Bass Strait glass out
The Rolex Sydney Hobart Race is not living up to its grizzled reputation this year. Over the last 24 hours the wind has petered out to nothing, especially in Bass Strait where even the maxis have slowed to single digits speeds.
A frustrated Anthony Bell, skipper of Perpetual Loyal summed it up dryly: “We’re just bobbing around here. We have four knots across the deck. I’ve seen it windier in my two-year-old daughter’s indoor swimming lessons.”
Perpetual Loyal overhauled Wild Oats XI, pulling into first place at 2130 local time yesterday (1030 UTC) with Jim Delegat's VO70 Giacomo moving up to second an hour later, after the two boats benefitted from taking a more offshore route south down the New South Wales coast.
Perpetual Loyal navigator Stan Honey reported at 1800 UTC yesterday: “We’re in 9 knots running downwind on port tack. Last night we were further out to sea and that seems to have paid off. We’re pleased to still be in the hunt, as light air is not our strong point and it’s been light all night.”
At a similar time Wild Oats XI navigator Tom Addis explained their falling behind: “It was a messy night, lots of storms off the coast and we got tangled in the tail end and lost ground on Perpetual Loyal and Giacomo – so we’ve got a bit of catching up to do- but we’re pulling back Giacomo now.”
Entering Bass Strait, Wild Oats XI and Perpetual Loyal converged with Anthony Bell's maxi attempting to cover the series Hobart race winner, but at 0240 UTC this morning, as the two boats were some 50 miles out into the Bass Strait, Wild Oats XI recovered the lead and at the latest sched is just over eight miles ahead with both boats now back up to 14-15 knots with Syd Fischer's Ragamuffin 100 a further seven miles behind, but only making 4.4 knots.
“The wind started to peter out before dawn,” Bell complained, “and it’s been astonishing - we just have to keep the boat going and stay in contact for when the wind does come up. This uncharacteristic Hobart suits anything that is light. On paper we should be behind the light boats, so we’re pleasantly surprised to be coming second.”
What Perpetual LOYAL needs, Bell says, is 12 to 14 knots of wind to come into her own, but he has little expectation of more wind until late tomorrow. “It’ll be pretty light until midday. Maybe we’ll get something tomorrow, at the back end of the day.”
The Bureau of Meteorology is a little more optimistic, predicting the leading seven should have favourable winds tomorrow morning as strengthening northeasterlies will push them down the Tasmanian northeast coast, with a possible race finish tomorrow evening (local time).
The Bureau is also forecasting a weather change late tomorrow evening in Bass Strait and off the Tasmanian south-east coast with west to south-westerly winds of 30 to 40 knots. So in contrast to the frontrunners today, on Saturday night and throughout Sunday the smaller boats will have a traditional Rolex Sydney Hobart slog across Bass Strait.
Bell dearly wishes it were the other way round: “We wish the race had started two days later so that we could actually get into that weather." He is hoping that the front will come sooner than forecast, before the frontrunners reach Tasman Island. “Our best chance is just to be there, to stay in contact. Anything more than 12 to 14 knots we will make profit on. We just need more than four.”
With the race record for line honours no longer in threat, the ETA for the big boats at the finish off Hobart is more likely Saturday evening (local time).
Approximately 80 miles behind the leader is Matt Allen’s Carkeek 60 Ichi Ban currently leading IRC Division 1 on handicap. Will Oxley, navigator onboard, reported earlier, “We’re just hanging on the coat tails of some of the big boats. Looks like a tricky day, and we are hoping to hold onto favourable northeast winds as long as possible. All is going to game plan, except for thunderstorms inshore last night, which slowed the fleet a bit.”
Adrienne Cahalan is this year sailing Bill Wild’s 55 footer Wedgetail. This morning Cahalan emailed, “It was busy last night – lots of sail changes as we headed south through clouds coming from shore. We were in close contact all night with Ichi Ban, Varuna, Nikata, Victoire and Zefiro.
“The wind is so light out here now that if you did not position your boat last night for today, it is probably too late now. Having said that the fleet is close together today near us and appear to be following the same strategy, unlike last night when some boats when right inshore and some, like us, chose to stay further offshore. The wind won't fill in from the north until later today for us, so we are patiently waiting.”
Under handicap, under IRC the present leader is Anthony Williams' IMX-38 Martela ahead of Kim Jaggar and Travis Read's Davidson 34 Illusion with Ichi Ban third. Under ORCi Martela and Illusion also hold first and second, but with Chris Tucker's First 40 Halcyon third.