Thursday 31 December 2009

Rex Sellers named Member of New Zealand Order of Merit

by Zoe Hawkins

Double Olympic medallist Rex Samuel Sellers has been recognised in the New Years Honours List for his services to New Zealand Yachting.
Sellers was today named one of New Zealand’s greatest contributors and highest achievers, when he was named a Member of the New Zealand Order of Merit.

Born in Nelson in 1950, Sellers is one of the country’s most successful yachtsmen, and his contribution to the sport of sailing and to New Zealand’s sporting success on the world stage is of the highest level.

In 1984 he won an Olympic Gold Medal, and in 1988 he won a Silver Medal, sailing with Chris Timms in the Tornado Class. He finished fourth in 1992 at the Barcelona Olympic Games in 1992, and he was third (with Mark Rayner) at the 1982 World Championships in Canada.

His sailing career began in 1961 sailing in the Scootum class, before progressing through P Class, Cherubs and 470s into the Flying Dutchman and then, in 1977, Tornados.

He and Gerald Sly were chosen to represent New Zealand at the Tornado class at the 1980 Summer Olympics in Moscow, but never competed because of the American-led boycott. They and the Brazilians were then pre-Olympic gold medal favourites.

Sellers, along with Timms and Russell Coutts, was named New Zealand Yachtsman of the Year in 1984. Three of Sellers' sons, Ross, Marc and Brett, have risen to national prominence in sailing and daughter Justina is a top board sailor. In the 2002-2003 America's Cup, Sellers was employed by the American team, Oracle.

Sellers served as President of sailing’s national body, Yachting New Zealand, from 2005 to 2007. He also served on Yachting New Zealand’s Olympic Committee during the Beijing Olympic cycle. He has been involved in coaching - primarily as a volunteer – across numerous classes over the past 15 years.

Sellers was nominated for the Honour by Yachting New Zealand. The New Zealand Order or Merit is awarded to those who have rendered ‘meritorious service to the Crown and the nation or who have become distinguished by their eminence, talents, contributions, or other merits’. He was one of ten individuals recognised for their services to sport.

Yachting New Zealand

RSHYR: Overall Race Winner Confirmed

Dockside presentation to TWO TRUE - overall IRC handicap winner. Inage copyright ROLEX/Kurt Arrigo.

by Susan Maffei Plowden

Andy Saies' Two True survived a protest this afternoon to be confirmed as overall winner of the Tattersall's Cup, the major prize in the 2009 Rolex Sydney Hobart Yacht Race for the overall IRC handicap winner.

After a two-hour hearing, the International Jury dismissed the protest entered by the Inglis 39 She's the Culprit (Todd Leary), the Hobart yacht damaged in a crush of boats approaching the first rounding mark after the race start on Sydney Harbour.

Two True, one of the first new Farr-designed Beneteau First 40 stock production racer/cruiser to be imported into Australia, won IRC overall by 42 minutes from another new First 40, (Mike Welsh) after a close race-long duel in which they followed a similar strategy - stay well east of the rhumbline.

Ian Mason's Sydney 38 Next, in third place, another 1hr 19min behind, was similarly pushed by close competition in the six-boat Sydney 38 fleet racing one-design, as well as on IRC handicap. Another Sydney 38, Swish (Steven Proud) from the strong Sydney fleet, was fourth and Tony Kirby's Jeppersen X-41 Patrice Six, fifth.

In sixth place was the 2009 Rolex Fastnet Race winner Ran (Niklas Zennstrom), from the UK.

Two True, from the Cruising Yacht Club of South Australia, is the first yacht from South Australia to win the Tattersall's Cup since Kevan Pearce's win with SAP Ausmaid in 2000. The South Australians continue to be strongly committed to the Rolex Sydney Hobart Race, sailing 1000 nautical miles just to get to the start.

TWO TRUE (AUS/SA), Andrew Saies, IRC overall handicap winner. Image copyright ROLEX/Daniel Forster.

Owner-skipper Saies said he was absolutely elated at the win after being in the surreal situation of not knowing the outcome until after the protest hearing. "Obviously we are very happy with the jury's decision. We believe we did everything in the circumstances to avoid significant damage to the other boat. We gave our intention to protest, we did a 720 (degree penalty turn), though the damage to the other boat was minor and superficial."

"I respect the decision of the skipper of She's the Culprit not to continue racing in those circumstances, but obviously we are very happy and delighted with the outcome."

He thanked his crew, which raced the two prior Sydney Hobart Races on his previous boat True North, a Beneteau First 40. "The Rolex Sydney Hobart Yacht Race cannot be won without a great team, a great boat and an ounce of Sydney Hobart luck. Our team are fabulous guys. We have worked together for the past three years on my previous boat True North." Saies particularly thanked Brett Young, his team and boat manager. "Energetic, tireless work ethic, great understanding of the rules."

He said the race was a physical endurance event over 628 miles. "The wind was in, the wind was out, we drifted, we went backwards, we lost internet access, we didn't know what was going on until the last few minutes. It was a classic Rolex Sydney Hobart event and we were in it up to our back teeth and it came our way in the end.

"Great boat, this new Beneteau it just jumps out of the water, jumped a bit too hard in the last day or so in those big short waves. It's a fast boat, we had belief that this boat was going to rate well and do okay in this event, if the weather conditions allowed a small boat event.

"We may be privileged enough to have a boat and a team that gets to this position as people have in the past. But in yacht racing to have everything going right in one event at the right time is probably a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity.

"So it meant so much to get this right this time. So celebrations, back to normal, business as usual, great boat, great team looking forward to the next regatta in Melbourne, the next Sydney Hobart."

The last boat to finish, Chris Dawe's Polaris of Belmont (AUS/NSW) was due to cross the finish line at 0830pm tonight.

The 100-boat fleet that started the 65th Rolex Sydney Hobart had crews representing the USA, UK, New Zealand, Spain, the Netherlands, and New Caledonia, as well as every Australian state.


IRC overall: 1, Two True (Andy Saies, SA), Beneteau First 40, corrected time 04 days 07hr 57min 43sec; 2, Wicked (Mike Welsh, Vic), Beneteau First 40, 04:08:39:08; 3, Next (Ian Mason, NSW), MBD Sydney 38, 04:09:48:54.

IRC 0: 1, Alfa Romeo (Neville Crichton, NZ), Reichel Pugh 100, corrected time 04 days, 12hr, 11min, 51sec; 2, Evolution Racing (Ray Roberts, NSW), Farr Cookson 50, 04:14:32:46; 3, Ichi Ban (Matt Allen, NSW), Jones Volvo 70, 04:16:27:22.

IRC 1: 1, Ran (Niklas Zennstrom, UK), Judel/Vrolijk 72, 04:10:48:21; 2, Shogun (Rob Hanna, Vic), J/V 52, 04:13:09:50; 3, Ragamuffin (Syd Fischer, NSW), Farr TP52, 04:15:18:43.

IRC 2: 1, Tow Truck (Anthony Paterson, NSW), Ker 11.3, 04:11:16:18; 2, AFR Midnight Rambler (Ed Psaltis/Bob Thomas), modified Farr 40, 04:11:26:24; 3, Chutzpah (Bruce Taylor, Vic), Reichel/Pugh IRC 40, 04:14:06:32.

IRC 3: 1, Next Ian Mason, NSW), 04:09:48:54; 2, Swish (Steven Proud, NSW), 04:10:17:42; 3, Patrice Six (Tony Kirby) Jeppersen X-41, 04:10:24:32.

Sydney 38 One Design: 1, Swish, 04:00:16:54; 2, Next, 04:00:16:59; 3, Subzero Goat (Bruce Foye, NSW), 04:06:37:59.

ORCi (ORC International): 1, Two True (Andrew Saies, SA), Beneteau First 40, 04:07:57:43; 2, Wicked (Mike Welsh, Vic), Beneteau First 40, 04:08:39:08; 3, Zephyr Hamilton Elevators (James Connell/Alex Brandon, NSW), Farr 1020, 04:10:52:17.

Performance handicap:

PHS 1: 1, Wasabi (Bruce McKay, NSW), Sayer 12m, 04:19:02:33; 2, Sailors with disAbilities (David Pescud, NSW), Lyons 54, 04:21:26:15; 3, Mahligai (Murray Owen/Jenny Kings, New Zealand), Sydney 46, 04:21:26:15.

PHS 2: 1, She (Peter Rodgers, NSW), Olsen 40; 2, Flying Fish Arctos (A.Fairclough, NSW), McIntyre 55, 04:13:41:02; 3, Namadgi (Canberra Ocean Racing Club, ACT), Bavaria 44, 04:16:12:30.

Rolex Sydney Hobart Yacht Race

RSHYR: Two True – she’s won the Rolex Sydney Hobart

Matteo Mazzanti, Rolex SA presenting Andrew Saies, Two True with Rolex Yacht-Master timepiece and CYCA Commodore Matt Allen with the Tattersall's Cup. Image copyright ROLEX/Kurt Arrigo.

by Di Pearson

Andrew Saies’ new boat Two True this afternoon became just the fourth South Australian yacht to win the Rolex Sydney Yacht Race overall, but the win did not come without a long wait and plenty of angst.

Finishing the race yesterday (Wednesday) just before 1.30pm, Saies arrived in Hobart to hear the news that he was being protested by Todd Leary (She’s the Culprit) in relation to a collision that forced the Tasmanian boat to retire with a hole punched in her starboard side.

Adamant he was innocent, Saies was devastated at the thought he had finished this year’s mentally tough 628 nautical mile race in good time, but may have lost the coveted Tattersall's Cup to a boat of the same Beneteau design, Wicked, owned by Mike Welsh from Victoria.

“I felt absolute elation when the decision was handed down,” an emotional Saies said at a press conference this afternoon.

“I was very, very happy with the international jury’s decision,” said the South Australian yachtsman who told how waiting to hear the decision weighed on his mind.

“This is an iconic yacht race and every yachtie in Australia wants to win it. I feel proud to have achieved this once in a lifetime goal.”

An international jury of five heard five protests at the Royal Yacht Club of Tasmania relating to the same incident which occurred at the first rounding mark of the Rolex Sydney Hobart, conducted by the Cruising Yacht Club of Australia, which began last Saturday at 1pm.

The jury heard evidence for approximately one and half hours and deliberated for another hour before delivering their findings.

In relation to Two True, the International Jury dismissed the protest against the boat relating to an incident in Sydney Harbour after the start.

Colortile - the International Jury dismissed the protest against the boat relating to an incident in Sydney Harbour after the start.

She's The Culprit - minor damage sustained in harbour incident. Protest against the boat dismissed by the International Jury.

Kioni - disqualified by the International Jury for an incident in Sydney Harbour after the start.

“I’m in great company with the names on that trophy,” Saies said when CYCA Commodore Matt Allen handed the orthopedic surgeon the stunning Tattersall’s Cup.

“This race cannot be won without a great team, a great boat and an ounce of Rolex Sydney Hobart luck,” Saies commented. He went on to say that the Cruising Yacht Club of South Australia, the club he represents, has a proud tradition of trying to field at least one local boat in the race each year.

A sistership to Two True finished second overall and had the protest against Saies been upheld, Mike Welsh’s Victorian entry Wicked would have been the winner.

“I do not want to win a race like this on a protest against a similar boat that sailed a better race,” Mike Welsh said yesterday. Fortunately, he was not put to the test and is very happy with the outcome.

“To us it would be a very hollow victory because they beat us across the line; they beat us fair and square and I seriously would like to see the guys win the race. However, we are quite prepared to accept the trophy if that is how it works out,” Welsh said yesterday.

Ironically, both owners had raced their previous yachts against each other at Geelong Week in Victoria over the past few years, Saies with True North, and Welsh with Alien, both coming up with podium results, but the two did not know each other until yesterday.

The similarities don’t end there. Like Welsh, Saies only purchased his new Beneteau First 40 this year and first took her to Audi Hamilton Island Race Week where she finished third in IRC Division 2.

This is only the second time a Beneteau design has won the race; Michael Spies skippered his Beneteau 40.7, First National Real Estate, to a win in 2003.

Third place overall went to the Sydney 38 Next, chartered by Ian Mason from the host club. A second Sydney 38, Swish, owned and skippered by Steven Proud was fourth.

Of the 95 yachts remaining in the 65th Rolex Sydney Hobart Yacht Race, only Chris Dawe’s Polaris of Belmont remains at sea, but she is expected at the finish line in Hobart before midnight.

The official prizegiving for this year’s Rolex Sydney Hobart will be held at the Royal Yacht Club of Tasmania tomorrow morning starting at 11am.

Rolex Sydney Hobart Yacht Race

RSHYR: Protest dismissed, Two True declared overall winner of the Rolex Sydney Hobart

by Lisa Ratcliff

Andrew Saies’ newly launched Beneteau First 40 Two True has been declared the overall winner of the 65th Rolex Sydney Hobart Yacht Race after a protest against him over an incident on Sydney Harbour soon after the start was dismissed by the five person international jury this afternoon.

“I’ve been dreaming of winning this trophy since I was 12 years old,” an emotional Saies said.

Two True is only the fourth South Australian winner of the Tattersall’s Cup. The last was Kevan Pearce’s SAP Ausmaid in 2000.

The jury met at the Royal Yacht Club of Tasmania to hear evidence for an hour and a half and deliberated for a further hour before delivering their verdicts on five separate protests.

The protest against Two True relating to an incident on Sydney Harbour was dismissed by the International Jury.

The protest against Colortile relating to an incident on Sydney Harbour was dismissed by the International Jury.

The protest against She’s the Culprit relating to an incident on Sydney Harbour was dismissed by the International Jury.

Nick Athineos’ Beneteau 47.7 Kioni was disqualified from the Rolex Sydney Hobart 2009 by the international jury relating to an incident on Sydney Harbour
The official prizegiving for this year’s Rolex Sydney Hobart will be held at the RYCT tomorrow morning, 11am.

Rolex Sydney Hobart Yacht Race

RSHYR: She rolls into Hobart the Rolex Sydney Hobart PHS winner

SHE, Peter Rodgers, PHS Division 2 winner. Image copyright ROLEX/Daniel Forster.

by Di Pearson

Peter Rodgers did not quite take in the fact that he had provisionally won the PHS class overall in this year’s Rolex Sydney Hobart Yacht Race when he moored at Constitution Dock just before midday today; maybe the slight head injury he sustained yesterday during the race had affected him.

Rodgers was tired after spending five days at sea and was possibly suffering a spot of concussion after being whipped by wet sheets (ropes) as he came up the companionway of his modified Olsen, She, yesterday and hit his head as the boat went through a crash gybe.

When told of his provisional win, Rodgers responded: “Did we win our division – what division are we in? He did not seem to take in the fact that after his yacht had sailed its 14th Rolex Sydney Hobart, a win was finally on the table after previously scoring second places in the 2000 and 2003 races.

Rodgers, a 13-Hobart race veteran, was fortunate to have Colin Apps, an Intensive Care Paramedic aboard who checked his skipper out and bandaged him up, satisfied that he was alright to go on with the race.

“He’s (Rodgers) is OK. We just bandaged him up and made him take it easy for a while,” Apps said.

The 27 year-old yacht, which represents the race organiser, the Cruising Yacht Club of Australia, has had an extraordinary track record, with only one retirement recorded; in the disastrous 1998 race.

Apart from the Rolex Sydney Hobart, Rodgers keeps his ocean racing to a minimum, the Gosford Lord Howe Island race the only other major ocean race on his calendar, but he and his crew are experienced ocean racers.

Like most others in the race, Rodgers had his tale of woe in what is being billed one of the most “mentally tough” Hobart races in years, due to the constantly changing conditions and the slowness of the race.

“We lost 40 miles coming into Gabo Island and we never recovered from it,” he said, still not quite believing he’d won.

Colin Apps said of Rodgers: “He’s a club man; he makes up the guts of the sport and he’s a great yachtsman.”

Provisionally, the Andy Fairclough skippered Flying Fish Arctos, a McIntyre 55 from NSW is second overall in PHS. Namadgi, a Bavaria 44 owned by a syndicate of 26 from Canberra, is provisionally third. Moored right next to She, the two were celebrating on arriving in Constitution Dock.

Only one yacht remains at sea, Chris Dawe’s Polaris of Belmont, a Cole 43 from Gosford is due in by approximately 6.30pm this evening, meaning all will be tucked up safely in Hobart for the New Year celebrations.

Rolex Sydney Hobart Yacht Race

RSHYR: Two True's Win Hangs in the Balance

Mike Welsh' Beneteau First 40 Wicked, awaiting the outcome of a protest against Two True to determine whether they finished 1st or 2nd Overall. Image copyright ROLEX/Kurt Arrigo.

by Lisa Ratcliff

As the remainder of the Rolex Sydney Hobart Yacht Race fleet trickles across the finish line, Andrew Saies’ Beneteau First 40 Two True has moved into contention for the overall win. But first they have to survive this morning’s 10am protest.

It’s been a long wait for South Australian yachtsman Saies who waited for the overnight finish of the smallest in the original 100 strong fleet, Zephyr Hamilton Elevators, which was leading the IRC scoresheet. With the Nymph 33 now out of the picture in seventh, Saies’ victory hangs in the balance due to a protest lodged by She’s the Culprit following a start line collision that forced Tasmanian boat She’s the Culprit out of the race.

Should the protest be upheld, the coveted Tattersall’s Cup win for the 2009 race will go to a sistership Beneteau called Wicked, owned and skippered by Victorian Mike Welsh. The 2003 Rolex Sydney Hobart was won overall by Michael Spies’ First National Real Estate, a Beneteau 40.7.

Matt Allen's Ichi Ban prior to its dismasting on the delivery back to Sydney. Image copyright ROLEX/Daniel Forster.

There are 10 boats still to finish the 628 nautical mile ocean classic, nine of them due before lunchtime and one of them Kioni, a witness to the She’s the Culprit collision. Chris Dawe’s Polaris of Belmont will close the book on this year’s race, due later this afternoon – in time for Hobart’s New Year’s Eve celebrations - after spending six days at sea.

For what has been a pretty slow march to Hobart, amazingly there are still only five retirements.

The last time the corrected time win was affected by a protest was in 1985 when Garry Applebey’s Sagacious protested Peter Kurts’ Drakes Prayer following a start line incident. Sagacious won the protest and Drakes Prayer was penalised, costing Kurts victory. A winner for that race was never announced.

It was because of this incident that the organising club, the Cruising Yacht Club of Australia, moved to a two start line format for larger fleets.

Peter Rogers’ She is due in shortly. The crew has requested assistance at the dock for a crewman with a head injury and a cut over the eye.

In the early hours of this morning, Matt Allen’s Jones 70 Ichi Ban, was dismasted during the delivery back to Sydney when the D2 shroud broke approximately 170 nautical miles south of Eden. Everyone on board is OK and the boat is currently motoring to Eden.

The dockside announcement of the overall winner was due to take place on the Hobart waterfront at 11am this morning but will have to be rescheduled pending the outcome of this morning’s protest, which could take quite some time.

Rolex Sydney Hobart Yacht Race

Wednesday 30 December 2009

RSHYR: Handicap Winner Still in Balance

SHOGUN, Rob Hanna. Image copyright ROLEX/Kurt Arrigo.

by Susan Maffei Plowden

The smallest boat in the fleet, Zephyr Hamilton Elevators, was as of this evening, still well in the running to win the IRC overall handicap division of the 2009 Rolex Sydney Hobart Race.

Zephyr is a Sea Nymph 33 co-owned by James Connell and Alex Braddon from the Cruising Yacht Club of Australia. She won division E in the 2007 Rolex Sydney Hobart Race.

The Sea Nymph 33 design is extremely fast downwind and is well-suited to the strong northerly wind prevailing on the lower Tasmanian east coast, forecast to reach 20-30 knots by evening.

The final 40 nautical miles of the 628nm course, with the northerly forecast to blow at 15-25 knots with gusts to 30 knots, which will put Zephyr on the wind, and will certainly slow and may end her chances of winning the Tattersall's Cup for IRC overall handicap.

At 1550, Zephyr had 46 miles to go, and was doing 9.7 knots for an estimated finish at 2311, well inside the time she needed to take first place (0131 on Dec 31).

EVOLUTION RACING, Ray Roberts. Image copyright ROLEX/Kurt Arrigo.

Second and third on corrected time standings were two of Beneteau's new First 40s, which have already finished: Two True (Andrew Saies) from the Cruising Yacht Club of South Australia and Wicked (Mike Welsh) from Sandringham Yacht Club.

The Farr-designed First 40 is a replacement for the successful Beneteau 40.7. A Beneteau 40.7, First National Real Estate skippered by Michael Spies, was the overall handicap winner of the 2003 Rolex Sydney Hobart Race.

Two True, in second spot, still has to face a protest by the Tasmanian Inglis 39, She's the Culprit (Todd Leary), which was badly damaged after the race start in a jam of boats converging on the first rounding mark at Sydney Heads and had to retire.

With some of the boats named in the protest documents still racing, the International Jury has deferred the protest until tomorrow morning (Dec 31).

Zephyr has also signaled by radio to the race committee that she will lodge protests against three boats, without specifying who they are, after finishing. That protest could also arise from the crush of boats in the 100-boat fleet converging to leave Sydney Harbour.

Two True and Wicked finished fast under spinnakers before a moderate southeasterly sea breeze early this afternoon, with Two True crossing 22 minutes ahead of Wicked.

Saies said: "It was a very difficult and frustrating race. Having had a couple of light patches on the way down, we thought we were through it and then we got a third one, 25 miles from Tasman Light last night; around 3:00am we were flapping around for three hours."

RAN, Niklas Zennstrom. Image copyright ROLEX/Daniel Forster.

Tactician Brett Young said Two True had followed a strategy of always being well east of the rhumbline and had received a favourable push from the current in two major eddies.

"Our routing was always east of the rhumbline," said Young. "It's the first time I've ever done that. And we had really good competition from Wicked. They sailed hard, but we got through them. We really stuck to our game plan, even with the weather not being anything like what it was originally forecast. We only came into Tasmania when we could lay Tasman Island."

Young said the First 40 had performed well in the bumpy seaway following the southerly front. "Last night was a tough night, but that's when this boat comes into its own. In a seaway, it just goes faster."

Mark Welsh, boat manager and tactician on Wicked for his owner-skipper father Mike Welsh, said: "We chose the design after a lot of searching around the world for one that would be very competitive in IRC racing and it looks like we might have chosen successfully."

SHORTWAVE, Matthew Short. Image copyright ROLEX/Kurt Arrigo.

A third new First 40 was racing, Paca (Philippe Mengual) from the Cruising Yacht Club of Australia. "So our race really depended on watching the other two boats, said Mark. "All credit to Two True, they sailed an absolutely sensational race.

"On the second night out, even though we were with them off Gabo Island, we couldn't hold them. They sailed very, very well that night, got through us and from there we were just playing catch-up and we couldn't catch them. They did a great job."

The only IRC division decided, with all boats finished, is Division 0 for canting-keeled boats. The line honours winner Alfa Romeo (Neville Crichton), a Reichel Pugh100, won from the Cookson 50 Evolution Racing (Ray Roberts), with the modified Jones Volvo 70 Ichi Ban (Matt Allen) third.

With 48 yachts finished, and five yachts retired, there are 47 yachts still racing to the finish in Hobart.

Rolex Sydney Hobart Yacht Race

RSHYR: Slice of history for Lion New Zealand crew

Lion New Zealand. skippered by Alistair Moore, near Cape Raoul. Image copyright ROLEX/Kurt Arrigo.

by Lisa Ratcliff

Dave Dobbins’ unofficial New Zealand anthem ‘Slice of Heaven’ was playing loudly on the stereo and the huge black New Zealand flag was flying on the Whitbread maxi Lion New Zealand’s forestay as the crew celebrated their arrival in Hobart this morning, 25 years on from the boat’s Sydney Hobart line honours win.

The winning helmsman from 1984 was the late Sir Peter Blake and today his 26 year old daughter, Sarah-Jane, surveyed the Hobart waterfront as the large crowds enjoyed the summer sunshine and the spectacle of the annual Rolex Sydney Hobart finish.

“I did it to get to know Dad a little better,” said Sarah-Jane. When asked had the trip been emotional, she said “I’ve been busy and tired; when you stop and think about it, it can mess with your head.”

The 1984 Sydney Hobart was particularly rough while this year’s race has been fairly benign, apart from a couple of 30-35 knot squirts and rough seas that drenched the crew sitting on the rail.

Sam Cray, the 18 year old son of original crewmember Godfrey Cray reflected “we have a connection with what they did. They were the last of the Corinthian crew of that era who all volunteered and paid their own way. They were a bit like a travelling rugby team.”

Lion New Zealand’s modern day crew can identify with the Corinthian spirit, they have come under their own steam with support from skipper Alistair Moore and Blair Smeal and the Lion New Zealand Charitable Trust, which was established to preserve New Zealand’s unique maritime history by ensuring significant vessels remain in working order.

Cray was in awe of the boat’s arrival in Hobart in 40th place at 12:40pm today. “If anyone had said six months ago that I was going to do a Rolex Sydney Hobart I would have laughed.

“One spectator boat met us at the mouth of the Derwent River, then by the time we finished the fleet had built to 10. Back then [1984] the finish must have been amazing.”

The third offspring from the 1984 crew is Conrad Gundry, the 20 year old son of Simon Gundry. He described the welcome in Hobart this morning as “a fantastic reception”.

At the race finish, Bill Thomas, chef and camera operator, provided an extra special moment when he presented each of the 14 crew with an original crew supporter pin from the boat’s 1984 win.

Rolex Sydney Hobart Yacht Race

RSHYR: Tattersall's Cup still in doubt

Andrew Saeis' Two True en route to Hobart. Image copyright ROLEX/Daniel Forster.

by Susan Maffei Plowden

The smaller boats at the back of the Rolex Sydney Hobart Race, after surviving frustrating light air and calms off the southeastern coast of New South Wales, are blowing home fast today.

A light but steady nor'easter in Hobart this morning, has been giving the yachts finishing a comfortable one-leg day over the last 11 nautical miles of the course up the Derwent River.

The Bureau of Meteorology forecast for the lower east coast of Tasmania has a light east-northeast breeze this morning tending northeast-north during the morning and increasing to reach 20-30 knots by this evening.

But the winner of the race's most prized trophy, the Tattersall's Cup for the first boat on IRC overall corrected, may still be in doubt after the finish.

At 1200, Andrew Saies' Beneteau First 40 Two True, from the Cruising Yacht Club of Australia, was leading the IRC corrected time calculations from another First 40, Wicked (Mike Welsh) from Sandringham YC.

Seventh was the British Judel/Vrolijk 72 Ran (Niklas Zennstrom), moored since finishing yesterday, at the Kings Pier Marina.

Two True was 7.6nm from the finish doing 7 knots, looking set to cross over two hours inside the time needed to win.

But, after finishing she still has to survive a protest lodged against her by the Inglis 39 She's the Culprit (Todd Leary) over an incident soon after the start in Sydney Harbour. She's the Culprit, holed in a collision had to retire immediately.

The weather pattern, with its heavy mix of calms and light air before the northerly flow bringing the small boats home fast, has not suited the 50-72 footers that were most fancied in pre-race predictions.

Aboard one of smaller boats in this group, the Corby 49 Audi Centre Melbourne (formerly Flirt), was Roger Hickman who has sailed in 33 Hobart races, twice aboard Tattersall's Cup winners.

Hickman described how the mid-fleet boats were finally slowed by the southerly change, the final nail in the coffin for their overall handicap chances. "We were off Schouten Island, (102nm) from the finish, when it went hard south with a good 28-30 knots of breeze for four or five hours. Then it lightened up, but it got very bumpy off Maria Island.

"It was a tough night, cold but within the realms of acceptability. It went straight south so we had to tack into Maria, tack out, and back into Eaglehawk Neck and chipped our way up to Tasman.

"Half an hour before we got to Tasman the wind went a bit left. We just got to Tasman and then it was just soft, five knots, six knots, and then halfway across Storm Bay this little north-easterly came in, which I guess was the saving grace because we could well still be out there for another couple of hours."

The after-race beers with crew mates on the dock this morning evoked sad memories for Hickman ... of his partner and crewmate Sally Gordon who, along with the yacht's skipper Andrew Short, died in the wreck of Short's Shockwave on Flinders Islet during a Cruising Yacht Club of Australia overnight coastal race in October.

"This is my 33rd Sydney Hobart; the first one in 15 years without my mate Sal," he said. "And it's a piss-off because you get so used to relying on people. It's all about the camaraderie. It's not which Hobart you do; it's whom you do it with. And you make some wonderful, wonderful friends."

With 35 yachts finished, and five yachts retired, there are 60 yachts still racing to the finish in Hobart.

Rolex Sydney Hobart Yacht Race

RSHYR: Dolphins and the puffs when they are needed bring back memories of special mates

Roger Hickman dockside at Constitution Dock. Image copyright Bruce Montgomery.

by Bruce Montgomery

A pod of dolphins off Bicheno on the Tasmanian east coast, the biggest that veteran yachtsman Roger Hickman has ever seen, stopped him in his tracks on board the Rolex Sydney Hobart Yacht Race entrant Audi Centre Melbourne yesterday.

Until that point in the race, he had not really reflected on the night of October 10 when he lost his “first mate” Sally Gordon and “good mate” Andrew Short when Short’s maxi struck Flinders Islet off the coast of Wollongong and they died.

Another Rolex Sydney Hobart boat, the TP52 Shortwave, with 11 members of Andrew Short’s family making up the crew of 16, took time out to stop racing as they crossed the same latitude of Flinders Islet, 30 nautical miles further out to sea.

Andrew’s older brother Matthew went to the starboard side of the boat.

“We had agreed on what we were going to do when we got to that point on the course,” Matt’s wife Christine said.

“He said a few words to the kids. It wasn’t heavy. He said that Andrew had died doing what he enjoyed doing and he reminded the kids not to make any silly mistakes. We wore lifejackets for the whole race,” Christine Short said.

“After that, we threw one of his favourite hats into the sea, the one from last year’s Rolex Sydney Hobart. From then on, we knew he was with us. Every time we needed some wind we said ‘Come on, Andrew, give us a puff’, and he did.”

The family plans to return to Flinders Islet in a couple of weeks to scatter Andrew’s ashes.

Hickman, on his 33rd Rolex Sydney-Hobart, reflected particularly on the loss of Gordon, his memories triggered not by passing the Wollongong coast but by the haunting presence of that pod of dolphins off Bicheno.

“Sally was a really good friend, a special lady. We sailed the world and did the last 13 Sydney Hobarts together,” Hickman said.

“The Rolex Sydney Hobart is not about the boats you sail on or the number of Sydney Hobarts you do or how bad the weather was, it’s the number of friends you make.

“Sally was a terrific crew person, a wonderful lady, very special, because she was my first mate.”

Then came the emotions of the dolphins, with which Sally Gordon had a special affinity.

“Off Bicheno we got more dolphins than any of us had ever seen, and I’ve been floating around for a long time,” Hickman said.

“They just played and played. Sally was always fascinated with them. That was sad because you think, ‘bugger’.

“Sally and I had done 20 Flinders Islet races over the last 15 years; with Sally, with the dolphins, it was just amazing. Every time we saw dolphins, she just loved them. You’d call her, she’d come up on deck and go to the bow and tap on it to attract them. No matter how close the race was, how furious the competition was, she was just obsessed with them.

“This was the best display I had ever seen. They just frolicked and jumped out of the water.

“I said to Peter Inchbold, ‘you can understand why people get religious because if you connected that with a god, a Sally Gordon type god, you would think they have come to haunt us’.

“That was quite poignant; very poignant. Very sad. You can visualise Andrew and Sally floating upside-down, lifeless, and that is very sad.

“You just think ‘bugger’,” Hickman said, and turned away.

Rolex Sydney Hobart Yacht Race

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

JVT: Check-up for Groupama 3

François Salabert helming Groupama 3 on her way back up the Atlantic Ocean.

by Vincent Borde and Caroline Muller

Expected to make landfall in Lorient early yesterday evening, in the end it took Groupama 3 until 2330 hours to tie up in her home port in an absolute downpour. Soaked to the skin but happy, the crew of the maxi trimaran took 16 and a half days to make it back from Cape Town, South Africa. Welcomed home by Franck Cammas and his team, the ten crew will now be able to enjoy a much deserved break as the technicians take over to prepare Groupama 3 for a fresh attempt to conquer the Jules Verne Trophy the minute the weather conditions are favourable at the start of 2010.

Wearing a beard, the features slightly drawn despite a big, telling smile of pleasure on making landfall, Fred Le Peutrec is a fulfilled skipper: "The delivery trip went very smoothly with a crew made up of some excellent sailors, half of which were on Groupama 3 for the first time. We've sailed well and I really appreciated the role of skipper, which requires you to shoulder a large amount of responsibility and to make decisions in view of what were difficult weather forecasts at times, particularly over recent days". However, Fred is also a happy man: "We're all delighted about making it home and seeing our families and children again to celebrate Christmas, which will certainly be joyful albeit a little late".

Seated at the table despite the late hour (thank you to the team at La Base restaurant), the sailors and landlubbers didn't waste any time exchanging their impressions of the voyage, giving their opinion about Groupama 3 and about the work which will ensue: "It really is a superb boat, that is very pleasant to helm. She never stops but she does require a great deal of attention" says Ludovic Aglaor, the current holder of the Jules Verne Trophy, who came along especially to see his friends Jacques Caraës and Ronan Le Goff.

Alongside him, Clément Surtel continues: "Each time it was my turn at the helm, the first ten minutes were stressful as I was only just finding my feet on Groupama 3, which is very sensitive. The following fifty minutes were a pure delight, to the extent that I found it hard to give up my position to the next person. I really appreciated the atmosphere onboard too. It was fantastic".

As for Eric Lamy, a full-time member of the Groupama team for a number of years, he will shoulder the role of Boat Captain at the end of the Jules Verne Trophy. The pleasure he experienced when sailing was only equalled by seeing his two daughters and his wife again: "The climb up the Atlantic was really great and I now know my way around Groupama 3 really well. She goes very quickly. When you're helming and you see the number 37 indicating the boat speed, you tell yourself how lucky you are to be where you are. It's magical" concludes the very talented sailor and cook.

Passing from group to group, Franck Cammas thanks the crew which have returned Groupama 3 safely back to port. Already the list of work to be carried out over the next few days is taking shape in the skipper's mind: "We're going to change the standing rigging as it's already covered over half a circumnavigation of the globe and it would be risky to keep it. We're also going to reinforce the centreline on the aft edge of the floats where the engineers have identified a weak point. The rest of the work will now focus on the smaller details due to the normal wear and tear after 16,000 miles on the water".

Happy to see his men and his trimaran again, Cammas hasn't lost sight of his objective, the Jules Verne Trophy: "We're closely monitoring the evolution in the weather with Sylvain Mondon from Météo France. For the time being there is no weather window. As such Fred (Le Peutrec), Ronan (Le Goff) and Jacco (Caraës), who all made the delivery trip aboard Groupama 3, will be able to get some rest before setting off around the world with the same crew as during our last attempt".

With the lateness of the hour, the crew gradually leave La Base to get home to a dry, motionless bed. On the pontoon, it's now over to the technicians to be on watch.

The crew of Groupama 3 for this delivery trip were:

1. Fred Le Peutrec
2. Ronan Le Goff
3. Jacques Caraës
4. Eric Lamy
5. François Salabert
6. Clément Surtel
7. Ludovic Aglaor
8. Thierry Duprés du Vorsent
9. Mayeul Riflet
10. Nick Legatt

Cammas - Groupama

ICAP Leopard narrowly beaten in Rolex Sydney-Hobart Race

100ft British super-maxi beaten by Kiwi and Australian rivals, just missing out on historic treble

ICAP Leopard during the Sydney-Hobart. Image copyright Andrea Francolini.

by Annabel Merrison

At 05:45 (local time) on the 29 December 2009 ICAP Leopard, the 100ft British super-maxi racing yacht owned by Helical Bar PLC chief executive Mike Slade, crawled up the Derwent river to finish third in what has been a light and arduous Sydney-Hobart race. After a long and hard-fought battle with her lighter rivals Wild Oats XI and eventual winner Alfa Romeo, the exhausted ICAP Leopard crew crossed the Tasmanian finish line after a torturous two days, 16 hours and 45 minutes at sea.

Whilst the Rolex Sydney-Hobart is well known for the fearsome conditions that it often throws at its competitors, this year’s edition was shifty and tactical almost from the word go. Faced with unstable weather conditions for the entire race, tacticians and navigators were hard-pressed to find every puff of breeze in order to gain any advantage after an uncharacteristically cold and blustery opening few hours.

ICAP Leopard’s veteran navigator Hugh Agnew commented: “This has been one of the most challenging races I have ever come up against. Forecasts changed hourly in the run-up to the start and it was impossible to predict the weather right up until the finish gun fired. It has been an immense tactical battle. We are disappointed not to have taken line honours but our congratulations go out to Alfa Romeo. They opened up a gap on day two and sailed an impeccable race from then on.”

This result means that ICAP Leopard has also missed out on a historic treble. Having been first home in the Rolex Fastnet and Middle-Sea races earlier in the season, Slade and his crew had the opportunity to be the first to win all three “offshore classics” in a calendar year. Unfortunately, with conditions suiting their lightweight rivals, it wasn’t to be.

Owner and skipper of ICAP Leopard, Mike Slade, commented: “Another Rolex Sydney-Hobart race and another cracking battle! Whilst this race may not have been a ‘classic’ it was a fantastic tussle. We are disappointed, of course, not to have taken line honours and the treble but we have had a brilliantly successful season nonetheless. The crew has been fantastic. In conditions that have not always suited us we have matched and even outpaced our rivals and it is a huge testament to Chris [Sherlock - Boat Captain] and the team that we managed to keep Wild Oats behind us for so long.

“All that remains now is for us to paint the town red, beat the locals at a spot of cricket and enjoy spending some time with old friends before the flight home!”

ICAP Leopard's Crew for the Rolex Sydney-Hobart Race 2009


ICAP Leopard

Tuesday 29 December 2009

RSHYR: Image Collage of the 2009 Rolex Sydney Hobart Yacht Race

ALFA ROMEO, Neville Crichton, line honours winner of the 2009 Rolex Sydney Hobart Yacht Race. Image copyright ROLEX/Daniel Forster.

ALFA ROMEO approaching the Derwent River. Image copyright ROLEX/Daniel Forster.

ALFA ROMEO, Neville Crichton, passing Tasman Island. Image copyright ROLEX/Daniel Forster.

ICHI BAN, Matt Allen. Image copyright ROLEX/Daniel Forster.

LAHANA off Tasman Island. Image copyright ROLEX/Kurt Arrigo.

LAHANA, Peter Millard and John Honan. Image copyright ROLEX/Kurt Arrigo.

SHOGUN, Rob Hanna. Image copyright ROLEX/Daniel Forster.

LOKI, Stephen Ainsworth. Image copyright ROLEX/Daniel Forster.

Rolex Sydney Hobart Yacht Race

RSHYR: Southerly Slow-Up

YENDYS, Geoff Ross. Image copyright ROLEX/Daniel Forster.

by Susan Maffei Plowden

A strong southerly to southwesterly change sweeping up the Tasmanian coast this afternoon slowed the 87 yachts still at sea in the 2009 Rolex Sydney Hobart Race.

At 1600, the Bureau of Meteorology issued a strong wind warning for the lower east coast, from Wineglass Bay to Tasman Island for southwest to southerly winds of 30 knots in open waters at first, easing to 5 to 15 kn by late evening, with two to three metre seas and a southwest swell of 2.5 to 3.5 metres.

The winds would then tend northeast to northerly at 10 - 20kn during tomorrow morning before increasing during the afternoon to 20 - 30kn by evening.

For the yachts covering the remaining miles of the 628 nautical mile race, the forecast meant a bumpy, wet night of tacking upwind before the strong northerly picks up the fleet still at sea and propels them towards Tasman Island at a very fast pace on a wild spinnaker ride.

That scenario removes any certainty about the computer calculations of the likely winner of the Tattersall's Cup for the overall IRC handicap winner.

But it is comforting for a leading contender for the Tattersall's Cup, already tied up at the Kings Pier Marina in Hobart. At 1800, Niklas Zennstrom's Judel/Vrolijk 72 Ran (UK), was showing up in 15th position on corrected time calculations.

Ran's tactician, Adrian Stead, said: "We're in good shape; we got Neville (Alfa Romeo) by 50 minutes or so, which is good and we sailed really well. All we can do now is wait and see how we shape up."

Also at 1800, Tony Kirby's X41 Patrice 6 was calculated to be leading IRC overall handicap from an eclectic mix of designs and sizes. She was 12nm east of Cape Sonnerat, between the coastal villages of Swansea and Triabunna, making seven knots with 96nm to sail.

Second was Andrew Saies' Beneteau First 40 Two True, followed by Wicked (Mike Welsh), another Beneteau First 40. Then came the Spanish entry Charisma (Alejandro Perez Calzada), a 1970 Sparkman & Stephens IOR rule design that should revel in the strong upwind conditions.

Tasman Island. Image copyright ROLEX/Daniel Forster.

One IRC handicap result that is certain is the win of Neville Crichton's 100ft super-maxi Alfa Romeo, the line honours winner, in IRC division 0 for canting keel-powered boats and the second place in that division for Matt Allen's modified Jones-design Volvo 70, unbeatable in second place on current position reports.

Allen said the Volvo 70 was a very good boat for upwind and in high-wind pressure sailing. In the sou'-wester of up to 25 knots on the first night, she worked up to within a half mile behind Wild Oats XI.

"We were not overly surprised to see that, but we knew the next night in the lighter airs and with the bigger sails the maxis carry, giving away rating, they would get through that first light-air gate. Only the three boats got through and the next morning we were there with all our fellow-sized boats stuck for five or six hours."

Allen said that every night there were challenges. "You'd sail through the day, with quite a few wind shifts, but generally the night-time sailing was tricky. Every night we parked up. Tactically it was a very interesting race, because you had to work out where you were going to get through in the next transition.

"Last night we'd had a 30-knot nor'-westerly and we were doing 25 knots, white water coming over the boat. It lasted for an hour and-a-half and within minutes it went down really quickly: to ten knots, to five and then zero. So we went from having 30 knots to being in no wind with leftover swell and you could only go in one direction, with the waves.

"The big transition zones had the navigators really on their toes, playing the angles and trying to work out how to handle the next transition."

With eight yachts finished, and five yachts retired, there are 87 yachts still racing to the finish in Hobart.

Rolex Sydney Hobart Yacht Race

RSHYR: Line Honours Podium Fills

Volvo 70 ICHI BAN, Matt Allen. Image copyright ROLEX/Kurt Arrigo.

by Susan Maffei Plowden

The 2009 Rolex Sydney Hobart Race line honours podium filled this morning when Bob Oatley's Wild Oats XI and Mike Slade's ICAP Leopard finished in second and third positions.

Wild Oats XI finished at five minutes after midnight, two hours and three minutes behind her Reichel/Pugh 100 near-sister yacht Neville Crichton's Alfa Romeo. Leopard, a Farr 100, finished at 0545, five hours and 40 minutes behind Wild Oats XI.

Next to finish, at 0734, was another 100ft maxi, the Greg Elliott-designed Investec Loyal (Sean Langman), which previously raced for New Zealand owners as Maximus.

Fifth home, at 0927, was Niklas Zennstrom's Ran from the UK, a Judel/Volijk-designed 72-footer that was overall handicap winner in the 2009 Rolex Fastnet Race.

Ran has a chance of winning the race's major trophy, the Tattersall's Cup, for the first yacht on IRC corrected time. She has certainly beaten Alfa Romeo, which led the IRC overall standings for a time yesterday, denying Crichton the rare handicap/line honours double.

Wild Oats' Mark Richards was gracious in defeat. "It was a tactical race and we never got a look in really," Richards said. "They had a little edge on us on the first night and the next morning we were in a big parking lot together. They got out first and put 30 miles on us before we knew what had happened."

Mike Slade had an historical perspective of the close three-way battle of the maxis: "When Napoleon turned up at Waterloo he knew he was in for a bad day, he had a bad day at the office didn't he? I've been a bit like that. It was a fantastic race and well done Alfa, bloody marvellous."

Slade said that Leopard had gambled by sailing farther offshore than Alfa and Oats down the east coast of Australia rather than sailing in Alfa's wake. "We went offshore because there was no point in covering Alfa's tracks; she had about 20 miles on us and we just got locked out. We had about four shut-downs and it was as frustrating as hell. We sat there for hours, watching them go away. That cost us. We got punished."

Rounding Tasman Island was the worst Slade had experienced. "There was no wind and appalling seas; really nasty because it's a lee shore, you've got no steerage because there's no wind, but the seas were huge and that took us a couple of hours.

"Alfa and Oats had already gone round. The rich get rich and the poor get poorer, that's what the game's all about. So it was a shocker but we loved every minute of it. We will be back to do another one I think - the boat's a glutton for punishment."

Ran, after performing well in the fresh upwind work on the first night, parked in calms before zooming back into handicap contention with a blistering run on the new nor'-west breeze off Flinders Island.

Ran's owner/skipper Niklas Zennstrom said: "The race at times was frustrating, we got parked up. Yesterday afternoon we had a fantastic run, we were reaching at up to 24 knots of boat speed, averaging 18 and 19 knots. It was excellent sailing.

"This morning was also very good; last night we had a few stops and goes. But we are happy with how the boat performed on corrected time and we will have to wait and see how the other boats are going on handicap.

"At times it looked really, really bad for us and really good for the small boats, but that's how it is. All you can do is sail as good as you can and avoid making as many mistakes as possible. I don't think we made too many mistakes."

Ran's tactician Adrian Stead said that after riding the nor'-wester fast, Ran hit a light spot last evening, 20 miles northeast of Maria Island. "We got through that and sailed the last bit up here pretty well, very conscious that 10:20 was our deadline to beat Alfa," he said.

With six yachts finished, and five yachts retired, there are 89 yachts still racing.

The Rolex Sydney Hobart Yacht Race fleet has crews representing the USA, UK, New Zealand, Spain, the Netherlands, and New Caledonia as well as every Australian state.

Audio of Ran owner/skipper Niklas Zennstrom, tactician Ado Stead, and navigator Steve Hayles talk about the race and their prospects for a handicap win.

Rolex Sydney Hobart Yacht Race

RSHYR: Weather holds the key to race win

Niklas Zennstrom's RÁN in Storm Bay - possibly this year's Rolex Sydney Hobart overall winner, however conditions overnight (29 Dec) will determine this. Image copyright ROLEX/Daniel Forster.

by Bruce Montgomery

An unfavourable weather forecast for the rest of today and tomorrow for yachts still at sea and in contention for corrected time honours in the Rolex Sydney Hobart Yacht Race holds the key to the overall race win this year.

In sailing terms, the forecast for the lower part of the Tasmanian east coast and for Storm Bay to the Derwent is for the wind on the nose for those approaching Tasman Island and once they get round tomorrow, the wind will swing to the north, again putting it on the nose as they beat across Storm Bay and into the Derwent.

And since the wind will be on the nose, they will have to tack back and forth into the wind, forcing the yachts to travel further to get to Hobart; a fact of life that the race computer does not take into account when it estimates times of arrival at the finish line.

To the computer, if you are 100 nautical miles from Hobart, as the crow flies, and you are travelling at 10 knots, it must mean you reach Hobart in 10 hours. It does not allow for wind direction and sea state.

This news means that with the promise of heavy windward work under reduced sail, those that are contenders for overall honours in the race must now prove their mettle. If not, the leader in the clubhouse, the British yacht RÁN, will add the Rolex Sydney Hobart win to the Rolex Fastnet that she won in August.

For those at sea, the interesting scenario is developing that it becomes a race within a race between relatively new, lightweight 40-foot boats of the ilk of Tony Kirby’s Patrice Six from Sydney, Mark Welsh’s Victorian sloop Wicked and Andrew Saies’ new South Australian Far-design Two True, and the old timers that were built just for these conditions.

The old-timers include Simon Kurts’ three-time winner Love and War, Mike Freebairn’s Ray White Spirit of Koomooloo, which is a former Ragamuffin and Margaret Rintoul ll, and Seahold Perie Banou ll, a solid Sparkman & Stephens design like Love & War and skippered by WA yachtsman Jon Sanders who completed a triple circumnavigation of the world in 1988.

The forecast for the race area between Wineglass Bay, Tasman Island and the Tasmanian south coast for the rest of the day is for strong southerlies, 15-25 knots and 30 knots offshore, but easing to 5-15 knots as night falls, but tending more south-easterly. Seas of two to three metres should abate.

Tomorrow for this lower part of the east coast, the forecast is for strengthening north-east to northerly winds, reaching 20-30 knots by evening. The forecast is similar for seas west of Tasman Island for tomorrow but not quite as strong.

The northerly weather in Storm Bay is expected to continue until a westerly change on Thursday.

Who will win? Who knows?

Rolex Sydney Hobart Yacht Race

RSHYR: Scallop pies first stop for Lahana crew

Peter Millard and John Honan's 98ft maxi Lahana. Image copyright ROLEX/Daniel Forster.

by Di Pearson

The Queensland super maxi Lahana, owned by Peter Millard and John Honan arrived in Hobart this afternoon, docking just before 5.00pm after finishing the Rolex Sydney Hobart Yacht Race, the eighth yacht to cross the line of the Cruising Yacht Club of Australia’s 628 nautical mile race.

One of the first things principal helmsman Bob Fraser said on stepping ashore was: “We were supposed to have lunch at the Shipwright’s Arms today, but I had to ring and change it to dinner instead.”

Fraser next asked his wife Sue where the scallop pies were. Like the bulk of the fleet, Lahana’s crew thought they would be in Hobart long before they were and accordingly packed enough food for two days for the 27 guys on board – it wasn’t enough and they ran out - reduced to slim pickings in the last 12 hours.

Hobart’s famous scallop pies safely aboard, along with the obligatory few drinks, Fraser, a veteran of 27 Hobart races said it was “an easy but frustrating race.”

It was awful, he said “looking at the Rolex tracker and watching Ludde (Ingvall on YuuZoo) go from 10 nautical miles behind us to 20 in front and beat us over the line by just over three hours.

“They ought to get rid of that tracker,” Fraser said laughing.

Prior to the race start, the Bureau of Meteorology’s Rob Webb told the crews participating in the race that mixed weather conditions would beset the fleet for four days.

“It was very stop-start,” Fraser said. “Coming into Bass Strait we fell into a big hole. Some of the guys in front of us hardened up and went west. We were sort of in between and were pretty much forced to go east. We got through that pretty well,” he added.

“In the last bit near Freycinet (around 111 nautical miles from the finish line in Hobart), we had a jibtop and staysail up and the breeze dropped out, so we put a drifter up and flopped over to port and within 20 minutes we had a really good breeze.

“The breeze dropped off then and we made a mistake and went west and ran out of breeze. It was hard to have a strategy because of the very mixed weather,” said the former sailmaker from Sydney.

Rolex Sydney Hobart Yacht Race

RSHYR: Ingvall and Witt’s new plans after Rolex Sydney Hobart

YuuZoo making good time across Storm Bay towards the Derwent River on her way to the finish line. Image copyright ROLEX/Kurt Arrigo.

by Bruce Montgomery and Di Pearson

Having returned to ocean racing after a four-year break with a seventh across the Rolex Sydney Hobart Yacht Race finish line today on his super maxi YuuZoo, Finnish-born champion sailor Ludde Ingvall is on a mission.

On his arrival in Hobart, Ingvall, now an Australian resident, announced he would be teaming up with his YuuZoo co-skipper David Witt, one of Australia’s most experienced skiff sailors and ocean racers.

The pair plans to put Australia back on the world sailing charts, including an assault on the America’s Cup.

Ingvall’s accomplishments include line honours in the Rolex Sydney Hobart in 2000 and 2004, on two different versions of Nicorette, the Rolex Fastnet Race in 1995, world championships in 1997 and 1998 and the transatlantic monohull record in 1997.

The Swedish Sailing Association named go-getting Ingvall Yachtsman of the Year in 1995 and 2000.

He took a break from sailing in 2005 to devote more time to his family and to establish an equestrian centre on the NSW central coast.

Satisfied with what he has done, Ingvall is back to sailing and to inject his obvious passion for the sport into young Australians who do not enjoy the access to sailing that he has.
Ingvall and Witt, a former 18ft skiff champion and skipper of Volvo-class yachts in previous Rolex Sydney Hobart races, tied up in Hobart this afternoon, ecstatic about their race this time, and enthused about their new venture.

“It was more fun this time than in 2004. I just enjoyed it. Having been away, I found that I enjoy it still. It’s hard to do things like this if you don’t have a passion for it,” Ingvall stated.

“David and I have decided that we would like to work together. David is a great yachtsman.”

The twosome’s aim is to increase the scope of Ingvall’s Australian Boat Racing Team; to campaign this and other boats at major regattas, including next years’ Rolex Sydney Hobart, but the Holy Grail is Australia’s re-emergence as a challenger for the Americas Cup.

“Our plans are to do a lot of things for Australian yachting over the next three to five years. This boat is just of the boats we intend to use in that planning,” he said.

“The lack of presence of Australia at the America’s Cup is one of the things that has concerned me for the last four years. I can’t understand why a country that changed the history of yachting in the America’s Cup can’t put together a team,” said Ingvall.

“I went to Valencia and realised that there were about 27 of my crew on various boats and I realised there were Australians everywhere. I just think Australia needs to be represented and maybe I can bring something to the table.

“I have done this for a long time, and even though I may not do all the races myself, I just want to pass on all the knowledge I have. We have the passion. It is about fulfilling the dreams of Australian yachtsmen and women.

Witt welcomed the prospects: “Ludde and I go back a while. We sailed together in 1997 in Europe on the original Nicorette.

“In this new relationship, I’m the one that does a lot more of the mechanics and putting the people together.

“I’m not as old as Ludde, so I think the age difference and the experience helps to put a really good boat team together.”

Back to the Rolex Sydney Hobart, organised by the Cruising Yacht Club of Australia, a 26 year-old Tasmanian girl, Danielle McKay, was chosen as the best performer on YuuZoo, so was given the honour of steering the yacht over the finish line, assisted by gun helmsman Witt.

“She is an excellent sailor; very committed and helpful; they breed them well down here,” Ingvall said.

“It was a real pleasure to have her onboard,” said the Finnish skipper, confessing: “We are three miles from the finish line and I have just got out of my Gore-Tex pyjamas, turned off my computer games and I’m now ready to come on deck!”

On stepping ashore in Hobart after finishing, Ingvall said, “Gee it is great to be back, thanks to the entire team for welcoming me back with open arms.

Ingvall told of his best moment at the helm: “Surfing Bass Strait was amazing. We reached a top speed of 26.6 knots and averages over 24 knots - it was FANTASTIC – I got soaked to the bone as I didn't have time to put the wet weather gear on when it hit!”

A passionate sailor with a penchant for inspiring younger people and opening their minds to the possibilities in life, Ingvall said: “The whole idea of what we do know, is to tell the adventure just like it is, from all sides, warts and all.

“One big brother/sisterhood living the dream, having fun as if there was no tomorrow....”

Rolex Sydney Hobart Yacht Race

RSHYR: Pre-race favourite now waits for others to decide her fate

Niklas Zennstrom's JV72 RAN passing Tasman Island at sunrise. Image copyright ROLEX/Kurt Arrigo.

by Jim Gale

Fresh from her outright win in the Rolex Fastnet race, the British Judel Vrolijk 72 RÁN, campaigned by her UK based Swedish internet entrepreneur Niklas Zennstrom, was immediately identified by local grand prix offshore sailors as the boat to beat for the Tattersall’s Cup.

RÁN looked even more ominous after the pre-race weather forecast tipped a lot of fresh, windward work, the conditions in which the 72-footer is blindingly quick.

And in the early stages, all the local forebodings looked prescient indeed, as RÁN dominated the handicap table. But after such a variable, on-again off-again race, RÁN is now sitting tied up in Hobart, nervously waiting to see what her fate will be.

“We have re-calibrated our objectives,” Zennstrom said as his yacht was being secured dockside. “We realised that our first objective was to win in our class. And in our division we are racing against 51-footers (which are still at sea). We give them eight hours or so (on handicap) so they are sailing in completely different conditions to us.”

Zennstrom described RÁN’s race as a mixture of spectacular beats and reaches in amongst dispiriting lulls, when they had the wind seeker out, trying to find whatever whisp of breeze they could.

“It was very frustrating because it was a very complex race,” he said. “The weather forecasts changed a lot. We knew they would before the race, but when we got out there it was very, very different from what we had seen before. We got parked up way too many times. It was very, very frustrating.

“Yesterday afternoon though, we had a fantastic run, reaching at up to 24 knots boat speed, and this morning was very good.”

RÁN’s handicap aspirations took a huge knock in the middle of Bass Strait, a patch of dead air so big there was no way round it. “That hurt us a lot,” Zennstrom said.

Zennstrom saw the three supermaxis slip through him just before the wind gate closed, and “the small boats (that arrived much later) didn’t get the worst of it, but we were just in that spot where we got the worst of it.

“That was our bit of bad luck for this race, but we also got more bad luck last night when we parked up for hours.”

Overall though, the crew of RÁN are very pleased with how they sailed their race. They don’t feel they made too many mistakes, though the constantly changing conditions sometimes made genius calls look bit ordinary an hour later.

Still, Zennstrom described the race as “fantastic”. The uncertainty both during the race and now, as he waits to see whether the small boats will get home in time to rain on his parade, is a contrast to his winning Rolex Fastnet experience.

“The Fastnet was much more predictable weather and also we had a tidal gate that we made, so we knew after the first seven hours that it would be very difficult for the small boats.

“This race was much less physically demanding than we prepared ourselves for. It wasn’t tough at all. Mentally, though, it was much more difficult.”

So will he be back for more?

“I would not rule that out.”

A slight pause.

“It also depends on the results,” he chuckles.

Rolex Sydney Hobart Yacht Race

RSHYR: Sport Stars Thrive at Sea

Sean Langman and his all-star crew aboard Investec LOYAL. Image copyright ROLEX/Daniel Forster.

by Greg Peart and Lisa Ratcliff

Six yachts have now completed the 65th Rolex Sydney Hobart Yacht Race including Investec LOYAL, dubbed ‘the celebrity boat’ which left Sydney Harbour Saturday afternoon with a bunch of sports stars and sailors, and arrived with a tight team of yachties who can all talk the talk and walk the walk – albeit a little wobbly after nearly three days at sea.

Boxing world champion Danny Green described his experience once Investec LOYAL had docked in Hobart, his first visit to the island state, after finishing fourth over the line. “The whole thing was a buzz. We all pulled together, there was great camaraderie.”

When asked what he had planned for his first moments ashore, Green said “brush my teeth, have a shower, and I’m looking forward to a cold schooner.”

Olympic gold medallist Grant Hackett said “it was very trying, very rewarding getting to the other side” while Wallaby hooker Phil Waugh described the 628 nautical mile ocean classic as a big challenge. “Early on there were some hairy moments. We didn’t get much sleep. I really enjoyed being out there. Physically it was harder than I thought; it’s very different to playing rugby.”

Investec LOYAL’s navigator David Dickson summed up the trip beautifully, “I’ve never laughed so much on a boat. The owner’s rep, Ross Field, is a passionate Kiwi supporter. The banter between him and the two Phils [Phil Waugh and Phil Kearns] was priceless.”

Skipper Sean Langman had nothing but praise for the sport’s latest recruits. “These guys never stopped. They are excellent, competitive men who don’t give up. I hope they come back.”

On his own plans, Langman has no doubt. “I’ll be back next year. It’s still unfinished for me.”

Wild Oats XI and ICAP Leopard crossing swords. Image copyright ROLEX/Daniel Forster.

Mike Slade’s UK 100 footer ICAP Leopard finished third over the line early this morning.

In typical Slade vernacular, he offered the following, “When Napoleon turned up at Waterloo he knew he was in for a bad day, he had a bad day at the office didn’t he? I’ve been a bit like that. It was a fantastic race and well done, Alfa, bloody marvellous.”

Slade said that ICAP Leopard had gambled by sailing farther offshore. “We went offshore because there was no point in covering Alfa’s tracks; she had about 20 miles on us and we just got locked out. We had about four shut-downs and it was as frustrating as hell. We sat there for hours, watching them go away. That cost us. We got punished.

“Despite suggesting pre-race that this year’s Rolex Sydney Hobart would be his last, Slade was this morning overhead saying “We will be back to do another one I think. The boat’s a glutton for punishment.” Finishing out of the top two can be a strong motivator.

ICAP Leopard’s tactician Ray Davies this morning paid credit to line honours winner Alfa Romeo.

“The Alfa Romeo boys really deserved to win. They sailed tactically a very, very good race and kept the boat sailing well in all conditions. We had a shocker.

“Considering the conditions, morale was really good on board. We had a very good first part of the race. We were hoping for a bit of breeze and a bit of luck, but we didn’t get either. The guys on board just kept their chin up even when it became pretty evident we just weren’t going to be able to draw them back.

“Now that the pain’s over, everyone loves their yachting and we are going to be back for many more Rolex Sydney Hobarts, that’s for sure.”

Cricket’s on the agenda this afternoon for the 22 man ICAP Leopard crew, the right amount for two teams to square off at the Queenborough Oval at Sandy Bay, Hobart. Half time refreshments include Pimms, English Breakfast tea and cucumber sandwiches.

The next boat due to finish is Ludde Ingvall’s 2002 Rolex Sydney Hobart line honours winner YuuZoo, due to cross the finish line off Hobart’s Castray Esplanade at 1pm.

The last boat in the fleet, Chris Dawe’s Polaris of Belmont, is the only starter currently not expected to see the New Year’s Eve fireworks in Hobart.

From a starting fleet of 100 there are have only been five retirements.

Rolex Sydney Hobart Yacht Race

RSHYR: Classics of the past chase modern glory

Simon Kurts' S & S 47 Love and War. Image copyright ROLEX/Daniel Forster.

by Bruce Montgomery

Forty-footers, several of them carrying the names of classic boats from the Corinthian past of Rolex Sydney Hobart Yacht Races, are coming into their own for an overall win in this year’s event as they race down the Tasmanian east coast into the path of escalating southerly winds.

The overall race lead, which is determined by constantly correcting a boat’s elapsed time to take into account its size relative to the rest of the fleet, is shuffling between some great names including Simon Kurts’ Love & War, Martin Power’s Bacardi and Mike Freebairn’s Ray White Spirit of Koomooloo, which has sailed to Hobart in the past under the names of Ragamuffin and Margaret Rintoul ll.

Also among the contenders are Mike Welsh’s Victorian sloop Wicked, the Tasmanian boat Matangi from the Tamar Yacht Club and Andrew Saies’ new South Australian Beneteau First 40, Two True.

Koomooloo, as Ragamuffin won the 1971 Fastnet Race and contested three Admiral’s Cups. Then she raced as Margaret Rintoul II, including an extensive spell racing on the Derwent.

Mike Freebairn bought her to replace another classic yacht, the 1968 Sydney Hobart overall winner Koomooloo, which sadly sank during the 2006 race.

The top positions on handicap in this year’s race are in a constant state of flux because there is so little between them, most sailing off St Helens and most have to finish by tomorrow morning to win.

The weather will come into play. The Bureau of Meteorology has issued a strong wind warning for the lower east coast between Wineglass Bay and Tasman Island as westerly winds of 5 to 15 knots shift to the south at 20 to 30 knots offshore.

Rolex Sydney Hobart Yacht Race