If you’re into offshore sailing, these are exciting days. Sure, you might have to listen to old Uncle Alfy-fueled-up on eggnog and fruit cake-ramble on about 'the good old days', but at least you can tap into two awesome events: the fully crewed Sydney-Hobart Race and the around-the-world-alone-and-unassisted Vendee Globe Race.
WILD OATS XI
While the former offers one of the most iconic starting scenes in all of sailboat racing, this year’s Vendee is rapidly proving to be one of the most intricate match races ever see in solitary-sailing circles, with race leader Francois Gabart ('MACIF') some 7.5 miles ahead of Armel Le Cleac’h ('Banque Populaire') at the time of this writing…despite both skippers now having sailed more than half way around the globe.
While sailing takes a backseat to mainstream American sports, the Sydney-Hobart Race is front-page news to all Australians, irrespective of whether they have saltwater coursing through their veins. This year is looking to be no exception, with some 77 boats registered to race in this classic bluewater race, which starts on Boxing Day (December 26) and takes the fleet some 630 miles to Hobart, Tasmania.
'The Sydney Hobart is one of those events you start thinking of when you’re at work, it’s one of those legendary races,’’ said Simonas Steponavicius, the owner/skipper of the Lithuanian-flagged Volvo 60, 'Ambersail', which is making a tour of the world’s great ocean races, including this year’s Sydney-Hobart. 'It’s very competitive and very tactical racing; this is sailing at its purest.'
Speaking of pure speed, the 'Wild Oats XI' team have taken some serious steps to try and earn line honors, including some fairly significant rig, bulb and underbody reconfigurations. 'Our aim is to get to Hobart first,’ said Mark Richards, 'Wild Oats XI’s' skipper. 'We’re not thinking about the race record. If we get the record then it will come as a bonus.' A bonus that the boat’s winner, Bob Oatley, would love to reap, even if it’s simply to break his own standing record, which his team set in 2005.
Unfortunately for Richards and Oatley, however, the weather models aren’t necessarily screaming 'record run', but, according to Richards, that’s not a prerequisite for a record-setting run. ‘I agree with [meteorologist] Roger ['Clouds' Badham] that we are still in with a chance for the record, even with the less favorable forecast,' said Richards. 'If you compare the weather pattern we experienced when we set the record in 2005 with what we are likely to get this year, I think conditions are still far more in favor of a race record time this year.’
Inside, get the latest news on the race, the preparations and the rivalries that make the Sydney-Hobart one of the great sailing contests, and stay tuned to the Sail-World website for more news, as it unfurls. We are proud that Sail-World delivers the most detailed coverage of this event of any media group world-wide.
Francois Gabart, Macif - 2012 Vendee Globe
And in the Vendee Globe, the tussle for pole position has no doubt cost both Gabart and Le Cleac’h valuable hours of sleep as the two skippers exchange tactical fisticuffs in the storm-tossed depths of the Pacific Ocean, their bows pointed towards Cape Horn.
A bit more astern of the leaders, Bernard Stamm ('Cheminées Poujoulat') has had to temporarily stop racing due to mechanical problems, most notably to his hydrogenerators. As a result, Stamm has found shelter in the Auckland Islands, where he is now trying to repair his vessel.
Alex Thomson, Hugo Boss - 2012 Vendee Globe
Power problems also haunt Alex Thomson ('Hugo Boss'), who continues to post some impressive 24-hour runs, despite having seriously limited communications due to an earlier gear failure. The British-flagged sailor is currently in fourth place, behind Gabart, Le Cleac’h and Jean-Pierre Dick. Get the latest Vendee Globe news, inside this issue.
Also inside, get the latest on the America’s Cup, where the International Jury found the Defender, Oracle Racing, to be in violation of the rules; check out the NOR for the 2014/2015 Volvo Ocean Race, and get the wrap up report from the 2012 ARC.
May the four winds blow you safely home,