Rolex Sydney Hobart: Rough conditions lead to early casualties

Published on December 26th, 2014

(December 26, 2014) – A stiff southerly testing the boats and sailors on the first day of the 2014 Rolex Sydney Hobart has led to six yachts retiring from the Cruising Yacht Club of Australia’s annual race.

The first casualties of the race were Tina of Melbourne, forced out because of hull damage and Bear Necessity with a damaged rudder, just two hours into the race.

Roger Hickman, one of the doyens of this classic race, and skipper of Wild Rose, regarded the classic 46 year old S&S 37 Tina of Melbourne as the boat he and the other IOR war horses like Love and War and Landfall would have to beat, so such an early retirement is a great disappointment for Tina of Melbourne’s skipper, Andy Doolan.

“We fell off a large wave and noticed water coming in through a seam near the front of the boat. Two years of hard work down the drain,” Doolan said on docking at the CYCA this afternoon. “We were trucking along nicely, just settling into the race. The sea was very confused though and we fell off a wave.

“I guess we’ll have a shower and have the damage assessed,” Doolan added, searching for the positives. “We’ve got a chef and restaurateur on board – the catering is five-star. We had boeuf bourguignon for lunch and were looking forward to a chicken cassoulet for dinner – we’ve got lots of food to get through.”

Shortly after, Occasional Coarse Language Too retired with steering damage. Her skipper Warwick Sherman deserved better after his courageous race in 2012 while still undergoing chemo therapy for cancer. Yacht and crew are due to arrive back at the CYCA in the evening.

The fourth retirement is the Willyama, Richard Barron’s Beneteau 40, with a torn mainsail.

Peter Isler, on Manouch Moshayedi’s RIO 100 reports that conditions are certainly testing on the big American super maxi. “We are definitely learning our boat in these conditions. It’s very rough, sailing upwind in 25-27 knots of wind and pounding hard into short steep waves

“The yachts are all on port tack, but given our current angles everyone will have to be thinking about taking a short starboard tack as we get close on the beach,” he added. “It’s like riding a bucking bronco. These are boat breaking conditions, though we expect the wind to ease by midnight. Until then though we will hang on and keep pushing. ”

Brindabella’s sailing master Brad Kellett concurred. “It’s pretty rough offshore, but we’re ploughing through and looking forward to better weather and the predicted sea breeze.”

However, Kellett later reported that while he was doing his regular checks in the evening he discovered larger than normal quantities of water in the bottom of the boat, found to be coming from damaged rudder bearings.

“We were just coming into our own after a risky tactical decision to go offshore paid off,” a disappointed Kellett said. “We have ended our regular watch patterns and everyone is up on deck for safety. No–one is hurt.”

A short time later, the Salona 44 Last Tango also retired. She had earlier been forced to divert to Botany Bay to land a crew member with a suspected hernia, but not long after returning to the race the yacht suffered sail damage. The crew member is in St George Hospital.

Both Brindabella and Last Tango were returning to the Cruising Yacht Club of Australia later tonight or very early tomorrow morning.

The remaining yachts continue to pound their way down the New South Wales coast in fresh southerly winds and short, steep seas. The fleet is spread from Botany Bay to 20 miles south of Jervis Bay, where the American super maxi Comanche holds a mile and a half lead over Wild Oats XI, with Perpetual Loyal a further three miles astern and Ragamuffin 100 another three miles back.

Hot on the heels of the maxis are the V70s Giacomo and Black Jack, which are enjoying a monumental match race of their own while keeping up the pressure on the more fragile 100 footers.

Interestingly, four leading boats are ahead of Wild Oats XI’s 2012 record position at this stage of the race. However, while Wild Oats XI benefited from a strong northerly on the second day that year the lead boats are sailing into softer winds on a sloppy seaway.

By Jim Gale, RSHYR media

Event website

Background: One hundred seventeen teams have entered the 628 nm Rolex Sydney Hobart Yacht Race. Starting on December 26, the fleet exits Sydney Harbor and heads down the south-east coast of mainland Australia, across Bass Strait, then down the east coast of Tasmania. At Tasman Island the fleet turns right into Storm Bay for the final sail up the Derwent River to finish in Hobart.

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