Monday, 28 December 2009

RSHYR: Alfa Romeo heading for the daily double

Neville Crichton’s RP100 Alfa Romeo on day 2 of the Rolex Sydney Hobart. Image copyright ROLEX/Daniel Forster.

by Lisa Ratcliff

Neville Crichton’s 100 foot New Zealand maxi Alfa Romeo has overnight successfully negotiated her way through a wind hole north of Flinders Island to take a commanding 30 nautical mile lead over the two other maxis vainly chasing her tail.

The vagaries of the wind at Maria Island and the lower south east Tasmanian coast look like the last possible chance for Wild Oats XI and ICAP Leopard to catch the runaway leader.

Based on current speed Alfa Romeo is due to cross the finish line off Hobart’s historic Battery Point early this evening, thereby bringing to an end Wild Oats XI’s four-year reign.

If she maintains her current speed, 20 plus knots in the 15 knot nor’west breeze, Alfa Romeo could feasibly take the daily double – line honours and the Tattersall’s Cup for the overall winner – a reversal of the 2005 finish when Wild Oats XI relegated Alfa Romeo to second and scored the overall win, as well as setting the current course record.

Currently Alfa Romeo is comfortably leading the fleet as well as the IRC standings, sitting out in front of Ed Psaltis and Bob Thomas’ AFR Midnight Rambler on the handicap score sheet.

At 0548hrs this morning, Alfa Romeo’s navigator Tom Addis said, “We got the [high pressure] ridge pretty well. It’s always stressful going through transitions like that but we did as much homework as we could and it all went to plan.”

Meanwhile 30 miles astern and in third place in the fleet, Wild Oats XI’s co-navigator Ian ‘Fresh’ Burns admitted, “Alfa Romeo hasn't missed a step yet and they are unlikely to. We have one more transition to go. Alfa gets richer and richer. They are looking like the handicap win too.”

Overnight, boats that favoured the western side of the Rhumbline reaped gains, particularly Sean Langman’s Investec LOYAL which has moved into fourth in the fleet.

Around midnight a gradual drop in wind strength and some variability in direction saw the front end of the fleet slow from 14-16 knots of boat speed to less than 10, and occasionally as low as 4-5. At 3am the leading three boats were east of Flinders Island averaging speeds around 10-15knts in a 0-5kt NNE breeze.

“We managed to cross the [high pressure] ridge as it was spreading up. We dove west, as did Alfa Romeo and ICAP Leopard, to get around it and we did. The guys behind got swallowed and are still there,” said Wild Oats’ Burns just before 6am this morning.

Jim and Mary Holley this morning advised the race committee that their Farr 40 Aurora from Newcastle Cruising Yacht Club was heading to Eden to effect repairs on her engine before she attempts her Bass Strait crossing. Aurora has not withdrawn and intends to resume racing as long as repairs can be made.

After a frustrating first two days of the 628 nautical mile Rolex Sydney Hobart the bulk of the fleet should enjoy a sprightly, 20 knot westerly wind as they cross eastern Bass Strait today.

The leading boats have had to contend with a dead patch of air on the southern side of Bass Strait as the weather transitioned from the north east to the west/south west, but as the leaders have left that transition they have sailed into a good west/north westerlies which have accelerated the maxis to speeds of up to, and over, 20 knots.

As the leaders sail down the Tasmanian coast the wind is forecast swing to the south.

By this evening, when the 50-60 footers are sailing down the Tasmanian coast and the race leaders are likely to be tied up in Hobart, the wind right up and down the coast is expected to be around 10 knots from the south, slowing the second half of the fleet down in the hunt for the Tattersall’s Cup.

There have been no further retirements, leaving a fleet of 95 still racing south to Hobart.

Rolex Sydney Hobart Yacht Race

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