Wild Oats XI, which led all the way from the start but under pressure from the British maxi City Index Leopard right to the finish line in the River Derwent, took line honours this morning in the Rolex Sydney Hobart Yacht Race.
The Reichel/Pugh 98, skippered by Mark RICHARDS for owner Bob OATLEY, "parked" in light air in the final few miles of the 628 nautical mile course allowing Leopard
, which sailed a smart tactical race across Storm Bay and up to the finish line off Battery Point, to close down a lead of 21 miles at Tasman Island (41 miles from the finish) to three miles in the river.
Wild Oats XI
eventually finished 27 minutes and 23 seconds ahead of Leopard
at 10:24 local time, before a crowd of hundreds assembled on the Hobart waterfront.
While Wild Oats XI
finished 2 hours and 44 minutes outside the record time of 1 day, 18 hours, 40 minutes, and 10 seconds she set in 2005, her third consecutive win equalled the record set in the race's very early days, by Claude PLOWMAN's Fife-designed and built cutter Morna
in 1946, 1947 and 1948.
RICHARDS, who has skippered and helmed Wild Oats XI
for owner OATLEY in all three of her line honours wins, said he was conscious of the historical importance. "Three in a row? I am over the moon. The result was sensational."
OATLEY, asked what his feelings were, said: "One of joy; one of 'I can't believe it'; wonderful, I don't know what we are going to do next."
RICHARDS said Wild Oats
had been under constant pressure from Leopard, which was sailed very well. "It was a really tough race, tactically very tough. There were a lot of sail changes throughout the two days and the boys haven't had much sleep. It was a challenging race and whoever got here first was going to have a well-deserved win.
"Mentally it was pretty hard. We parked three times - they were very nerve wracking times - and after all that hard work to get to the Derwent and park there, there was a lot of feeling to it. We had to work our butts off and it's all good, it makes the win even better."
At a dockside presentation, OATLEY and RICHARDS were presented with the J.H. Illingworth Trophy and a Rolex Yachtmaster timepiece for their line honours win.
Mike SLADE of Leopard
said that at one stage Wild Oats XI
had been 23 miles ahead. "For some extraordinary reason, we pulled them back to three miles at the very end. It's swings and roundabouts in racing. You've got to take it as it comes, enjoy it as it is and we are all thrilled that we have done so well."
SLADE continued, "Wild Oats in terms of modern technology is clear of the pack now. They have jumboed it up and that obviously worked as well."
He said OATLEY's team had used the Auckland wind tunnel, with Mike SANDERSON, to develop the square-topped mainsail on the new Southern Spars mast, which replaced the one Wild Oats
broke in the Maxi Yacht Rolex Cup series at Porto Cervo in September. "With that new rig they had the opportunity to do it. Gosh it worked."
, the third canting-keeled maxi in the line honours equation, broke the top third off her mast at 02:30 while running hard before the freshening northwester, doing 20 knots under asymmetric spinnaker, 150 miles from the finish.
Grant WHARINGTON, owner/skipper of the Jones-designed maxi that took line honours in the 2003 Rolex Sydney Hobart, said: "We just did a little broach; the spinnaker flogged twice and the mast snapped between the third spreader and the forestay attachment."
WHARINGTON said Skandia
had been leading the calculations for an overall win on IRC corrected time, which would have earned her the Tattersall's Cup, the race's most prized trophy. "That's all history now. We are determined to finish the race",
's crew dropped the mainsail to retrieve the spinnaker that had wrapped around the keel. Crewman Casey SMITH went up the mast four times to secure the damaged mast tip and Skandia
resumed racing, with just the storm jib set, doing only 5.9 knots.
Four hours earlier Skandia
had hit a large sunfish at speed, impaled it on her keel so badly that the sails had to be dropped and the boat reversed to clear the keel fin.
This morning the group of boats behind the maxis was having a rough, wet ride under small reaching spinnakers and reefed mainsails for some as the northwester freshened to 24 knots plus. Ichi Ban
were doing speeds exceeding 22 knots.
crewman Malcolm PARK reported from the boat: "It is a wet and wild day out here. The transition to the NW breeze [early Thursday morning] was quick and painless other than it required a number of sail changes. The crew on Rosebud has now put up and taken down every sail we brought on board for the race.
"We have 24-plus knots of wind, the A7 fractional reaching kite, a genoa staysail, and a reefed main. We are able to just lay the turning point [Tasman Island] at 194 magnetic. It is a bit intense.
"We have seven guys on deck with three guys in full wet weather gear on standby down below... needless to say it is wet down below.
"We are pleased with the way we have sailed so far. It would have been nice if we did not sail into the hole yesterday morning but there was really no way we could have avoided it. We knew the hole would be there before the start and that it would give an advantage to the smaller boats.
"Now that we have some wind we are able to open up some distance on the smaller boats but whether it is enough will only be determined by how much the 40 footers are blown in on this NW breeze."
Rosebud Moves To The Top In Handicap Waiting Game
With the line honours trophy again going to Wild Oats XI, the focus in the Rolex Sydney Hobart Yacht Race shifts to an intriguing contest for the sailors' most prized trophy, the Tattersall's Cup for the top yacht on IRC corrected time.
At 19:00 today local time, five yachts were positioned to win the Cup, according to computer calculations by the Cruising Yacht Club of Australia, as a hot northwest wind, which has sent the temperatures soaring to more than 34 degrees Celsius, swept the next group of yachts at high speeds under spinnakers down the Tasmanian coast.
The American yacht Rosebud
(Roger STURGEON), first of the new STP65 box-rule class to be launched, currently sits in first place overall on corrected time. But her position wasn't guaranteed until the boat crossed the finish line. Less than two hours earlier, Rosebud
dropped from the first place she held earlier in the day, as she slowed in light patches in the northwester in Storm Bay.
At 17:30, one mile south of the Iron Pot light marking the entrance to the Derwent River, she was almost stopped in a glassy calm patch with a crewman up the mast looking out for wind. Then a 10-12kt northwester filled in again, to move Rosebud
up the Derwent and across the finish at 19:02; she now stands as the boat to beat.
Next in line for handicap contention is Ray ROBERTS' canting-keeled Cookson 50 Quantum Racing
, which was 48.5 nautical miles from the finish, doing 11.9 knots and expected to finish at 10:21 this evening.
With the hard running ideal for the Transpac 52 class yachts, Syd FISCHER's Ragamuffin
was next on the list, 57.9nm from the finish, running at 11.3 knots with an estimated finishing time of 11:02pm and needing to finish before 02:18 tomorrow to beat Quantum Racing
on corrected time.
Geoff ROSS' Reichel/Pugh 55 all-rounder Yendys
was fourth, 50.3nm from the finish, hitting 17.3 knots and expected to finish at 22:40.
However the race's notoriously difficult last 41nm of the 628nm course, from Tasman Island across Storm Bay and up the Derwent River to finish off Hobart's waterfront, handed the usual goal-achievement anxiety to the handicap hopefuls list.
Fifth was Bruce TAYLOR's brand new Reichel/Pugh 40 Chutzpah
, a boat that has confirmed her promise of great downwind speed. She was 158.9 miles out, doing 12 knots and is due to finish at 7:22am tomorrow, inside her winning target time of 8:26am.
ALLEN's Jones-designed Volvo 70 Ichi Ban
, already hampered by a broken blade in her twin rudder system, was slowed sailing up the Derwent and finally finished at 18:01.
WHARINGTON's maxi Skandia
, which snapped her mast at the third spreader was still 37 miles from the finish sailing at less than 2 knots under jury-rig with a storm trysail and small jib; she was estimated to arrive during the night.
The strong northwester was still blowing 21-27 knots at Eddystone Point on Tasmania's northeastern tip, 19-22 knots at Maria Island, and 18-22 knots at Tasman Island, the last rounding mark before the finish.
Of the 82 yachts that started on Boxing Day, three have retired (Berrimilla
, Mr Kite
, Cougar II
), four have finished (Wild Oats XI
, City Index Leopard
, Ichi Ban
) and 75 are still racing.
Event Website - www.rolexsydneyhobart.com