40-50 knots in the Rolex Sydney Hobart
With the wind building to 40-50 knots and a lumpy sea state developing in Bass Strait over the course of today, so the attrition has begun in the Rolex Sydney Hobart with nine retirements reported at the time of writing.
Last night saw the first with the Bakewell-White designed Z39 Jazz Player, after her mainsail tore in strong winds.
This morning Colin Apps, a crew member on the NSW yacht She, suffered a head injury in a fall. The crew were liaising with the police launch Vanguard, which is following the fleet. Vanguard tows an 8m RIB, which was to be used to transfer Apps off the boat and on to Ulladulla where an ambulance was set to be waiting.
This afternoon, as conditions deteriorated off the south coast of New South Wales, the retirements started to come in thick and fast:
Nick Athineos’ 66ft Dodo (The Stick) was heading to Eden to drop off an injured crew member. Their ETA was 1900 is this evening. They have not retired from racing and were going to assess the situation once they reached port.
Tony Donnellan’s Victorian Reichel Pugh 47 Shamrock advised they were retiring with rudder bearing damage and heading to Sydney, where their ETA is 0800 Tuesday. Andrew Wenham’s Volvo 60 Southern Excellence retired from racing, citing rig failure.
Steven Proud’s Sydney 38 Swish reported that their radio wasn’t working and they were withdrawing from the race. The Sailors with DisAbilities crew on the TP52 Wot Eva reported that diesel issues have brought their assault on Australia’s best-known blue water event to a sudden halt.
Jim Cooney’s Jutson 79 Brindabella retired this afternoon with a torn mainsail. The 1997 line honours winner is returning to Sydney. Robert Reynolds’ DK46 Exile has pulled out, navigator Julie Hodder reporting “our steering wheel was smashed by the boom when we took off our main. We are very disappointed.”
Martin Power’s Victorian Peterson 44 Bacardi has also retired after being dismasted 35 nautical miles east of Batemans Bay on the New South Wales south coast.
One of the most dramatic races was that of Ludde Ingvall's maxi YuuZoo. This morning the former Whitbread Round the World Race skipper reported: “A bit shell-shocked from yesterday’s mishap with two men overboard. Greg Homann and Will Mueller spent about ten minutes having an unauthorised swim. Both are well and in good spirits. We are waiting for the worst to launch into Bass Strait. We aren’t happy with our boat speed at present, as we are still learning about the new settings. Otherwise all okay onboard.”
If YuuZoo hadn’t had enough drama, Ingvall continued: “We just woke up to the forward compartment being full of water. Log thru-hull fitting has either broken or popped though its fitting leaving a 40mm hole in the bow. We think that we have it fixed, but half a metre of water between the keel and the forward hatch. What drama. Not funny. What on earth have done to deserve this?”
Finally at 15.25, YuuZoo retired from the race, advising the race committee they had a torn headsail. They also tweeted from the boat that they had structural and rigging problems.
This morning Rodd & Gunn Wedgetail’s navigator, Will Oxley reported: “We have had no wind instruments since the pre-start, which has made driving overnight more challenging. The boys did an excellent job of helming. We also had an alternator issue with the batteries not charging, so that caused us a worrying two hours while Jeff Scott sorted it out.
“As for sailing, we’ve had a pretty good night and have just tacked onto starboard about 15nm north of Montague Island. Wind has started to come around as predicted, but we have a nasty head-sea left over from the earlier south-south-easterly wind. We are looking forward to dawn so we can see the tell tails! The boat is going well and we are settling in for a long haul on starboard."
At 0900, race leader Wild Oats XI, complying with Rolex Sydney Hobart race rules, radioed in at Green Cape prior to reaching the Bass Strait, and what was to prove the most difficult part of this grueling race so far.
Co-navigator Adrienne Cahalan, a mother of two young children who has 19 Hobart races to her credit, subsequently described the crossing of Bass Strait as possibly the worst she has experienced. She said the only way to describe the punishment to Bob Oatley's 30m supermaxi had been dealt by a south-westerly gale was "violent and awful".
"We have spent the entire day trying to protect the yacht from damage and the crew from injury. It’s been an enormous challenge and every one of us has been roughed up. The wind has reached 40 knots – gale force –and the seas have been between four and five metres, so we’ve spent the day in damage control for boat and crew."
Cahalan said that Wild Oats XI’s skipper, Mark Richards had done a remarkable job maintaining a conservative approach to the race during the rough weather. She said that while everyone knew when they left Sydney on Boxing Day that things were going to be tough, it was not until you are out there that you realised what ‘tough’ really meant.
"Because of Ricko’s approach we’ve had no breakages and everyone is okay – a bit battered and bruised, but okay," Cahalan added. "Wild Oats XI is 100 feet long and in these conditions it’s extremely difficult keeping a boat this size and this fast from not launching off one
wave and crashing into the next. When you do it’s like a truck hitting a wall. That’s when damage happens to the yacht and the crew, so preventing this from happening has been our priority."
Tonight the sailing conditions were improving for Wild Oats XI. The wind has dropped to between 20 and 25 knots and the waves are down to three metres. At the last report she was still racing under greatly reduced sail about halfway across Bass Strait.
The 2020 sched showed Wild Oats XI to be to the east of the rhumb line with 273 miles left to go before she reaches the Hobart finish. Most of those chasing her in the race for line honours are on a similar course with Sean Langman's Investec Loyal 20 miles astern, with Peter Millard's Lahana and Matt Allen's first generation Volvo 70 Ichi Ban some 25 miles behind the leader. Grant Wharington's fourth placed Wild Thing however is sticking closer to the rhumb line.
On handicap it is Rob Hanna's Judel Vrolijk 52 Shogun, the former Wot Now, that leads by a substantial margin, however she has just started her Bass Straight crossing. Second on corrected is Stephen Ainsworth's second-placed Loki, in turn followed closed by Ichi Ban, Alan Brierty's Limit, Lahana, Bill Wild's Rodd & Gunn Wedgetail, with the British favourites on Niklas Zennstrom's JV72 Ràn holding seventh place. Less than nine minutes separates the second from eighth placed both on corrected. Ràn has separated from the rest of the fleet and is the only boat among the front runners to be sticking to the rhumb line course south. At the latest sched she was one third of the way across Bass Strait.
Click on images to enlarge them