by John Curnow
Hutchwilco Melbourne to Stanley Race 2011. There was a lot of rain in and around Melbourne on Friday night, which lasted until about 2am Saturday. That meant the boats were very clean when some of the crews got up in Queenscliff to take the boats down to the start line and the 5am gun/flare.
Early Saturday morning, Jordan Crowley-Hall trims the spinnaker aboard Arch Rival - Hutchwilco Melbourne to Stanley
Adjusted from 4am to allow for shipping movements, the fleet got away cleanly and if not sprightly in the three to six knots coming out of the Sou’east, it was at least better than enduring a slog through the Rip in 3 to 4m seas.
Dolphins joined some of the boats in the milky seas, as the crews set about the hundred sail changes they would make in the morning, trying to get a break on the opposition. Spinnakers came up, then they were back to headsails and even the code zero got a look in.
The next to go for changes were the crew, as the wet weather gear and even some of the thermals gave way to short sleeves. Aboard Arch Rival, Stuart Addison reported, 'It's never like this! Having a hoot, big bag up, hitting 9s and it's a lovely day.' These sorts of sentiments keep popping up around and after the noon radio sched when boats were reporting 8 to 12 knots from the Nor’west predominantly and the seas were still only around half a metre.
Pretty soon it was realised that the Reichel-Pugh 52, Scarlet Runner, was holding on to a slender 4nm lead over the TP52, Calm. They were doing around 13 knots and relishing the ability to have the sheets open or be under an asymmetric spinnaker.
Karen Young, sailing aboard the Beneteau First 40, Dry White, found time to pen quite an epic and even got some snaps out over the airwaves, as she found herself surrounded by men peeling clothes off. ‘Far from the forecast bad weather, we have so far been pleasantly surprised with blue sky and sunshine. Dots of colour have sprung up all around the horizon as various spinnaker options are deployed, to find the one that will propel boats through the fleet the quickest!'
Karen went on to say, 'Despite the constant Melbourne radio broadcasts alerting us to strong winds, we've rolled the banana lounges onto the deck, the layers have gradually come off and the sunscreen been applied.
'The Minister For All Things Interior has excelled on our boat. I cannot remember the last time I have been offered smoked salmon and cream cheese wraps as a snack! Nor can I remember the last time I was treated to the wonderful sight of so many 'hard core yachting blokes' prancing about in thermal underwear. Oh the joys - how much can one girl take?'
By the middle of the day, the sleeves were rolled up and the sun beat in wonderfully over John Weatherley on Dry White. - Hutchwilco Melbourne to Stanley
The phone calls have even produced some chatty crew too. Despite the banter, all are working very hard to get to Stanley on Tasmania’s North West coast. In the fleet are the Rosie Colahan and Robyn Brooke, who have begun their Melbourne to Osaka campaign with this race.
There is also Kiss Goodbye to MS, who are well in front of other vessels of comparable size and playing with the 40somethings.
Likewise, Nutcracker are punching above her 35 feet and sitting about halfway.
Josh Brooks-Duncan is a young sailor making his first foray into Bass Strait, aboard Under Capricorn. I’m sure he thinks all the talk of weather has just been a beat up at this point. Winds are forecast to go to the South and reach 25 knots towards the end of daylight, so he may just get a small dose before the day is done. Perhaps the 6pm sched will reveal that the wet weather gear has gone back on.
Satellite positions available at orcv.org.au
The fields of the area provide much of Australia's vegetables. Awesome soil. - Hutchwilco Melbourne to Stanley
The rock pools are filled with pristine water. - Hutchwilco Melbourne to Stanley
The Nut is not the only interesting geological feature in the area. - Hutchwilco Melbourne to Stanley
The Nut is Stanley's very visible landmark. The basalt massif also can make radio comms a little challenging. - Hutchwilco Melbourne to Stanley
The very scenic North West coast of Tasmania in between Burnie and Stanley. - Hutchwilco Melbourne to Stanley
Late afternoon on Friday, a storm rolled in over Melbourne. - Hutchwilco Melbourne to Stanley