The biggest news in the offshore-sailing world comes from Australia, where Bob Oatley’s 'Wild Oats XI' broke her own course record (set in 2005) in the Rolex Sydney Hobart Yacht Race by nearly 17 minutes, claiming both line honors (her fifth time taking this prize) and establishing a new benchmark elapsed time that will be tough to topple. Interestingly, 'Wild Oats XI' underwent serious modification-surgery prior to this years race, which undoubtedly helped, especially in the lighter airs that the crew encountered on Tasmania’s Derwent River.
'We just kept chipping away,' reported skipper Mark Richards about the team’s nail-biting finish, that-while solid for line honors-was fairly close for the course record. The new time to beat for this ocean contest is now a mere one day, 18 hours, 23 minutes and 12 seconds. 'You expect it to be light in the Derwent and it did get lighter towards the end. This is a very testing event... It’s always a tough race.'
According to reports from 'Wild Oats XI’s' crew, the event was relatively moderate, given the race’s storied reputation. 'We had some very hard and fast running conditions,' said Richards. 'We blew-out a spinnaker and [we] had some gear failure, so it wasn’t all smooth sailing.' Get the full 'Wild Oats XI' report, as well as the latest news from the Sydney Hobart, inside this issue.
Meanwhile, there’s been some interesting meteorological changes in the Vendee Globe Race, where 13 skippers are single-handing their IMOCA 60s nonstop around the world, as the leaders have slowed relative to their nearest rivals. At the time of this writing, the runaway race leaders Armel Le Cleac’h ('Banque Populaire') and Francois Gabart ('MACIF') and were sailing several knots slower than both Jean-Pierre Dick ('Virbac Paprec 3') and Alex Thomson ('Hugo Boss'), both hundreds of miles astern, as the fleet powers towards Cape Horn.
'Right now I have a 28-32-knot wind but I know it’s going to go up to 40 knots so I’m ready to go out there and trim my sails for whatever comes,' reported Dick. 'There’s so much noise on the boat! Right now my speed is 19-20 knots, it’s pretty good. But the waves are quite rough. It’s tough but it’s still better than yesterday, when the wind was much lighter than the weather files had predicted. I’m glad things changed and I think Gabart and Le Cléac’h will slow down so hopefully I can catch up with them a bit in the next few days.'
The low-pressure system is expected to reach the leaders soon, so it will be interesting to see how this impacts each skipper’s decisions as they near Cape Horn. According to reports, the leaders are expected to reach this mythical place around the first of the year before then pointing their bows north and continuing their long-distance match-racing session back to Las Sables D’Olonne, France.
And in America’s Cup news, Sail-World’s Richard Gladwell caught up with Dean Barker, skipper of Emirates Team New Zealand’s (ETNZ) AC72, to get his thoughts on ETNZ’s first thirty days of sailing aboard their wingsail-powered, foil-borne catamaran. 'The one thing you learn very quickly is that these boats are apparent wind animals,' reported Barker. 'The wind is always in front of you no matter whether you are going up or downwind.' ?
?'To both make the boat safe and extract performance, you have to push incredibly hard,' continued Barker. 'There’s not a conservative approach to sailing one of these boats. You manage these boats differently as the breeze increases. The best way to manage the power is to sail the boat at its full performance as much as you can.' Be sure to check out Gladwell’s great multimedia interview, inside this newsletter.
Also inside, get the latest news on ETNZ’s frantic push to get their second AC72 ready to sail/fly, get an inside peek at Oracle Racing’s New Zealand-based wing-building facility, and finally, be sure to spend plenty of time gawking at all the great Sydney Hobart photo galleries. Enjoy!
May the four winds blow you safely home,
by David Schmidt, Sail-World USA Editor
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12:44 AM Fri 28 Dec 2012GMT
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