Monday, 28 December 2009

RSHYR: Alfa Romeo Still Leading Light Airs Drag-Race

LIMIT, Sail Number: 98888, Skipper: Alan Brierty, State: WA, Division: IRC, Design: Reichel Pugh , LOA (m): 19.21, Draft: 4.64. Image copyright ROLEX/Daniel Forster.

by Susan Maffei Plowden

Neville Crichton's Alfa Romeo remained in control of her nearest maxi opponents through a changing wind pattern overnight and into the second day of the 2009 Rolex Sydney Hobart Yacht Race.

Alfa's afterguard, including tactician Michael Coxon and navigator Tom Addis, kept the yacht perfectly positioned at the head of the fleet to be first into the anticipated shift in wind direction from south-southwest experienced from the start to southeast off the south coast of New South Wales.

Alfa Romeo tacked on the shift at about 2145 last night to converge back towards the coast on port after the long gaining starboard tack the fleet followed after clearing Sydney Harbour from the 1300 start.

At 0800, 19 hours into the race, the Reichel/Pugh 100 was 24 nautical miles northeast of Green Cape, 2 miles ahead of Mike Slade's Farr 100 ICAP Leopard, which was three or four miles to seaward, with another 2nm to Bob Oatley's Wild Oats XI, a near sister design R/P 100 to Alfa Romeo. Alfa had covered 193nm of the 628nm course and was doing 10.8 knots.

All three were close to the shortest-distance rhumb line between Sydney and Tasman Island and on course for the island, but were starting to slow as the wind dropped from its 25 knot peak of last evening to 10-12 knots and less this morning.

Critical for all boats will be traversing the light airs and calms expected today in the Bass Strait, between the Australian mainland and Tasmania, before a forecast 20-30 knot westerly change tonight.

Wild Oats XI navigator Ian Burns said this morning: "The wind is pretty light now, between 6-10 knots and quite variable. The seas are flatter - it was a little rough at times last night.

"We've had quite a few wind shifts and some big lulls. At one stage the guys behind us [Ran and Lahana] ran almost up to us. We exchanged some tacks as the southeast-southwester fought it out but it has been hanging in the southeast for some time now.

"Some forecasts are calling for no wind at all across half of Bass Strait. The fact that we will head butt into the light stuff gives us a bit of a chance. Leopard is doing a great job for a big boat in the lighter wind, but the race hasn't really started yet; that will be today."

The overall handicap leader on IRC corrected time is Michael Hiatt's Farr 55 Living Doll over the UK-based Judel/Vrolijk 72 Ran (Niklas Zennstrom), followed by the Jones-modified Volvo 70 Ichi Ban (Matt Allen).

One of the handicap favourites, Alan Brierty's Reichel/Pugh 62 Limit, was among the retirements overnight due to problems with the halyard locks.

That brings the number of retired yachts to four in the 100-boat fleet that started yesterday from Sydney. 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.

Rolex Sydney Hobart Yacht Race

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