Wednesday, 30 December 2009

RSHYR: RAN on watch for Rolex double

Ran tying up at Constitution Dock and see if the crew can claim a rare double of overall wins in the Rolex Fastnent and Rolex Sydney Hobart. Image copyright ROLEX/Kurt Arrigo.

by Bruce Montgomery

The crew of the British 72-foot yacht RÁN is on tenterhooks this morning, perhaps on the verge of achieving a remarkable double in ocean racing, to win both the Rolex Fastnet Race and the Rolex Sydney Hobart on corrected time in the same year.

RÁN, owned by Niklas Zennstrom, the founder of Skype, the internet phone system, began the morning as the leader on corrected time for the race. It was fifth across the finish line yesterday just before 9.30am.

At 6.40am today, there are only two yachts in a position of beating the Judel/Vrolijk for the coveted Tattersall’s Cup, the Holy Grail of the Hobart race. However, both are still at sea, but facing near-headwinds once they reach Storm Bay.

Andrew Saies’ new South Australian 40-footer Two True, is currently showing as first overall, but needs to make better speed this morning. Two True has also had a protest lodged against her by the Tasmanian yacht She’s The Culprit following a collision at the first rounding mark of the course, which may affect her result.

Mark Welsh’s Victorian yacht Wicked, which was eight nautical miles north of Tasman Island, and Tony Kirby’s Sydney yacht Patrice Six, which, at Cape Raoul, is the closest of the three to the finish are also in with a chance.

Kirby and his X41 design, representing the race organiser, the Cruising Yacht Club of Australia, will need to average around nine knots to make the finish line by about 12.30pm today to win the Tattersall’s Cup from RÁN.

Stephen Ainsworth and his Loki crew, whom Kirby sailed with for some years, were last night keeping their fingers crossed for their old sailing mate who is on his 28th race to Hobart.

“It would be fantastic to see TK win the race; he’s a great guy and it would mean the world to him,” Ainsworth said last night after finishing the race himself.

Wicked has to finish by 3.10pm. At 6.40am she still had 60 nautical miles to sail, as the crow flies, but the weather bureau has unfavourable winds forecast a large proportion of the fleet rounds Tasman. This means Wicked is likely to be putting in plenty of tacks, particularly in the Derwent, which will take up extra time.

The three yachts all have finish line ETA’s within the time limit, but only time will tell.

The forecast for Tasman Island to South East Cape for the rest of today is for north-east winds of 5-15 knots increasing to 10-20 knots during the morning and to 15-25 knots near Tasman during the afternoon. Seas are expected to rise to two metres, with a south-west swell of three metres, but dropping.

Having won the 2009 Rolex Fastnet in August, RÁN went to Sardinia in September to win the Mini Maxi Division 00 of the Maxi World Rolex Cup and then came to Australia specifically to try to win the Fastnet/Sydney-Hobart double.

Zennstrom’s yacht is a new Judel-Vrolijk 72, launched in April and comes with a formidable reputation. She had an equally impressive crew that included America’s Cup and Volvo Ocean Race yachtsmen, including skipper Tim Powell, Steven Hayles, Adrian Stead, Andy Hemmings, Richard Bouzaid and Richard Meacham.

At 8.15am, 26 yachts had finished the race and Sailors with disAbilities (David Pescud) was the next yacht due. There have been no further retirements beyond the existing five, leaving 71 yachts still at sea.

Rolex Sydney Hobart Yacht Race

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