Team Australia on track
Team Australia successfully crossed Bass Strait overnight and is now making its way down the Tasmanian East Coast. At 7am they were doing 26 knots off St. Helens with two thirds of their attempt and the worst conditions in their wake.
Northeast winds 20-25 knots and a following sea is the perfect combination for Team Australia to successfully complete its record attempt on the 630 nautical mile Sydney to Hobart passage record set by Bob Oatley’s supermaxi Wild Oats XI less than two months ago.
“We are pretty wet and tired; it feels like we are drowning,” said the weary helmsman and navigator Josh Alexander phone this morning.
“There is water everywhere and it keeps coming in as the hatches leaking. The food’s been good though.” He’s had opportunities to raid the larder given he hasn’t slept since they left their World Sailing Speed Record Council sanctioned start line at Sydney Heads just before 11am yesterday morning.
Amazingly Team Australia hasn’t broken any gear; “the boat is in great shape” assures Alexander.
Based on weather routeing they anticipate reaching Tasman Light in five to six hours, around lunchtime or early afternoon, and the finish off Battery Point this afternoon. That would mean a course time of less than 30 hours. The current record is just over 42 hours.
“At this stage our ETA in Hobart is 3-4pm, depending on how we go around Tasman Light,” said Alexander this morning. “We have to go upwind across Storm Bay and up the Derwent and that might slow us up a bit, but we will be in flat water. The sea really calmed down across the Strait and now it’s a pretty easy following sea, which is much more comfortable.”
Overnight with three reefs and a staysail up they were sitting on 30-35 knots for a good three hours and Josh was literally flying blind when he hit his top speed of 38 knots in the dark while in command of the tiller. “We were holding on and sending it,” he said, the fervour waning in his voice as exhaustion creeps in.
“The boys are tired and wet but Sean [Langman] is happy with where we are going, we are on a good track to break the record,” Alexander added.
Skipper Sean Langman often refers to Tasmania as his “spiritual home” and in 2005 he bought a business on the Huon River. He’s arrived in Hobart 23 times with the Sydney Hobart fleet on the biggest supermaxi, the smallest classic timber yacht and the famous oversized skiff, Xena, among others.
Now he’s looking at a very different arrival in Hobart; just seven crew on an imposing multihull setting the new benchmark for the famous stretch of water.