by Jim Gale
The Rolex Sydney Hobart Yacht Race 2012 proves to be bumpy and testy ride for the skippers and crews of the 76 participating fleets as large squalls and gigantic waves continue to punish the competitors in the opening hours of the 628 nautical mile race.
The Rolex Sydney Hobart Yacht Race 2012
'At the moment we are all paying the rent,' is how Jenifer Wells, the navigator of the 27 year-old Farr 43, Wild Rose, put it as they headed back towards the coast after a long initial tack out to sea in the Cruising Yacht Club of Australia’s famous race.
'All the crew are soaked,' Wells said. 'I’m the navigator, so I’m below decks and even I’m soaked!'
Brindabella’s sailing master, Brad Kellett reported: 'We’re on the proverbial bucking bronco. We have the main reefed and a number 4 jib up. We haven’t broken any stuff yet and no-one is seasick – so far so good.'
Many sailors are still getting over the adrenalin of one of the fastest starts in the race’s history. A huge outgoing tide and a stiff southerly pushed all but Quest out of the Harbour inside 20 minutes, an unheard of speed.
'It was fantastic,' Wild Rose’s veteran ocean racing skipper Roger Hickman declared. 'We had some whoopsies with the spinnaker in such a packed fleet; I was afraid we might hit something, but we got out alright.'
Wild Rose, the last IOR overall winner in 1993 (when Cuckoos Nest was also declared the overall winner under IMS), was among a large group of the smaller boats that continued out to sea after the bulk of the fleet tacked back in.
Ex-Taswegian, Hickman and his crew, were looking for a stronger southerly current, an ocean conveyor belt that would transport them towards Hobart, but navigator Wells has concluded that the current was just too far out to sea to make it worthwhile. She hopes to find it closer in in Bass Strait.
With the wind expected to swing round to the north and north-east tonight or early tomorrow, the best option seems to be to stick fairly close to the rhumbline, the shortest distance between Sydney and Hobart.
At the front of the fleet, Wild Oats XI navigator Adrienne Cahalan reported at 4.00pm that the east/south-easterly they were in off Coal Cliff, had eased off a little to 17 knots. 'But it is still pretty bumpy and uncomfortable,' she reported.
17, BRINDABELLA, Sail No: 10000, Owner: Jim Cooney, Design: Jutson 80, LOA (m): 24.1, State: NSW
The Wild Oats XI crew can see Ragamuffin-Loyal and Lahana astern of them, followed by Ichi Ban, Black Jack and Loki
Cahalan described the start as 'one of our best ever,' saying the giant yacht had reached speeds of 20 knots and over as it blasted down the Harbour.'
That was downwind. Now reaching, Wild Oats XI was only doing about 12 knots off Coal Cliff (just north of Wollongong). It is short of the 15 knots she has to average, point to point from Sydney to Hobart if she is going to break the record.
However, as Cahalan points out, 'It is still early days. We knew it was going to be a slow start. Now it all depends on how long we have to wait for the next wind change.
Rolex Sydney Hobart Yacht Race