Friday, 7 January 2011

RSHYR: Rolex Sydney Hobart Yacht Race - Reports and Interviews

Bob Oatley's Wild Oats XI - line honours winner. Image copyright Rolex/Daniel Forster.

Secret Men's Business 3.5 - overall handicap winner. Image copyright Rolex/Daniel Forster.

by Rolex Sydney Hobart Yacht Race media team

26/12/10: A Blaze of Colour against a grey Sydney sky

Race day for the 66th Rolex Sydney Hobart fleet dawned cloudy and rainy for the 87 competing yachts. The grey weather added a bit of gloom and foreboding to what may be in store for the crews racing to the finish line in Hobart, 628-miles away. Outside the Cruising Yacht Club of Australia, shipping containers were being loaded in the rain with spare sails and supplies for the yachts and their arrival in Hobart. One of the crew loading the containers with sail bags, Dean Barrett, said, “They have to sail light down to Tasmania, so a lot of yachts ship their extra gear down to Hobart and will pick it up there—assuming they make it.” The forecast for the classic southerly “buster” includes a 24-hour period of potentially gear-breaking conditions.

At this morning’s final official weather briefing at the Cruising Yacht Club of Australia –compulsory for every yacht entered in the race –– Michael Logan, from the Bureau of Meteorology, provided a forecast for skippers and crews, noting that they should prepare for tricky and tough conditions. “We’re still looking at those two wind changes,” said Logan, “the initial Southerly which will come through this evening, and the further strengthening of those South-South-Westerly winds on Monday—which may fringe into gales.”

27/12/10: Punishing conditions in Bass Strait

The forecast gale-force conditions made good today for the bulk of the Rolex Sydney Hobart Yacht Race fleet with yachts experiencing 40-50 knots of gale to storm-force winds from the west-southwest -- together with massive seas. The toll today was nine yachts retired, some with severe damage, but all crews were reported in good shape.

At 1542 AEDST, Ludde Ingvall’s 27-metre Yuuzoo retired from the race with structural and rigging damage. Exact details were unknown but the yacht had reached a safe port in Eden by 1800.

28/12/10: Big Seas and Breeze Continue to Take a Toll

The attrition continues in the Rolex Sydney Hobart Yacht Race – throughout the night and into this morning, an additional six yachts retired with a grocery list of problems: damaged steering, torn mainsails, broken booms and engine issues. This time, the retirements were among the small to mid-sized boats, bringing to 16 the total number to have retired with 71 boats still battling hard in the race.

28/12/10: Wild Oats XI First Boat Home

What has been touted as one of the toughest Rolex Sydney Hobart Races in recent years, saw the first finisher arrive in Hobart early this evening. The 100-foot super maxi Wild Oats XI blazed up the Derwent River and crossed the finish line off Constitution Wharf at 2037 AEDT with an elapsed time of two days, seven hours, 37 minutes, 20 seconds -- since leaving Sydney Harbour at 1300 on 26 December, Boxing Day.

This year’s 66th edition was one of Wild Oats Xl physically most difficult but also one of her more hard fought finishes, with sustained periods of headwinds along the way and crushing gale-force conditions through the notorious Bass Strait. In an interview as he stepped off the winning vessel, skipper Mark Richards said,” “It was a tough race, no doubt about that. The boat Wild Oats, the boys, and the team did a fantastic job.”

The Reichel-Pugh design was the provisional line honours winner pending the decision of the International Jury over a protest by the Race Committee regarding the use of her HF radio. The jury will convene Tuesday afternoon at the Royal Yacht Club of Tasmania to arrive at a decision.

After sailing a near perfect tactical race in extremely difficult conditions, with extremes ranging from a hair-removing 25-40 knot southerly and a mountainous seaway during the first night, race favourite Wild Oats XI didn’t disappoint followers. This was Wild Oats XI fifth win after participating in six Rolex Sydney Hobart Races.

Wild Oats XI skipper Mark Richards was happy with the race and said, “We couldn’t have asked for a better result. To arrive here, first, in Hobart, is the most amazing feeling.” Referring to Oats’ second place finish of last year, Richards said, “First is hell of a lot better than second. We’re back and we’re just very happy to be here.”

Dockside after the race finish, Adrienne Cahalan co-navigator aboard Wild Oats XI and a veteran of now her 19th Rolex Sydney Hobart Race, commented on the extreme sea and wind, “I do think it’s one of the toughest races I’ve ever done. We did our best to make sure we didn’t break anything.”

A seasoned offshore sailor, Cahalan told of encountering 20 - 30 knot headwinds across the Bass Strait. As to how the boat managed, she said, “The boat held together really well…it was a technically sound race for us.” She continued, “To get there in one piece and in first place -- it’s one of the greatest victories we’ve had.”

The remaining 70 boats in the Rolex Sydney Hobart fleet are spread across from the southeast corner of the NSW coast, across the Bass Strait down towards the finish in Hobart -- pushed along by a 20-knot north-northeasterly. The fleet includes six international entries from the USA, UK, Italy, France, as well as two partly crewed Russian boats, and entries from seven of the eight Australian states and territories.

Next boat expected across the finish line is Sean Langman’s 100-foot Investec Loyal at approximately 2230 tonight. However, breeze looks to be shutting down in the Derwent River, so their exact arrival is now anyone's guess.

In a phone interview earlier today, Investec Loyal’s Sean Langman explained about his boats’ troubles during the last two days, “The damage we sustained was to the reef lines earlier and some tack lines on the headsail which, running without a headsail, put us an hour back. Also, a fuel tank broke lose. These tanks carry so much fuel that you’ve got a quarter of a ton to manhandle which is difficult.”

On the final race day, Langman and crew discovered flooding in a forward hold, “We didn’t realize that we had a substantial leak in the bow and carried on with a ton and a half of water, which we only detected this morning. We have a watertight bulkhead up there and when we opened it, water came pouring out.” Langman believed that the leak was not a puncture in the hull but due to loose deck fittings.

The 2010 Rolex Sydney Hobart race may well go down as one of the roughest in recent years and has certainly lived up to its reputation as one of the world’s toughest ocean going races.

To date, 16 yachts have been forced to retire due to issues including a broken mast, damaged booms, rigging and engine problems. Almost all racers have their share of minor injuries due to the high seas and associated gale force winds.

30/12/10: It's no secret any more

Geoff Boettcher’s South Australian yacht Secret Men’s Business 3.5 was announced this afternoon as this year’s Rolex Sydney Hobart Yacht Race Overall winner. In a dockside presentation, CYCA Commodore Garry Linacre presented the Adelaide-based skipper with the Tattersall’s Cup for his race win, and Patrick Boutellier of Rolex Australia presented a Rolex Yacht-Master timepiece as the holiday crowd thronged the surrounding Constitution Wharf docks.

Secret Men’s Business was the 14th boat across the finish line in a race where just finishing was an achievement. Severe wind and weather conditions contributed to the retirement of twenty percent of the fleet this year.

Boettcher was the second winner from South Australia in a row – and like last year’s winner Andrew Saie’s of Two True, Boettcher sails from the Cruising Yacht Club of South Australia.

When asked how it feels to win the legendary Rolex Sydney Hobart race, Boettcher’s face lit up and he said, “As a kid it’s something you always dream of. Just doing the race is fantastic, but to be a winner is the ultimate in sailing for Australian blokes.”

Last year, Boettcher modified Secret Men’s Business 3.5 to improve the 51-foot Reichel Pugh design’s upwind performance. The modification seems to have paid some handsome dividends. "We kept the rig, the deck, keel, rudder and electronics, but the hull was completely new. We added a metre to her length while we were at it," Boettcher said.

About the boat’s performance in the race Boettcher commented, “It was great. We hadn’t really tested it. We’d taken it around to Sydney and Hamilton Island. Not a lot of miles and not in the real hard conditions that we had during this race, so we’re pretty proud -- she hung in there nicely.”

A veteran of now 22 Rolex Sydney Hobart races, Boettcher summed up this year’s race conditions in one word: “Tough.” He explained, “It was a tough one with a little bit of everything. We clocked 50 knots of breeze out there on the track and the waves were damaging. I don’t know how many of the fleet have retired but I know it’s a big percentage. So it was hard, and to win one that was this hard is very gratifying.”

Asked what drives him to compete in what is more often than not, a gruelling offshore classic, the 64-year-old supermarket owner replied, “I suppose to have a win in your life, and the camaraderie of the really fantastic guys standing next to me. I think it’s a camaraderie thing of just getting there (to the finish) together.” He continued, “It’s something special to take your boat to Sydney and compete against all the rest. In Adelaide we don’t have the competition that’s put on here. The Rolex Sydney Hobart is the pinnacle and that’s the one we want to be in.”

Asked whether he’ll be taking part in next year’s Rolex Sydney Hobart race, Boettcher laughed and said, “It’s early stages yet. At my age we’re running out of runway for anything else!”

As of 1530, 36 boats had finished the race, 33 were still racing and 18 had retired. While today’s award of the Tattersall’s Cup has been made, for half of the Rolex Sydney Hobart fleet their race is, by any means, not over.

The official final prize giving for the Rolex Sydney Hobart Yacht Race 2010 will be held at the Royal Yacht Club of Tasmania on Saturday, 1 January 2011 at 1100 AEDT.

Audio Interviews

Interview with Ian "Fresh" Burns, Wild Oats XI's co-navigator, on conditions in Bass Strait

Interview with Chris Dickson (NZL), tactician on Limit

Mark Richards, skipper of Wild Oats XI, at the dockside presentation to the line honours winners

Geoff Boettecher, skipper of Secret Men's Business 3.5, overall handicap winner

Rolex Sydney Hobart Yacht Race