Saturday, 26 December 2009

RSHYR: Wet but spectacular spinnaker start to Rolex Sydney Hobart

Wild Oats, ICAP Leopard and Alfa Romeo unfurling their spinnakers. Image copyright ROLEX/Kurt Arrigo.

by Di Pearson

It may have been raining and overcast, but the start of the 65th Rolex Sydney Hobart Yacht Race was still nothing short of spectacular as yacht crews popped spinnakers in a 12-15 knot southerly, just after the 1.00pm start on Sydney Harbour today. Before they had the chance the exit the Harbour, things went pear-shaped for four yachts.

The first retirements came from Grant Wharington and his 98ft yacht Etihad Stadium and Todd Leary’s modified Inglis 39, She’s the Culprit, shortly after 2.00pm. Wharington reported rigging problems on his Victorian maxi, while Leary’s yacht from Tasmania sustained two lots of damage after another competitor took out their back railing and punched a hole the size of a man’s fist in the starboard side of the yacht, causing it to take on water at the first turning mark. Leary, devastated, has left it up to two of his crew members to file a protest.

Last year’s overall winner, Quest, owned and skippered by Bob Steel, and Robin Hawthorn (Imagination) advised the race committee they had each executed 720 penalty turns for infringements inside the Harbour.

Neville Crichton and his 100ft Alfa Romeo from New Zealand led the fleet out of the Harbour after peeling away from Wild Oats XI (Bob Oatley) and ICAP Leopard (Mike Slade) and heading to the Western shore. Crichton led both at the first mark and then the seaward mark, with Wild Oats XI (NSW) and ICAP Leopard (GBR), also measuring 100 feet, trailing her.

Alan Brierty’s RP 62 Limit, representing the Cruising Yacht Club of Australia, organisers of the race, was looking healthy as the overall leader, being the eighth boat to pass the sea mark just behind the 30 metre maxi Lahana, owned by Peter Millard and John Honan (Qld) and well in front of near-sistership Loki, the RP 63 owned by Stephen Ainsworth (CYCA).

NSW Maritime general manager Recreational Boating Brett Moore said the spectator fleet was around 1000 boats and below expectations. ”The wet weather and grey skies look to have kept the spectator fleet down in size this year,” he said.

Spectator fleets for the Rolex Sydney Hobart Yacht Race start can reach up to 3000 boats.

Rolex Sydney Hobart Yacht Race

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