bell, beat Wild Oats XI in the fourth closest finish in the race’s history; three minutes and eight seconds.

This month Richards and Wild Oats XI recaptured a psychological advantage over Fischer by taking line honours in the 180 nautical mile Cabbage Tree Island Race, when Ragamuffin Loyal had to drop her mainsail after a pin dropped out of the port runner block. Sailing with a scratch crew, Fischer made repairs, but was unwilling to risk the rig. It must be noted she was eight miles behind Oats at the time and contesting her first ocean race with Fischer.

Prior to winning last year’s race, Loyal was second across the line in 2010 and fourth in 2009. Not only has Fischer leased Loyal for the next two Hobart races, he will buy it outright when the lease runs out.

For this year’s Hobart race, Fischer will have right-hand man, Tony Ellis, and David Witt as boat captain. Ellis will sail his 46th race (one behind the record), but will sail his 40 together with Fischer, while Witt was one of Australia’s best known 18ft skiff sailors in the 90s. He made the transition to ocean racing, via the great events: the Rolex Sydney Hobart, Melbourne-Osaka double-handed race and the Volvo Ocean Race.

Asked at today’s official launch if there are many arguments between him and Fischer on the boat, Ellis said: “We’ve had plenty of cross words over the years – but it stays on the boat.” Does Ellis win any of the arguments? “Syd’s won a few arguments with me,” Ellis quipped.

When asked about the crew that will be onboard for the Hobart race, Ellis said, “We’re going to have a pretty well rounded crew by the time we get to the start line… Andrew Cape (multiple Volvo Ocean Race and Rolex Sydney Hobart yachtsman) is going to come and navigate for us. The last time we sailed together (the 1992 Hobart), we won the race overall.

Geoff Huegill, the Aussie swimming legend and former butterfly world record holder, is back, sailing aboard the same boat he did his first race on in 2010; Ragamuffin Loyal. “To be part of a crew that has such great experience behind them is something that I am really looking forward to,” he said.

“Once you’ve got the bug for sailing it really gets you – the teamwork aspect is an opportunity that I really enjoy,” Huegill commented.

The hardest part of his first race, the retired swimmer said, was “Sleep deprivation – but I’m used to it now, because I have a 10 month old baby,” he said.

Owner, Bob Oatley, has gone back to the drawing board with Wild Oats XI after her defeat in the Derwent last year. Oats had been no match for Loyal in light weather. She keeps her retractable daggerboards that were fitted before last year’s race, but she has a new retractable, centreline fin, three metres aft of the bow.

The aim of all three is to reduce leeway, but they are each used in different phases of light weather sailing, the forward fin being used first before being retracted. In addition, there is a new fitting on the bulb of the keel, whose role is to minimise ‘tip vortex’, curling water at the tip of the bulb that can reduce lift.

Skipper, Mark Richards said at the official Rolex Sydney Hobart launch today, “Last year’s race was a great race all the way until the finish, but Loyal was quicker in light air – and we’ve made some radical modifications to rectify that. We’ve tested the new set-up and it’s
working well.”

This then is the battle royale to which we can look forward to at the front of the fleet, the old bull versus the young bull for the fastest boat at sea, but there will be other contenders.

Peter Millard and John Honan’s 98ft maxi Lahana is back after finishing third across the line in 2010 and 2011. Also on the front row of the grid is Grant Wharington’s Wild Thing, which took line honours in 2003, when she was named Skandia. The 98 footer has undergone modifications ahead of the race, including being lengthened to 100 feet.

Last year’s overall race winner, Stephen Ainsworth’s Reichel/Pugh 63 Loki, is back to defend her title and still appears to be the boat to beat. In August, the CYCA boat broke the 13 year-old record for a conventional yacht in the Audi Sydney Gold Coast Race and won the race outright. This month she won the CYCA’s Cabbage Tree Island Race and she goes in to the Rolex Sydney Hobart as the pre-race favourite.

On board again are sailing master Gordon Maguire and navigator Michael Bellingham. Ainsworth has also declared this is his last. He will be selling Loki and spending future Christmases with his family (unless he suffers the Fischer Syndrome at some stage).

Fischer first took line honours in 1988 in a gale-strewn race that ended with one of the smallest boats in the fleet, the Davidson 34, Illusion, win the race outright. Illusion is back as well this year, this time in the hands of Kim Jaggar and Travis Read.

The two bought the boat in April and, according to Jaggar, have spent more on its reconfiguration than the actual purchase. They are seeking to reduce the boat’s rating by going to a masthead kite, smaller headsails and a longer spinnaker pole. It will sail with a crew of eight.

“We’d like to beat Hicko (Roger Hickman’s Wild Rose) and Simon (Simon Kurts’ Love & War),” Jaggar said, “but it has to be right race for us.”

Love & War is always a sentimental favourite for handicap honours in the race. Peter Kurts won the race in 1974 and 1978 and, after his death in January 2005, son Simon gave the nod for his navigator Lindsay May to sail the wooden boat to Hobart the following year.

May sailed her to an emotional third win in 2006 and is back in his role as navigator, while Peter’s son Simon will skipper the yacht with his 21-year-old son Phillip having his second crack at the race.

Bob ‘Robbo’ Robertson’s top performing Queensland yacht Lunchtime Legend is on a mission, coming off a win in the Magnetic Island Race Week series and second in both the Audi Hamilton Island and Airlie Beach Race Weeks.

“This is our year; we have to do it this year,” Robertson said, having built and launched the Beneteau 40 in time for the 2011 Rolex Sydney Hobart race and scoring a highly creditable third in IRC Division 4 after scoring the exact same overall time as Andrew Saies’ same design Two True (SA) and in the company of pacesetters of the calibre of Hickman’s Wild Rose (NSW) and David Rees’ Whistler from Tasmania.

This time, Lunchtime Legend has a younger crew fired up, Robertson says, after the Australian successes at the London Olympics: “That has done so much to get young people involved again in sailing. I reckon our average age will be 20 years lower than in the 2011 race.”

This is a strong fleet of 80 boats: four maxis and nine previous winners of the major trophy, the Tattersall’s Cup, presented to the overall winner.

Joining Illusion, Loki, Love & War, Wild Rose and Wild Oats XI in the previous winners’ club are Geoff Boettcher’s 2010 winner Secret Men’s Business 3.5, Andrew Saies’ 2009 winner Two True, which is one of four South Australian entries, Bob Steel’s 2008 winner Quest and Luna Sea, which won the nightmare 1998 race as AFR Midnight Rambler, which is now in the hands of James Cameron.

Anthony Lyall’s Cougar II, which was second overall in 2008 in the hands of Victorian Alan Whiteley, leads the Tasmanian contingent in this year’s race. She has just won the Maria Island Race in record time and claimed the treble of record, line honours and overall win.

All states and the ACT have boats in the fleet with the NSW fleet numbering 43, Victoria 13, Queensland nine, Tasmania and South Australia four each, WA two, the ACT one and there are four overseas entries.

The overseas boats include the first Lithuanian entry, Ambersail (Simonas Steponavicius), a Volvo 60 that had been the Assa Abloy training boat for the 2001/2 Volvo Ocean Race.

Beneteaus make up the biggest design contingent, 12 of them, all in the 40-foot range. Two True and Lunchtime Legend will be up against the other form boat, the reigning Blue Water Point Score champion, Darryl Hodgkinson’s Victoire and the chartered Balance, now known as Peugeot Surfrider, which will feature a mostly French crew headed by Sebastien Guyot.

Once again, David Kellett will lead an experienced team on the Radio Relay Vessel (RRV), JBW, which accompanies the fleet to Hobart each year, generously loaned again by John Winning. Young Endeavour will act in the role of Communications Support Vessel to the RRV this year, under command of LCDR Michael Gough, Commanding Officer STS Young Endeavour.

The CYCA’s annual race starts at 1pm AEDT on Boxing Day, December 26 on Sydney Harbour. The fleet will sail from two start lines off Nielsen Park. The start will be broadcast live on the Seven Network throughout Australia, webcast live to a global audience on Yahoo!7 and the Australia Network throughout the Asia Pacific Region.

By Bruce Montgomery, Rolex Sydney Hobart media team

THE 2012 RACE

YACHT NAME SAIL NUMBER STATE / COUNTRY TYPE
Abracadabra 5612 NSW Tripp 47
AFR Midnight Rambler 8338 NSW Ker 40
Akatea NZL8710 New Zealand Cookson 50
Ambersail LTU1000 Lithuania Volvo 60
Ariel A140 NSW Beneteau First 40
Asylum YC10 SA Sydney 38
Aurora N3 NSW Farr 40 – One Off
Black Jack 52566 QLD Reichel Pugh 66
Blunderbuss RQ4000 QLD Beneteau First 40
Brannew 9988 NSW Beneteau First 40 Cr
Breakthrough 6834 NSW Beneteau First 40
Brindabella 10000 NSW Jutson 79
Calm SM5252 VIC TP52
Carbon Credits 6669 QLD Beneteau First 45
Celestial-Assistance Dogs 421 NSW Rogers 46
Charlie’s Dream RQ1920 QLD Bluewater 450
Chutzpah R33 VIC IRC 40
CIC Technology Inca F111 ACT Vickers 41
Copernicus 6689 NSW Radford 12
Corporate Initiatives 7407 NSW Beneteau First 40.7
Cougar II 5200 TAS TP52
Dekadence S20 VIC DK46
Dodo* HKG2238 NSW Andrews 52
Duende ESP6100 NSW JV52
Dump Truck A6 TAS Ker 11.3
Enchantress SA346 SA Muirhead 11
Eressea 6590 QLD Hanse
Finistere* F108 WA Davidson 50
Flying Fish Arctos 7551 NSW McIntyre 55
Frantic GBR5211 NSW Tp52
Geomatic M495 VIC Hanse 495
Halcyon R75 VIC Beneteau First 40
Helsal III 262 TAS Adams 20
Icefire R6572 NSW Mummery 45
Ichi Ban AUS 03 NSW Jones 70
Illusion 5356 NSW Davidson 34
INSX SM5985 VIC NSX 38
Jazz Player S390 VIC Bakewell – White 39
Jazz 5299 NSW Cookson 50
Kioni 6146 NSW Beneteau First 47.7
KLC Bengal 7 JPN4321 Japan Humphreys 54
Lahana 10081 NSW 30m Maxi
Living Doll R55 VIC Farr 55
Local Hero 1236 NSW BH 36
Loki AUS 60000 NSW Reichel Pugh 63
Love & War 294 NSW S & S 47
Luna Sea 8339 NSW Hick 35
Lunchtime Legend RQ14 QLD Beneteau First 40
Maluka of Kermandie A19 TAS
Martela 7075 TAS IMX 38
Merit 8679 QLD Volvo 60
Occasional Coarse Language Too 8008 NSW Sydney GTS 43
Ocean Affinity RQ64 QLD Marten 49
Papillon 6841 NSW Archambault 40RC
Patrice Six 360 NSW X41
Peugeot Surfrider 7771 NSW Beneteau 45
Primitive Cool S777 VIC Farr 40 Mod
Quest 52002 NSW TP 52
Ragamuffin Loyal SYD100 NSW Elliott 100
Rikki NZL8008 New Zealand Reichel Pugh 42
Rush B45 VIC Corel 45
Sailors with disAbilities 6953 NSW Nelson Marek 52
Secret Men’s Business 3.5 YC3300 SA Reichel Pugh 51
She 4924 NSW Olsen 40
Shogun 6952 VIC JV 52
Southern Excellence NOR2 NSW Volvo 60
St Jude 6686 NSW Sydney 47
This Way Up RF360 WA Sydney 36CR
Toybox 2 MH4 NSW XP 44
TSA Management MH60 NSW Sydney 38
Tusitala SAM1 Samoa Goss 60
Two True YC400 SA Beneteau First 40
Veloce SM602 VIC Elliott 44CR
Wicked SM4 VIC Beneteau First 40
Wild Oats XI 10001 NSW RP100
Wild Rose 4343 NSW Farr 43
Wild Thing AUS10 NSW Jones 100 Maxi
Zen 3838 NSW Sydney 38