Wild Oats XI on track to repeat her 2005 'triple'

As Living Doll retires with a broken rudder

Thursday December 27th 2012, Author: James Boyd, Location: Australia

Five-time Rolex Sydney Hobart Yacht Race line honours winner, Wild Oats XI, remains on track to beat her own race record and is still in with a chance to repeat her 2005 'treble' as she closes on the Tasmanian north-east coast at the head of the 76 yacht fleet.

Mark Richards has steered Wild Oats XI to a dream run across Bass Strait today, continually logging 24 knots in the northeasterly wind that has fluctuated between 15 and 30 knots.

Abeam of Flinders Island, she is about 10 miles ahead of the pace she set in 2005 to take the treble of line honours, the race record and overall victory in the Cruising Yacht Club of Australia’s annual blue water classic.

She must finish before 07.40.10 tomorrow at Hobart’s Castray Esplanade to break the record of one day, 18 hours, 40 minutes and 10 seconds.

Syd Fischer’s maxi Ragamuffin-Loyal is 32 miles behind, but also on record pace. The crew has reported that skipper Syd Fischer, 85, has been up on deck “cracking the whip”, in a bid to defend the boat's line honours title, having beaten Wild Oats XI by three minutes and eight seconds in 2011.

Both maxis suffering superficial damage overnight - Wild Oats XI hit an unknown object and damaged one of its daggerboards. The crew was quick to exact repairs and get back up to speed.

It was tougher on board Ragamuffin-Loyal. A headsail fitting broke then they damaged the furling system, in what navigator Andrew Cape described as a “mongrel moment.”

Cape said the crew couldn’t see Wild Oats XI, but were doing everything they could to make the most of the freshening north-northeast winds to close the gap: “The faster you go now, the less southerly you have. It’s crucial; every mile you get is another mile later that you won’t have to beat in to."

The major threat to Wild Oats’ taking a second treble is the contingent of 60-footers behind her. Peter Harburg’s Queensland yacht Black Jack took over the lead on handicap mid-afternoon. Pundits pre-race suggested the overall race win would more than likely once again go to one of the Mini Maxis in the 63-70ft range, and the prediction appears to be right on target.

Meanwhile, on board the last boat in the fleet, Charlie’s Dream, south of Jervis Bay, Peter Lewis and his crew sat down to a lunch of smoked chicken, King Island double Brie cheese and a glass of chardonnay.

“We’re at the back end of the fleet - we always expected to be - but not necessarily right at the back. We're a cruising boat; we do it for comfort rather than speed,” Lewis said.

The Farr 55 Living Doll, owned and skippered by Michael Hiatt, has become the first casualty of the race, retiring with a broken rudder. The incident occurred while the yacht was in Bass Strait, 90 nautical miles south-east of Gabo Island and 90 nautical miles north-east of Flinders Island.

The Race Committee has been advised that the crew are all in good shape and that they are managing by themselves. They have not asked any other yacht to stand by. Living Doll reports that she is currently in a 25 knot northeasterly breeze.

They have not yet decided where they will go, but assistance is on its way from Eden, and is expected to take seven hours to reach the yacht.

The yacht will contact the Race Committee every two hours to update progress. All of the crew’s families have been informed. It is believed the boat was sailing in a 25 knot northeasterly at the time of losing its rudder.


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