by Di Pearson
The Rolex Sydney Hobart Yacht Race 2012 was off to a scintillating start as strong 20-25 knot winds power the kites and Code Zeros of the 76 fleets competing in one of the most watched and prestigious sailing event in the world. Bob Oatley’s Wild Oat XI came through with perhaps the most breath taking start in the history of the Boxing Day race classic as the 100 foot supermaxi literally blew by the competition, needing only six minutes to make a turning mark.
Start of the 68th Rolex Sydney Hobart
The start of the Rolex Sydney Hobart Yacht Race did not disappoint today and in perfect gusty southerly 20-25 knot winds, under a sunny sky, the 76 yachts in the Cruising Yacht Club of Australia’s annual race, popped kites and Code Zeros at the start, making for a spectacular sight.
Wild Oats XI made for riveting viewing. It was almost impossible to drag one’s eyes away as Mark Richards assumed his usual position at the pin end of the line, the crew work again impeccable. It was like watching a Skud missile launch as Bob Oatley’s 100 foot super maxi shot off the line on cue and bolted, taking around six minutes to make the turning mark, leaving all in her wake.
Even those behind were quick; it was one of the fastest exits from Sydney Heads in some time, with all except Bob Steel’s Quest outside of the Harbour inside 20 minutes. Quest struggled and took a penalty turn just inside the Heads, although the reason is unknown at this stage.
A little further up the line from Wild Oats XI, Syd Fischer’s Ragamuffin-Loyal tried to keep pace with her nemesis, but could not keep up. Halfway down the Harbour, Peter Harburg’s Black Jack, with Mark Bradford at the helm, and Stephen Ainsworth’s Loki, steered by Gordon Maguire, nearly overtook Ragamuffin-Loyal, footer, Black Jack having another go as they neared the sea mark.
Start of the 68th Rolex Sydney Hobart
However, Ragamuffin-Loyal held her own, around two minutes behind Wild Oats XI at the sea mark, Black Jack, the RP66, Loki a RP63, Peter Millard/John Honan’s 98ft Lahana and Matt Allen’s Jones 70, Ichi Ban around one minute plus astern of their bigger rival.
Ragamuffin-Loyal has been scored OCS, but the Race Committee will seek redress on Ragamuffin-Loyal’s behalf, due to the proper procedure for individual recall not being followed.
The rest followed in hot pursuit, the 2009 Rolex Sydney Hobart overall winner, Two True (Andrew Saies) from South Australia, struggling to pull down a kite as they headed into the brunt of the southerly in four metre seas, making the going tough.
One could almost feel Simon Kurts and his crew on Love & War and Sean Langman and his crew aboard Maluka of Kermandie, the oldest and smallest yacht in in the fleet, smiling as turned the corner into the brunt of the southerly, their heavier boats revelling comfortably in the conditions, while others struggled in the tough seaway and gusty winds.
Nor was Maluka of Kermandie last out to sea, that honour going to the 2008 winner, Quest, while Peter Rodger’s Olsen 40 She, with 43 Hobart race veteran, Bill Ratcliff aboard, only overtook Maluka of Kermandie once they were outside Sydney Heads, only Quest behind them.
99, MALUKA OF KERMANDIE, Sail No: A 19, Owner: Sean Langman, Design: Ranger, LOA (m): 9.0, State: NSW Start of the 68th Rolex Sydney Hobart
At 3.00pm Wild Oats XI had just passed Cronulla, with Ragamuffin Loyal, Lahana, Ichi Ban, Black Jack and Loki in a line off Cronulla Beach.
At 3.10pm, Geoff Cropley reported from Lahana: 'We’re on port tack reaching just off the coast near Cronulla. Ragamuffin-Loyal is about a quarter of a mile in front of us. We’re sailing in 15-20 knots from the east/south-east and it’s quite comfortable.
'We’re just settling in for a long port tack,' Cropley signed off.
Rolex Sydney Hobart Yacht Race 2012