(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

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)

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)

Investec Loyal crossing the finish line for Line Honours (Photo by Rolex / Daniel Forster)

Investec Loyal crossing the finish line for Line Honours (Photo by Rolex / Daniel Forster)

The 2011 Rolex Sydney Hobart Yacht Race was notable for an unexpected winner of the coveted line honours trophy, a worthy overall winner and a slow passage home for the smaller boats.

The Boxing Day start of the 628 mile race south to Hobart was spectacular, with the 88-strong international fleet setting off from the heart of Sydney Harbour, with its iconic bridge and Opera House as a backdrop. The Heads and shoreline were teeming with spectators as news helicopters flew overhead. Leading the charge on the beat out of the Harbour was Bob Oatley’s maxi Wild Oats XI, the line honours winner in five out of the last six Rolex Sydney Hobarts.

Weather-wise the start of the race was fairly conventional with some fast running conditions for the afternoon, but with a dramatic 180 degree wind shift into the south forecast for the first evening. A swell from the north generated by the ex-tropical cyclone Fina, combined with this wind shift, created a horrific confused sea on the opening night, as the 30 knots southerly wind kicked in with a punch, gusting up to 40 knots. But it is these brutal, testing conditions competitors expect when they set out on the Rolex Sydney Hobart and give the event its reputation as one of the world’s toughest offshore yacht races.

For the crews it was a case of battening down hatches and muscling through and by the first morning there was an impressively low attrition rate with just two retirements. They were joined later by a third, the 2003 line honours winner Grant Wharington’s Wild Thing, suffering sail damage.

24 hours in and race favourite for line honours, the Mark Richards-skippered Wild Oats XI ,was 11 miles ahead of Anthony Bell’s maxi Investec Loyal, these two having broken away from Peter Millard’s Lahana with singlehanded round the world sailor Alex Thomson on Hugo Boss holding fourth on the water. On IRC handicap Roger Hickman, an old hand in the Rolex Sydney Hobart, competing in his 35th race, had pulled into the lead aboard his 1993 race winner, Wild Rose.

For this Rolex Sydney Hobart Wild Oats XI had been ‘turboed’ with the addition of new twin daggerboards and a larger square-topped mainsail, but her dominance as the fastest boat in the race was called into question when at 20:00 on the second evening of the race she was overtaken by the similarly-sized, but older, Investec Loyal.

With the wind lightening and backing from the southwest into the southeast, so Wild Oats XI was caught in a wind hole. Her co-navigator, Ian Burns explained what happened: “They [Investec Loyal’s crew] were keeping track of how we were doing and the moment we stopped under a cloud with no wind under it, they basically sailed right around the outside of this large hole we were stuck in and came back above us. It was good work on their part.”

The theoretically faster Wild Oats XI managed to catch up and overtook Investec Loyal at 07:30 on the second morning of the race as the two boats were sailing down the east coast of Tasmania. For the rest of the morning followers of the race were on the edge of their seats as the two boats match raced around the remainder of the course.

As they rounded the south side of Tasman Island, so Wild Oats XI was becalmed again and, taking their chance, Investec Loyal once again pounced, sailed around the outside of them to regain the lead. Crossing Storm Bay and sailing up the Derwent River to the finish, the Wild Oats XI crew, sailing with many of Australian yachting’s elder statesmen and women on board, threw all they could at Investec Loyal, but it was not enough. Investec Loyal crossed the finish line at 19:14:18 local time, after 2 days 6 hours 14 minutes and 8 seconds at sea, just 3 minutes and 8 seconds ahead of Wild Oats XI. This was the fourth closest finish in the 67 year history of the Rolex Sydney Hobart.

Unfortunately celebrations were dampened when the line honours winner was protested by the race committee. This was over a conversation between Investec Loyal tactician Michael Coxon and a helicopter pilot on the first morning of the race in which Coxon enquired about whether the mainsail or the trysail was being used on board Wild Oats XI. Investec Loyal’s line honour victory was finally confirmed when, after a three hour long protest hearing, the International Jury concluded that Coxon, in his capacity as Managing Director of North Sails Australia, had made the enquiry about Wild Oats XI’s new 3Di mainsail for professional reasons and this in no way had benefitted Investec Loyal’s performance during the race.

Investec Loyal Crew Celebrates Taking Line Honours (Photo by Rolex / Daniel Forster)

Investec Loyal Crew Celebrates Taking Line Honours (Photo by Rolex / Daniel Forster)

 “It was one of the great experiences in my life,” said Anthony Bell, Investec Loyal’s owner and skipper of his win. “The whole thing from the very start, right through to the finish line, was exhilarating. It was a really tough fought out race, but the crew believed in the boat and the cause right from the start and we are so happy to have got past the finish line first.”

Bell’s campaign doubled as a vehicle to raise money for charity (it raised Aus$ 1 million in 2011) on this occasion for the Humpty Dumpty Foundation, which purchases vital medical equipment for 178 children’s hospitals around Australia and East Timor. For this reason among their crew were a number of celebrities including sports stars, such as Australian rugby union internationals Phil Kearns and Phil Waugh.

As the slower boats were becalmed in Storm Bay and up the Derwent River, so it became evident that this year’s Rolex Sydney Hobart would be one for the smaller large boats, including the competitive 50ft fleet. However the stand-out boat in this size range was Stephen Ainsworth’s Reichel Pugh 63, Loki. Over the last 18 months this has proved to be one of the most successful campaigns in on the Australian circuit. Under IRC, Loki’s corrected time was 50 minutes faster than that of Michael Hyatt’s Farr 55 Living Doll, with 84 year old Syd Fischer’s modified TP52 Ragamuffin third and the Cookson 50 Jazz of Britain’s Chris Bull, fourth.

Overall Handicap winner, Stephen Ainsworth, LOKI with Patrick Boutellier Rolex Australia Poto by Rolex / Daniel Forster)

Overall Handicap winner, Stephen Ainsworth, LOKI with Patrick Boutellier Rolex Australia

 

“We are elated. It is a fantastic feeling, a huge thrill to win this race,” said a jubilant Ainsworth, after being presented with a Rolex Yacht-Master timepiece by Patrick Boutellier of Rolex Australia and the coveted Tattersall’s Cup, for winning IRC handicap honours. “Having done 14 races, I know how hard it is to win this race. So many things have to go right for you and the wind gods were with us. Our race went extremely well. The aim for the navigators was to avoid stopping and we successfully did that, although we came close a couple of times. Look at what happened to Wild Oats XI – that could easily have happened to us.”

Ainsworth’s crew, led by Irish round the world sailor Gordon Maguire, was 18 strong, but of these only one third were professionals. “The handicap win came when the big boats parked up,” said Maguire. At one point the maxis had extended to almost 120 miles in front of them, but as they had slowed, so Loki had managed to reel back 60 miles.

Earlier in the race the competitive 40 and 45ft Beneteaus had been among the most promising on handicap along with Roger Hickman’s Wild Rose. However the progress of the smaller boats was hampered as the wind shut down for them as they manoeuvred around the east coast of Tasmania into Storm Bay and up the Derwent River leading up to Hobart.

Darryl Hodgkinson, skipper of the First 45 Victoire summed it up best: “I thought it was going to be a carbon copy of last year’s race where we sat in the Derwent. This year we actually camped in Derwent! The last miles from the Tasman Light to the finish typically take six to seven hours. On this occasion it took 15.”

A pre-race favourite among the smaller boats was the new Ker 40 AFR Midnight Rambler, but co-owner Ed Psaltis, winner of the race in 1998, said they had made some wrong tactical choices and, entering Bass Strait, ended up in a giant wind hole, entrapping them for six hours.

While there had been a strong turn-out in Hobart’s Constitution Dock to witness the end of the match race marathon between Investec Loyal and Wild Oats XI, this was rivalled when Australian youth solo round the world sailing phenomenon Jessica Watson arrived aboard Ella Baché another Challenge. Watson’s crew have now entered the history books as the youngest to take part in the Rolex Sydney Hobart, but having spent two and a half months training as a team prior to the start Watson was delighted with taking second place in the Sydney 38 class.

“It was really, really good, everything you would expect,” said Watson on her arrival. “We had three quite bouncy nights on the nose. We didn’t see any severe conditions, but there was some pretty uncomfortable stuff for quite a while there.”

Having previously sailed solo, Watson was full of praise for her crew. “The crew were awesome. It was the best sailing we’ve ever seen them do. It’s what we have been training for and they did exactly that. Everyone did an amazing job. All credit to them – I just held on for the ride.”

Last but not least MALUKA OF KERMANDIE crew and owner Peter Langman (Photo by Rolex / Daniel Forster)

Last but not least MALUKA OF KERMANDIE crew and owner Peter Langman (Photo by Rolex / Daniel Forster)

The last boat to arrive, crossing the line late in the afternoon on New Year’s Eve, was that of Sydney boatyard owner Sean Langman. Langman is best known for his attempts to win line honours in previous races, but on this occasion was sailing the wooden 1932 coastal cruiser/fishing boat, Maluka of Kermandie as crew for his 18 year old son Peter.

This year’s race once again proved that to earn victory in the Rolex Sydney Hobart is something that takes persistence. As Gordon Maguire concluded: “I won this race in 1991 on an IOR 2 tonner Atara with Harold Cudmore. It was my second Hobart race and I thought ‘easy’. It has been 20 years since I won it again. I have won an awful lot of regattas in between and I do this race almost every year, so it is not an easy race to win. You can’t just come down here with the best boat in the world and win it. You have to come down here with the best boat in the world and have all the luck in the world – all that has to happen in the same race. It is a very unusual beast.”

 

Provisional Line Honours Winner WILD OATS XI at the Organ Pipes, off Cape Raoul ( Photo by Rolex / Daniel Forster )

Provisional Line Honours Winner WILD OATS XI at the Organ Pipes, off Cape Raoul ( Photo by Rolex / Daniel Forster )

What has been touted as one of the toughest Rolex Sydney Hobart Races in recent years, saw the first finisher arrive in Hobart early this evening. The 100-foot super maxi Wild Oats XI blazed up the Derwent River and crossed the finish line off Constitution Wharf at 2037 AEDT with an elapsed time of two days, seven hours, 37 minutes, 20 seconds — since leaving Sydney Harbour at 1300 on 26 December, Boxing Day.

This year’s 66th edition was one of Wild Oats Xl physically most difficult but also one of her more hard fought finishes, with sustained periods of headwinds along the way and crushing gale-force conditions through the notorious Bass Strait. In an interview as he stepped off the winning vessel, skipper Mark Richards said,” “It was a tough race, no doubt about that. The boat Wild Oats, the boys, and the team did a fantastic job.”

Wild Oats xi ( Photo by Rolex / Daniel Forster )

Wild Oats xi ( Photo by Rolex / Daniel Forster )

The Reichel-Pugh design was the provisional line honours winner pending the decision of the International Jury over a protest by the Race Committee regarding the use of her HF radio. The jury will convene Tuesday afternoon at the Royal Yacht Club of Tasmania to arrive at a decision.

After sailing a near perfect tactical race in extremely difficult conditions, with extremes ranging from a hair-removing 25-40 knot southerly and a mountainous seaway during the first night, race favourite Wild Oats XI didn’t disappoint followers. This was Wild Oats XI fifth win after participating in six Rolex Sydney Hobart Races.

Wild Oats XI skipper Mark Richards was happy with the race and said, “We couldn’t have asked for a better result. To arrive here, first, in Hobart, is the most amazing feeling.” Referring to Oats’ second place finish of last year, Richards said, “First is hell of a lot better than second. We’re back and we’re just very happy to be here.”

Dockside after the race finish, Adrienne Cahalan co-navigator aboard Wild Oats XI and a veteran of now her 19th Rolex Sydney Hobart Race, commented on the extreme sea and wind, “I do think it’s one of the toughest races I’ve ever done. We did our best to make sure we didn’t break anything.”

A seasoned offshore sailor, Cahalan told of encountering 20 – 30 knot headwinds across the Bass Strait. As to how the boat managed, she said, “The boat held together really well…it was a technically sound race for us.” She continued, “To get there in one piece and in first place — it’s one of the greatest victories we’ve had.”

The remaining 70 boats in the Rolex Sydney Hobart fleet are spread across from the southeast corner of the NSW coast, across the Bass Strait down towards the finish in Hobart — pushed along by a 20-knot north-northeasterly. The fleet includes six international entries from the USA, UK, Italy, France, as well as two partly crewed Russian boats, and entries from seven of the eight Australian states and territories.

JAZZ, Sail n: 5299, Owner: Chris Bull, State: VIC, Division: IRC & ORCi, Design: Cookson 50 ( Photo by Rolex / Carlo Borlenghi )

JAZZ, Sail n: 5299, Owner: Chris Bull, State: VIC, Division: IRC & ORCi, Design: Cookson 50 ( Photo by Rolex / Carlo Borlenghi )

Next boat expected across the finish line is Sean Langman’s 100-foot Investec Loyal at approximately 2230 tonight. However, breeze looks to be shutting down in the Derwent River, so their exact arrival is now anyone’s guess.

INVESTEC LOYAL, Sail No: 99999, Owner: Sean Langman, State: NSW, Division: IRC, Design: Elliott, LOA (m) : 30.5, Draft (m): 6.2 (Photo by Rolex / Daniel Forster)

INVESTEC LOYAL, Sail No: 99999, Owner: Sean Langman, State: NSW, Division: IRC, Design: Elliott, LOA (m) : 30.5, Draft (m): 6.2 (Photo by Rolex / Daniel Forster)

In a phone interview earlier today, Investec Loyal’s Sean Langman explained about his boats’ troubles during the last two days, “The damage we sustained was to the reef lines earlier and some tack lines on the headsail which, running without a headsail, put us an hour back. Also, a fuel tank broke lose. These tanks carry so much fuel that you’ve got a quarter of a ton to manhandle which is difficult.”

On the final race day, Langman and crew discovered flooding in a forward hold, “We didn’t realize that we had a substantial leak in the bow and carried on with a ton and a half of water, which we only detected this morning. We have a watertight bulkhead up there and when we opened it, water came pouring out.” Langman believed that the leak was not a puncture in the hull but due to loose deck fittings.

The 2010 Rolex Sydney Hobart race may well go down as one of the roughest in recent years and has certainly lived up to its reputation as one of the world’s toughest ocean going races.

To date, 16 yachts have been forced to retire due to issues including a broken mast, damaged booms, rigging and engine problems. Almost all racers have their share of minor injuries due to the high seas and associated gale force winds.

LIMIT, Sail n: 98888, Owner: Alan Brierty, State: WA, Division: IRC & ORCi, Design: Reichel-Pugh 62 ( Photo by Rolex / Carlo Borlenghi )

LIMIT, Sail n: 98888, Owner: Alan Brierty, State: WA, Division: IRC & ORCi, Design: Reichel-Pugh 62 ( Photo by Rolex / Carlo Borlenghi )