Sydney Hobart: In pursuit of victory

Published on December 27th, 2015

Sydney, Australia (December 27, 2015) – Saturday night proved a harrowing one for the crews competing in the 71st edition of the Rolex Sydney Hobart Yacht Race. After a decade of, by Rolex Sydney-Hobart standards, comparatively benign weather the race has returned with a vengeance to its classic persona.

Exactly 24 hours after the majestic start in Sydney Harbour, a quarter of the fleet has retired due to damage that included broken rudders, a dismasting and numerous shredded sails, inflicted by gale force winds and heavy seas during the night. The mean southerly that made life hell for sailors off the NSW south coast last night is at last abating, but it has taken a huge toll on the fleet.

Before the southerly buster kicked in there were five boats out of the race, now there are 29, an attrition rate of 27 per cent and the race still has at least another two days to run. That’s starting to get close to the really tough 2004 race when 58 of a fleet of 117 retired; 50 per cent.

The retiring yachts included two of the Australian maxis, Wild Oats XI and Perpetual Loyal, both of which were considered strong contenders for line honours. Also among the disappointed teams returning to Sydney with damage were KOA (steering) and Patrice (mainsail), thus dashing their hopes of a good finish.

Sail GP

The latest casualties include Peter Harburg’s Queensland Volvo 70 Black Jack, which returned to Jervis Bay to transfer an injured crew member with a suspected fractured leg. The crew member s being transferred by ambulance to the nearby naval base for medical assistance.

The retirees at 2130 last night were:
Cougar II
Lupa of London
M3 – broken forestay
Dare Devil – rudder damage – returning to Sydney
CEX Dolce – broken mast
Wild Oats XI – mainsail damage
St Jude – rudder
Perpetual Loyal – rudder
KOA – steering
Pazzaz – mainsail
Pretty Fly III – broken forestay
Brindabella – sail
Takani – rudder
Patrice – mainsail
Dekadence – electronics Issues
Samurai Jack – sail damage
HASPA Hamburg – rig
Black Jack – returning to Jervis Bay
KLC Bengal 7 – mainsail
Frantic – mainsail
Triton – mainsail
Hollywood Boulevard – hull
Great Xpectations
Landfall – hull
China Easyway – sail damage
Jaffa – starter motor

The 628 nautical mile Rolex Sydney Hobart is a true test of determination and perseverance, evident across the fleet as they display outstanding seamanship in tough conditions heading south towards Tasman Island and the finish in Hobart.

Testament to this is Comanche which, despite having hit an unidentified submerged object during the night, breaking one of the twin rudders and a daggerboard, is driving forward determined to stay in the race for line honours.

Comanche is closely trailed by Rambler 88 and Ragamuffin 100, both of which are expected to improve their chances of a line honours win as the winds decrease over the next 24 hours. That said, navigator Andrew Cape on Rambler 88 raccounted their recent status, which will impair their progress: “We’ve had a bit of a disaster. We hit a submerged object with our starboard daggerboard, so our efficiency on port tack is severely limited.”

On board Ragamuffin 100 is 88-year old owner Syd Fischer a veteran of 47 previous race editions of this iconic race.

The battle for the overall win also includes Swiss entry Teasing Machine, owned and skippered by Eric De Turckheim, reveling in the severe conditions and leading Giovanni Soldini’s Volvo 70 Maserati by merely a few miles on handicap.

The frontrunners are fast approaching the halfway mark and expected to cross the finish line up the Derwent River in Hobart on Monday afternoon (28 December).

By Bruce Montgomery, RSHYR media

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Background: The 71st edition of the Rolex Sydney Hobart Yacht Race starts December 26 in Sydney Harbor, taking an entry list of 109 boats along the 628 nautical mile course to Hobart that is often described as the most grueling long ocean race in the world.



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