Casualties follow Sydney Hobart start
Published on December 26th, 2023
Sydney, Australia (December 26, 2023) – LawConnect made best of its bid to break a hoodoo of three runner-up finishes in the Rolex Sydney Hobart Yacht Race by leading the fleet towards the Heads after this afternoon’s start.
The Christian Beck owned maxi led off the start line on Sydney Harbour at 1pm, then lost the lead to SHK Scallywag and Andoo Comanche due to a furling issue on a sail change.
SHK Scallywag led out of the Heads from Andoo Comanche, with the fleet of 103 strung out on four start lines. Grant Wharington’s Wild Thing 100 was the last of the maxis to clear the Heads, her smaller rig made it hard to keep up.
Last boat out was the Currawong 30, Currawong, one of 18 two handed entries that is co-skippered by Kathy Veel and Bridget Canham and was last to reach Hobart last year. Just in front of them was Sylph VI, Bob Williams’ boat with cat Oli aboard enjoying the ride.
Soon outside the Heads, LawConnect recovered from its furling issue and was back leading the Cruising Yacht Club of Australia’s (CYCA) 628 nautical mile race.
Beck lauded his crew today, but he was at pain to modestly set himself apart from the praise, saying: “That’s not me … The rest of the crew is awesome. I think that’s what will make or break us really.”
Beck also admitted that the label of being seen as perennial Sydney Hobart bridesmaid has added fuel to the motivation of his crew. “Of course, it does. Yes,” he said.
Today’s start before a larger than usual spectator fleet in light 5 to 10 knot east to north-easterly winds was not without drama though.
Andoo Comanche, the defending Line Honors champion skippered by John Winning Jnr, raised a protest flag after a port and starboard incident with the David Witt skippered SHK Scallywag.
However, SHK Scallywag, owned by Seng Huang Lee, completed a 720 degree turn near Bondi which exonerated the Hong Kong boat from the incident.
The forecast before the start was for east to north-east winds of 5 to 10 knots, with winds increasing to 20 knots offshore, with warnings of gusts. Winds were then expected to shift south-westerly by Wednesday as a series of troughs and cold front push through.
By the time the fleet was pushing south down the NSW Coast in lumpy offshore swells this afternoon, the signals of what is expected to come had already been seen.
Half an hour before the start, the humidity and heat made way for a fall in temperature as darkening skies, thunder and lightning in the horizon moved in from the north.
A shower of rain then swept over Sydney Harbour as crews underwent their final preparations before it headed south to leave the harbour again under a blaze of sunshine.
In the front line, the maxis, TP52s and other medium boats had a clean start. The four maxis were separated into two pods. HSK Scallywag and Wild Thing 100 set off from close to the pin on the western side of the Harbour, while LawConnect and Andoo Comanche favoured the east.
Seng Huang Lee’s 100ft SHK Scallywag from Hong Kong, has become the first casualty of the Rolex Sydney Hobart Yacht Race, breaking her bow sprit early this evening Sydney time.
SHK Scallywag, skippered by David Witt, had recently undergone modifications and with some well-known crew added, seemed to be in great shape, but it was not to be. Without the bow sprit, flying spinnakers is impossible.
A short time later, Peter Davison’s Archambault 40 RC, Arcadia from Victoria, along with the two-handed entry of Shane Connolly/Tony Sutton on the J/99, Rum Rebellion, also reported they had retired from the 78th running of the Cruising Yacht Club of Australia’s 628 nautical mile race.
Arcadia has retired with a torn mainsail, but no reason has been given at this stage for Rum Rebellion from Sydney.
Later during the first night, Michael Spies skippered TP52, Maritimo 52, sustained rig damage which ultimately caused other damage to the boat.
Crew member Peter Jones said, “The fitting on the deck for the forestay shredded, which ripped the No. 4 headsail and the mainsail. We tried to work a million ways around it, but we would have been sailing at 50 percent. We are shattered.
“The weather shocking overnight. We had as much lightning as I’ve ever seen. The sou-west front came through, we saw high 20s to early 30s (knots) and had solid rain for three hours.
“We were south of Jervis Bay, 115 miles down the course. Everyone on board is fine,” ended Jones, who expects the yacht to be back at the CYCA around mid-afternoon today.
Then came the news that Sticky, the Cookson 50 owned by Richard Harris, had suffered electrical damage, forcing her retirement.
There are now 98 boats still in the race, inclusive of 17 two-handed entries.
The 628 nm course for the 78th Rolex Sydney Hobart Yacht Race has several key features following the exit from Sydney Harbor on December 26. Most notable is the crossing of the easternmost edge of the exposed Bass Strait, a notorious expanse of water that can serve up punishing and violent waves, and then periods when the sea is calm as the wind fades. The final stretch up the Derwent River into Hobart can be either kind or cruel when deciding the results of the race.