Monday, 28 December 2009

RSHYR: Alfa Romeo leads fleet on all counts

Jean Luc Esplaas' 41 SUD. Image copyright ROLEX/Kurt Arrigo.

by Jim Gale

As Alfa Romeo surged down the Tasmanian coast at 7am this morning she was leading the Rolex Sydney Hobart on two fronts: line honours and IRC handicap. The lead she has opened up on the other maxis is so large that the New Zealand maxi is almost sailing a race of her own.

At that time it was not the other maxis that were lining up behind her in the handicap stakes, it was a bunch of 40 footers 130 miles astern of her which had barely poked their noses into Bass Strait.

Ed Psaltis and Bob Thomas’ Farr 40 AFR Midnight Rambler was lying in second place overall, followed by the New Caledonian Archambault 40 41Sud, sailed by Jean Luc Esplass, and Anthony Paterson’s Ker 11.3 Tow Truck.

These smaller boats should enjoy a lively 20 knot westerly across eastern Bass Strait today, which should greatly improve their time against Alfa Romeo, but they are also likely have to race in a southerly all the way down the Tasmanian coast. What the gods give they take away.

At this stage in the race for the Tattersall’s Cup for the overall winner, the grand prix 50 and 60 footers are doing it tough. The best placed in eighth position is last year’s winner, Bob Steel’s TP52 Quest, but unlike the little boats behind, the 60 footers have had to contend with the big hole above Flinders Island overnight. They will have southerly winds most of the way down the Tasmanian coast and could arrive at Tasman Island for the final turn after the notorious midnight ‘shutting of the gate’, when the wind dies and Storm Bay and the Derwent River become very quiet places to park indeed.

Just after 6am this morning John and Kim Clinton’s Holy Cow was 35nm SE of Gabo Island and had just entered eastern Bass Strait with a huge escort of dolphins, “the cute little two tonne ones” according to Kim. “Great sunrise, beautiful conditions after a really quiet night. Seems so benign at present. Wish our dog was with us now, she just loves dolphins.”

Rolex Sydney Hobart Yacht Race

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