Hur man får maxis att se små ut… Foton: Foto: Rolex/Carlo Borlenghi
Thus far, nearly 24 hours into the Rolex Sydney Hobart Race, only one boat, the Bakewell-White Z39 Jazz Player has retired. The Victorian based yacht withdrew from the race last night when her mainsail tore in strong winds. Fingers crossed, it looks like boats, and sailors and equipment are coping with the aggravated sea conditions and building breeze that await them during their ride south.
During this morning’s radio sked with the race fleet, race official David Kellett onboard the radio relay vessel JBW read the full weather forecasts to the fleet, and advised of gale warnings for the waters off the NSW southeast coast where the frontrunners are now and the bulk of the fleet will reach throughout the afternoon.
It easy to forget that when the Rolex Sydney Hobart started some 65 years ago there weren’t cell phones, GPS, weather fax, the Internet, computers, satellites, automatic plotters or high-grade digital radio communications. Sailors and boats were basically on their own. One thing is certain, while this race is the toughest in the world, safety is paramount and that become readily evident as this 66th Rolex Sydney Hobart race develops.
Today, boats are able to keep in touch with the shore by mobile telephone, two-way radio and even via the Internet. In fact, each boat has a check-in schedule. And, at any time they are free to report conditions encountered or any difficulty they may be having.
John Hearne, is the navigator on the Nelson/Marek 52 Wot Eva, sailed by the Sydney-based Sailors with disABILITIES organization. At 0530 AEDT Herne reported, “We are currently just south of Batemans Bay, beating into a 20 knot south to south-east breeze. We have the number four headsail up, and one reef in the main. Seas are short and steep. Waves aren’t big, but are uncomfortable. All crew are fine, if a bit wet. The forecast has us punching into the SSW winds with an increase throughout the day.”
On a call a few hours later, Herne added, “We’re just working down the coast a little bit, trying to position ourselves for when this next front comes through, it could come through with almost gale force conditions. So we want to position ourselves so that we can have the boat ready, get some reefs in early, because some of the guys haven’t been through conditions like that.”
In perhaps one of the more dramatic messages received so far over a satellite transmission, maxi yacht YuuZoo reported, “Good morning from YuuZoo. Not too bad onboard. A bit shell-shocked from yesterday’s mishap with two men overboard. Greg Homann and Will Mueller spent about ten minutes having an unauthorised swim. Both are well and in good spirits.”
The message continued, “We are waiting for the worst to launch into Bass Strait. We aren’t happy with our boat speed at present, as we are still learning about the new settings. Otherwise all okay onboard.”
If YuuZoo hadn’t had enough drama, Ingvall continued: “We just woke up to the forward compartment being full of water. Log thru-hull fitting has either broken or popped though its fitting leaving a 40mm hole in the bow. We think that we have it fixed, but half a metre of water between the keel and the forward hatch. What drama. Not funny. What on earth have done to deserve this?”
On their way south, competitors have encountered 20-30 knot southerly winds, with some boats have reported more, particularly in the associated fronts. Once the day wears on, conditions are expected to become more severe, with even higher winds and increased seas.
At 0900, race leader Wild Oats XI, complying with Rolex Sydney Hobart race rules radioed in at Green Cape prior to reaching the Bass Strait, perhaps the most difficult part of this grueling race. Race rules dictate that before boats enter the treacherous Strait, the skipper must acknowledge that their boat and crew are in ‘satisfactory condition’ and fully prepared for the conditions forecast. It’s the modern equivalent of stop, look and listen. During that time a competitor can access actual conditions and whether crew and boat are prepared. Sort of a last chance before pushing forward.
The latest update has Wild Oats XI, 50 miles south of Cape Howe, leading the fleet. The maxi is making 12 knots, and is close to the rhumbline course. Behind them the next boats are taking divergent strategies with second placed Investec Loyal, well to the east of the rhumbline, and Wild Thing in third position, slightly to the west of rhumbline. The three 30 metre maxis are the biggest boats in this race and are on pace, with their sights set for the line honours prize.
Commodore Garry Linacre of the Cruising Yacht Club of Australia, race organizer, commented when asked how he thought the race was going, “I’m pretty happy with it so far. To have a first night where a front comes through like that, a strong, typical New South Wales east coast front and have 86 out of 87 boats in the race is very good statistically.”
Midday today, the Olsen 40, She, was reported heading to a rendezvous with the coastal patrol off Ulladulla, to transfer an injured crew member. The boat is not retiring and will continue racing.
The Rolex Sydney Hobart 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.