Grundig Xena record attempt dies as....

...stormforce winds continue batter New South Wales coast

Sunday July 29th 2001, Author: Rob Mundle, Location: United Kingdom
An intense storm off Sydney that has delivered wind gusts in excess of 50 knots and mountainous seas has wrecked any immediate chance Sean Langman’s Open-60 class yacht Grundig Xena had of breaking the world record 24-hour run under sail.
Langman and his crew of nine had hoped to use the 380-mile Sydney to Gold Coast race as the first stage of their bid to cover more than 467.7 miles in a day with a single-hulled yacht. But the storm has put an end to that.

The Gold Coast race, originally scheduled to start on Sydney Harbour at 1pm on Saturday, has been postponed until 10am Monday because of the weather. Conditions were so severe early today that the entrance to Sydney Harbour, considered one of the world’s safest all-weather deepwater ports, was closed to shipping.

Race officials at the Cruising Yacht Club of Australia originally rescheduled the start for 10am today. After consulting this morning with meteorologists and the Water Police, and on learning that seas topping 11 metres had forced the closure of all ports to the north of Sydney, they had no hesitation in postponing the start another 24 hours. Their decision was also influenced by the fact that overnight three crew had to be rescued from a foreign yacht that was dismasted and damaged by huge seas 60 miles to the north.

It is the first time in the 57-year history of the club, one of the world’s best-known ocean racing organisations, that a race start has been delayed due to extreme weather conditions.

"It’s frustrating for us," said Langman, "but we can’t complain. Commonsense has to prevail. It is downright dangerous out there. There is no way that we could have broken the world record in those conditions anyway. It was just too rough. We will now have to rethink our program for the attempt once we get back to Sydney from the northern circuit of races."

Langman’s maritime meteorologist for the project, Roger Badham, said today that the low-pressure system bringing the horrendous conditions to Sydney would move out into the Tasman Sea tonight. Conditions will have improved considerably for the race start tomorrow.

"It looks like they’ll have a south-easterly between 15 and 20 knots for the start," Badham said. "That’s not enough to give Grundig Xena the speed they need to break the world record. The biggest problem the fleet will face tomorrow will be the big waves the storm will leave behind. It will be quite nasty out there for a while. There’s a chance most of the ports along the coast will remain closed tomorrow because of the waves."

Courageous efforts by the Water Police, aided by helicopters, save four people from the motor launch which foundered off Botany Bay on Friday night while the Nemesis saved two of the crew of the overturned yacht after they had taken to their liferaft, the CareFlight helicopter plucking a third crew member from the huge seas. The yacht, cruising from New Zealand, apparently was rolled by the huge seas, breaking her mast and at last report was drifting upside down. Rescue helicopters also pulled several surfers from the sea off Sydney beaches yesterday.

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