Grundig Xena on for 24 hour record
The forecast for gale force southerly winds with gusts in excess of 40 knots for the start on Sydney Harbour is exactly what Langman and his highly experienced team have been waiting for months to see. A low-pressure system is forming off the NSW coast today and its presence will coincide with the start of the race north.
The system will almost certainly see a demolition job done on the race record of 27 hours, 35 minutes, set by George Snow’s Brindabella in 1999.
Langman believes that given ideal conditions Grundig Xena can average better than 20 knots and reach the finish line off the Gold Coast in around 19 hours. The only problem is that the course is 380 miles and the yacht needs to cover more than 467.7 miles in 24-hours to set a new world mark. That record distance was set by Frenchman Bernard Stamm's Open 60 Armor-Lux-Fois Gras during a gale-lashed record-breaking dash across the Atlantic earlier this year.
"If we are on world record pace and the forecast is looking good we’ll cross the finish line and just keep going," Langman said today. "We would be silly to waste the opportunity."
Unfortunately for Langman his meteorologist for the record attempt, Roger ‘Clouds’ Badham, isn’t overly confident about the weather remaining favourable.
"The race record looks like it’s a shot duck," said Badham. "On what we are seeing now the fleet is going to have hard running and reaching conditions all the way. But the more you get north the lighter the winds will become. I don’t think the runway is going to be long enough for them this time, but it’s certainly worth having a shot at the record."
Badham said much would depend on where the low actually formed off the New South Wales Coast later today. If it forms off Sydney then conditions for high-speed sailing will be ideal as the wind will tend towards the southwest and the seas will be relatively smooth. But if the system develops to the north then Grundig Xena and the 69 other yachts in the Gold Coast Race will experience strong winds and rough seas out of the south-southeast for the first 10 hours. Big seas will make it more difficult to push Grundig Xena to its limit as it will run the risk of nose-diving.
With the low pressure cell destined to move east over the next 48 hours the strongest winds will be offshore. Unfortunately for Grundig Xena's world record attempt the finish for the Gold Coast race is right on the coast at the entrance to the waterway at Southport. If the yacht is on world record pace, Langman will have to change course immediately at the finish and head offshore.
Langman had another problem surface today. His back-up helmsman, former 18ft skiff champion sailor David Witt, broke his hand playing rugby and was having it set in plaster. "Knowing David he’ll just take painkillers and drive the boat as well as ever," said Langman.