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27 December 2006, 11:15 am
Wild Oats Leads As Gale Force Winds Cause Dismastings
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Rolex Sydney Hobart Yacht Race 2006
Sydney, Australia

Steep seas and unforecast winds gusting up to gale force strength resulted in two of the potential line honours contenders dismasting last night in the Rolex Sydney Hobart. Bob OATLEY'S Wild Oats XI, the 2005 line honours, handicap and course record setter, continues to lead the 69 remaining boats competing in the Rolex Sydney Hobart towards the finish line.
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At 19.10 (local time) today the race favourite was mid-way across Bass Strait, the famous channel separating Tasmania from mainland Australia, having extended her lead over Grant WHARINGTON'S second placed Skandia to 18 miles.

This afternoon round the world navigator Adrienne CAHALAN, on board Wild Oats XI, described the sea state as 'very rough' with the wind up to 25-30 knots. 'It is a close race with Skandia so both boats are fighting very hard,' she said.
While the race may have been close between the 30m supermaxis in the race for line honours, this is unlikely to remain the case for long. At 13:35 local time today, while she was just 3 miles astern of Wild Oats XI, Skandia broke her canard, the single centrally mounted daggerboard, used to prevent leeway when going to windward.

'We have no idea what happened - we may have hit something, we really don't know at this stage. All we know is that we heard a very loud crack and then the guys saw it floating away,' commented Skandia skipper Grant WHARINGTON. While they will still be able to reach Hobart in this condition it will considerably diminish their ability to go to windward efficiently. 'We are currently experimenting with the level of keel cant to maximize our performance,' WHARINGTON continued. 'I guess given the carnage of last night we should be grateful - but it's really frustrating given how well were going, and the conservative way we have been sailing.'

WHARINGTON will have to fend off their second place on the water from his old steed, Matt ALLEN'S Volvo Open 70 Ichi Ban, 15 miles astern of her at the latest update.

A tactically complex night lies ahead for the front runners as a weak cold front is set to pass over the eastern Bass Strait tonight and into tomorrow morning. This is likely to see the wind drop, fill in from the northeast giving them a few brief hours of running before the wind drops again and reverts once again to the south as they feel the first effects of the high pressure system over the Great Australian Bight coming their way.

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ABN AMRO ONE under jury rig
heading towards Sydney
© ROLEX / Daniel Forster
After 78 yachts started the Rolex Sydney Hobart yesterday, the fleet is now down to 69 yachts following the latest retirement of Philip KING'S Salona due to steering problems. The Cookson 50, Living Doll, David PESCUD'S Lyons 54, Sailors With Disabilities, Bruce TAYLOR'S Sydney 38, Chutzpah, and Peter MOONEY'S Sydney 47, Endorfin have also retired with steering or rudder issues while the 40-footer Mr Kite has retired with rig problems.

Following the dismastings earlier this morning of ABN AMRO and Maximus, the Australian rescue authorities were once again alerted this morning to the plight of Mike FREEBAIRN'S 1968 overall Sydney Hobart winner, Ray WHITE Koomooloo.

Sailing in a 22 knot southwesterly, FREEBAIRN'S 41 footer fell off a backless wave and soon after started flooding. 'We did everything we could to save the boat. We started ripping up the floor boards trying to find where the water was coming in. We couldn't locate the problem. We started bailing for a while, then I decided for the safety of the crew that we'd better abandon,' said FREEBAIRN.

Ray WHITE Koomooloo's skipper and crew transferred via liferaft to the British services 67ft Challenge yacht, Adventure at 1100 local time. While the yacht was still floating at the time they abandoned her, FREEBAIRN was not expecting her to stay afloat for much longer. From Adventure the stricken crew were transferred to a police launch at 1300. The police launch was then en route to the 1988 overall Rolex Sydney Hobart race winner, Illusion, to transfer off skipper Graham JACKSON, who is believed to have broken some ribs.

This evening Maximus is in Ulladulla, 100 miles south of Sydney. All but one of her crew are now out of hospital. ABN AMRO One is currently under engine and jury rig and is also due into Ulladulla this evening to pick up fuel.

Under IRC handicap the tables are turning regularly with Matt ALLEN'S Volvo Open 70 Ichi Ban currently leading from Alex Whitworth's Berrimilla, with Wild Oats third. The top three have pulled out a slight lead over Geoff ROSS' fourth placed Yendys on corrected time.

At 0308 (Australian time) the crew of ABN AMRO One advised the Race Committee that they had dismasted. Despite a forecast indicating there would be no more than 20 knots, ABN AMRO One were experiencing 30-35 knots of wind gusting up to 37-38 at the time, making 10.5-11 knots to the east of the fleet.

'It was all familiar territory,' commented skipper Mike SANDERSON, who skippered the boat through considerably worse conditions to a decisive victory in the Volvo Ocean Race earlier this year. 'There were two big bangs and it all came tumbling down. Something broke which had just worn out. Maybe we were lucky it didn't go in the Volvo Ocean Race. All we have left is up to the first spreader.' Being pitch black in the early hours of the morning at the time of the incident, the exact cause of the breakage remains a mystery.

With the mast flailing around the crew were concerned about damaging the carbon fibre hull of their boat and hurriedly set about cutting through the carbon fibre spar, PBO rigging and numerous thick ropes, in order to free the rig from the hull.

Fortunately no one was injured in the incident. 'The boys are a bit shaken up and disappointed - we were going well,' said SANDERSON. At present ABN AMRO is motoring back to Sydney and their present ETA is 24-48 hours time.

In an altogether more serious incident that resulted in six casualties, the 30m line honours contender Maximus skippered by co-owners Charles St CLAIR BROWN and Bill BUCKLEY dismasted shortly after ABN AMRO One at 0300 local time. At the time they were closer to the shore than ABN AMRO, sailing in 28 knots in a sea that was lumpy but nothing extraordinary. 'The boat was going very nicely, we'd been sitting on 12-12.5 knots and we were in good shape, just trucking down the coast,' recounted one of the injured crewman, Ian TRELAVEN.

On Maximus it was a forestay fitting that broke, resulting in the towering carbon fibre spar crashing directly backwards into the cockpit. At the time the crew were preparing for a tack and the falling spar nearly crushed several crew at the aft end of the cockpit, thankfully saved as the fall was broken by the twin steering wheels and the handles for the grinders. 'I think we were incredibly lucky no one was killed,' said Treleaven.

In the dismasting TREVALEN had suffered a head injury which briefly knocked him unconscious. 'I was down to leeward getting ready for the leeward traveller and heard the crunching. I hit the deck and the boom must have got me in the back of the head and just pushed me into the deck. I landed on a winch and it stopped doing any serious damage to me.'

Others hurt were Glenn ATTRILL, George HENDY, David MUNDY and Martin HANNON suffering a mixture of injury to their lower back, head, ribs and pelvis. Most seriously hurt was New Zealander David MUNDY who broke his leg and some ribs and was airlifted off in a stretcher. At first light this morning three crew were taken ashore to Moruya Hospital by helicopter while two were transported ashore to Batesman's Bay by police launch.

In the dismasting Maximus' rudder was slightly damaged and a sail became wrapped around the propeller. These have since been cleared and this morning Maximus was making for Jervis Bay, steered by the remaining half of a wheel.

Listen to recorded audio interviews from the Rolex Sydney Hobart Yacht Race: www.regattanews.com

For more information about the Rolex Sydney Hobart Yacht Race 2006 including updated position reports (every 10 minutes) please visit www.rolexsydneyhobart.com

The Cruising Yacht Club of Australia's 2006 Rolex Sydney Hobart Yacht Race will start in Sydney Harbour on Tuesday 26 December at 13:00 from two start lines off Nielsen Park.

For all the news on the Rolex Sydney Hobart Yacht Race CLICK HERE.
Regatta News (As Amended By ISAF). Image, Wild Oats Off Merimbula © ROLEX / Daniel Forster
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