Overseas boats reach Hobart

Ambersail reaches Constution Dock ahead of KLC Bengal 7

Saturday December 29th 2012, Author: James Boyd, Location: Australia

Two boats coming from the furthest afield arrived within minutes of one another in the Rolex Sydney Hobart.

The Lithuanian Volvo 60 Ambersail and KLC Bengal 7, a two year old Humphreys 54 from Japan arrived in Sydney never having taken part in the Cruising Yacht Club of Australia’s 628 nautical mile race before. Ambersail was the first Lithuanian entry ever.

Yet in a fleet of 76, spread across 140 miles of ocean, this morning the two non-Australasian yachts found they were converged at Tasman light with no other yachts in sight, rounding Cape Raoul and launching into Storm Bay within hailing distance of each other, culminating in a match race up the Derwent River to the finish line.

In the end, Ambersail crossed the line six minutes ahead of the Japanese, a very satisfying result for her skipper, Simonas Steponavicius. “We have met this boat quite a few times before,” he said.  “She used to carry the UK flag and was called Oyster Catcher. She and Jazz are our usual benchmark boats.”

Jazz had already finished five hours earlier, but Steponavicius can live with that this time. “I am not surprised Jazz did her own thing in her own courtyard,” he said.

There seemed to be nothing that could dent the Lithuanian’s spirits dockside today.  “This is a must do race,” he declared. “It is exactly what I had imagined - it is tough. The conditions are very changeable. We even got a squall from the Southern Ocean at the entrance to Storm Bay.”

On the other side of Constitution Dock, the Japanese were spraying champagne about the boat and cheering, though skipper Yoshihiko Murase regretted the fish that had got away at Cape Hauy.

“It was a very good race, but not as good as we expected,” he ruefully remarked. “We had all the TP52s behind us, but after Cape Hauy they passed us.”

Local knowledge says keep well away from the wind shadow created by the Tasmanian coast in a westerly, a lesson no doubt now inscribed in Kanji on a bulkhead deep inside KLC Bengal 7.

“We all enjoyed the scenery down the Tasmanian coast though,” Murase added.

Both boats had covered huge distances to take part in the Rolex Sydney Hobart. Ambersail, the first ever Lithuanian entrant, has covered some 100,000 miles over the years, roaming from race to race.

Normally in November she would have competed in the Rolex Middle Sea Race in the Mediterranean after some racing in America, but this year she turned south from the Caribbean instead.

Steponavicius rates the Middle Sea, the Rolex Fastnet and the Rolex Sydney Hobart the top three races in the world: “They are all very different,” he says. “The Middle Sea race is very tactically challenging; sailed in a lot of wind shadows. The Fastnet is also very challenging, with the tides and tidal barriers.

“The Hobart is an ocean race where you sail a big distance from north to south, so there is an extreme change of climate and season. A brilliantly interesting race, it is different from everything we have done,” Steponavicius continued.

“Yesterday we ran with full spinnaker in winds gusting to 25 knots, in a huge swell, at a speed of 27 knots. It was exhilarating, especially at night.

“We sailed from Japan for 33 days non-stop to be here,” said Murase, “and it was more than worth it.”

Arriving at Sydney City Marine, owner Syd Fischer was on hand to welcome them. “They looked as fresh as anything and were smiling. Then they told me they were at sea for 33 days. I couldn’t believe it,” Fischer said.

Elsewhere in the race, strong wind conditions off Tasmania’s east coast this afternoon, resulted in rigging damage forcing the crew aboard the Tasmanian 11m Dump Truck to retire from the Rolex Sydney Hobart Yacht Race and run for shelter between Schouten Island and Freycinet Peninsula.

Skipper Justin Wells notified race officials at approximately 1430hours AEDT that they had damaged their D2 fitting, where the shroud or side stay attaches to one of the mast’s horizontal spreaders. Potentially it threatens the stability of the mast.

They immediately reduced sail and are now motoring to Schouten Passage, where they’re expected to arrive at about 2100hours to reassess their situation. A message from on board said they were all safe, but shattered.

The winds have been blowing at more than 25 knots off the north-east coast and are expected to reach near gale force further south in Storm Bay and around Tasman Island tonight before easing.

The Bureau of Meteorology has issued a strong wind warning for Storm Bay, with gusts of more than 35 knots expected.

Sailors have reported winds of more than 45 knots today. Rain squalls have reduced visibility to less than 100 metres at times.

So far 14 boats have finished the race. There have been five retirements; 57 yachts are still at sea.

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