Hobart shake down race

Crews hang on to their hats in Rolex Trophy Rating Series in Sydney Harbour

Friday December 15th 2006, Author: Lisa Ratcliff, Location: Australasia
Crews hoping to use the Rolex Trophy Rating Series as a shakedown for the Rolex Sydney Hobart were today buffeted by atrocious conditions off Sydney Heads with one competing boat called on to test their Man Overboard recovery skills.

Trevor Taylor’s Western Australian Farr 47 Ausmaid, the most travelled interstate boat contesting the regatta and the Rolex Sydney Hobart, today lost a crewman over the side near the finish of race one. While bowman Aaron Linham, 39, was fixing a broken topping lift on the spinnaker pole, a rope wrapped around his ankle and when the spinnaker filled, Linham was dragged into the water.

While not in immediate danger, Linham had to tread water for a few minutes in lumpy seas while the crew on Ausmaid dropped the spinnaker and doubled back to pick him up, four crewmembers hauling the lucky but soggy sailor back on deck. “The crew executed a very good recovery,” said Linham, who spent the trip back to the CYCA marina with his ankle iced.

As the incident happened just 300m from the finish, amazingly Ausmaid sailed through the finish line to record a result, however they withdrew from race two not because of the MOB but due to a rope wrapped around their propeller. “Aaron seemed to think that we should finish the race,” said a relieved skipper Trevor Taylor. While obviously not a planned manoeuvre, Taylor and his crew appreciated the opportunity to practice a Man Overboard recovery while under spinnaker. “We hadn’t practiced a MOB with the kite up. Now all the boys know how to do it,” said Taylor.

Ausmaid will be back in the starting line up tomorrow. “I’m going to hang on this time,” said Linham.

In a good test for the 628 nautical mile starting on 26 December, the fleet racing offshore in the four day lead up regatta faced heavy rain, fresh southerlies of 25 knots plus and up to 2.5m swells off Sydney Heads. “Today was a good test for those heading south on 26 December,” said Sailing Manager Justine Kirkjian.

Despite blowing their heavy weather kite on the first downwind run, Ray Roberts’ Quantum Racing still managed to out class its canting keel counterparts Wild Joe and Wild Oats XI to record a third consecutive handicap win. With only lighter air spinnakers left in the sail wardrobe, Roberts and his crew decided to call it a day after the first race.

Geoff Ross’ Yendys continued its unbroken string of wins with another top result in IRC Division 1, relegating Stephen Ainsworth’s Loki to second and Michael Hiatt’s Living Doll to third. In IRC Division 2 Chris Dare’s Flirt also continued its winning form in race one today finishing first ahead of Stephen EIlis’ Splash Gordon and Syd Fischer’s Ragamuffin.

Ausmaid wasn’t the only Western Australian boat to struggle in today’s wild conditions. Philip Child’s Knee Deep Wines was knee deep in it when they Chinese gybed on the first downhill run in race one. Immediately after this incident the crew on Knee Deep Wines packed up the boat and headed back to the marina.

After a day of drama in the Rolex Trophy Rating Series, a diminished fleet went into the second race of the day. 16 boats started race one today and only 11 braved the appalling conditions to start race two.

Bob Oatley’s Wild Oats XI scored its first win in race four of the series, beating Steven David’s Wild Joe into second place in Division 0. With Ray Roberts’ Quantum Racing back on the dock after blowing out their only heavy weather spinnaker, Wild Oats XI and Wild Joe were the only Division 0 boats to contest the second race.

An adrenaline charged Mark Richards, skipper of Wild Oats XI, reported hitting boat speeds of 34 knots today, just two knots off the 30m maxi's all time fastest speed. This awesome display of power sailing augers well for the Rolex Sydney Hobart line honours record holder which would need to average just under 15 knots over the race course to break her time set last year. Bob Oatley was on the boat and “loved it,” according to Richards. “It was pretty tough out there but a good workout for the boat,” he said. “The boat was falling off heaps of waves.”

Ray Roberts used the time off this afternoon to put together a job list and rush through a new spinnaker order. With one discard allowed in this regatta, Roberts and his crew will now have to regroup and focus on a good result in the final four races to be sailed Saturday and Sunday.

In IRC Division 1, Michael Hiatt’s Living Doll finally managed to knock Geoff Ross’ Yendys out of the top spot to record their first regatta win on corrected time in the second race. Yendys was late for the start due to a minor jib problem which may have cost them their fourth consecutive win, however Ross was still delighted with second.

“We had a jib problem to sort out and it took a minute longer than we expected. Conditions today were like going to Hobart, it was a wild day and a really good experience for the boat,” said Ross who reported hitting boat speeds of 28 knots with his new Reichel/Pugh 55 which is only into its second day of racing.

Results for Division 0 and 1 are subject to a protest after the top mark of their course drifted from its original position. The protest will be heard at 6pm tonight.

Howard de Torres Nips ‘n Tux also featured in the top spot for the first time today, beating top performer so far in Division 2 Flirt, skippered by Chris Dare, and Stephen Ellis’ Splash Gordon.

“For the first three races we were just settling the new crew into the boat, then in race four we broke the boom outhaul so couldn’t set a spinnaker. The boys did well, they nutted it out, went into repair mode and got it sorted, and we managed a win, “said de Torres.

Principal Race Officer Denis Thompson reported a building sea and top wind speed of 30 knots in the rain squalls. “It was very hard racing in very difficult conditions. There were some interesting broaches. The front runners were pushing pretty hard while others chose to back off, most likely to save their gear for the Rolex Sydney Hobart,” he said.

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