Yesterday Sean Langman's Grundig sailed fast into the Southern ocean, attacking the World 24 hour speed record for monohulls.
With winds sweeping from the southwest, the runway stretched 900+ miles toward New Zealand, not exactly a crisp white salt lakebed, but a lively southern ocean seaway.
The current world record was set by the German Volvo 60 illbruck Challenge during leg seven of the Volvo Ocean Race when they achieved a 24-hour run of 484 nautical miles on April 29-30 2002, as they swept north along the American east coast, in the surging north flowing Gulf Stream.
Grundig, an extended Open 60, now with 66 feet of waterline is faster than the Volvo boats off the breeze and certainly has the capacity to take the record if the conditions are right.
Grundig blasted south easterly, straight-lining in the strong gradient winds, she was sailing in a slight south-easterly current, but it only provides a fraction of the elevator effect that so advantaged illbruck.
As Hobart sailors know, with a mid-summer southerly buster, wind against current/tide produces a slamming seaway. Grundig had not up till now had a good ride yet into the southern ocean. Three attempts in the Hobart race have seen two aborted attempts with hull delamination in 2001, a shredded mainsail in 2000 and back in 1999 she broke off one of her twin rudders and limped into Hobart.
But this was a different set of sailing conditions for the thoroughbred off the wind racer. With 20-25 knot winds across the deck, Grundig was shy reaching southeast towards an area of gale force winds and conditions began to build and build. It was beginning to be a wild and wet ride.
'This record attempt will succeed if there is enough runway' said Ian 'Buggsy' Potter, Grundig's shore based master navigator.
Potter and Roger 'Clouds' Badham, Australia's best-known offshore weather expert could see that the intense low, now stalled between Bass Strait and New Zealand would continue to feed the south westerlies.
However, if the system started moving to fast or their was too much influence from a number of small troughs embedded in the weather system then that could cruel the record attempt.
Eight hours into the challenge, the boat was hard on the pace, but then these light patches began to show in the 10-minute average speeds, coming down from the satellites. Not such nice numbers, as 17's, 16's and 15's were mixed with the 20's, 21's & 22's.
During the night the same trend continued, then the wind increased.
Now it would have be a new 24 hour start, for some hours the wind fluctuated but finally this morning a third of the way to New Zealand, the six man crew realised they were in the softening weather system, the runway was closing down. The powerful low was no longer stalled it was moving away from them.
Without the gale force south westerlies, which had them power reaching at speeds up to 30 knots last night, they could not expect more than 450 miles from their 24-hour run.
A little before 7am, they called Sydney Radio and advised that they were abandoning their record attempt, then turned north easterly taking the pressure off the boat and rig and are now having breakfast. Bacon & Eggs and then the long road home.
With a smile, Sean Langman said, 'It was a lot of fun and there is always next time.'