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Sydney Hobart - Call the ball

by John Curnow, Editor, Sail-World AUS 27 Dec 2018 13:09 PST From Dec 26
Prizegiving ceremony Overall winner Patrick Boutellier (Rolex Australia), Matt Allen (Ichi Ban) and John Markos (CYCA Commodore) © Stefano Gattini

After our earlier Sydney Hobart pieces, which included Snakes and Ladders, the time has come to have a good hard look at who is going to take out the much coveted Tattersall’s Cup for the overall win under the IRC rating system. Early on Friday morning, Australian Eastern Daylight Savings Time (AEDT), Matt Allen’s reigning champ, the Botin penned TP52 Ichi Ban, had returned to the top of the table on corrected time. It’s a fair effort for sure, especially after sliding to 31st place.

As for ‘call the ball’, well it’s part of the unique language between the Carrier Air Traffic Control Centre, the Landing Signal Officer on the fantail, and the naval aviator in charge of the ultra-quick kerosene canary. The short of it is that at some point after all the work guiding you in, tips on your glide path, and then identifying yourself to the deck and arrester crews, you have to take it on and perform the landing on the relatively small bit of steel floating around in a really huge ocean.

So now the real test is to say you can see the deck, the multitude of lights across the fantail all look as they should, your aircraft’s tailhook is down, and you’re going to collect the third wire strapped across the 41m wide, but super short runway that you’re about to bang into with Wide Open Throttle, and have the afterburners all set to fire and give you absolutely full noise, should you make a mess of it.

Easy huh? At least this time you don’t have to do it in the dark… Only thing is, a bit unlike the carrier landing, there is this thing called the weather, and it changes, often with many a challenge delivered as a result. So now that the Line Honours for the 2018 Rolex Sydney Hobart Yacht Race has been sorted out, and provided there is enough to get them home by this afternoon (and this really is the key), Ichi Ban could well go back to back, which is not that easy a task to pull off.

It is important to note that, for out at sea, both the supermaxi group, and the quicks, which comprises of the slickest of the 50s and the best of the 60s have both hit the wall when the wind evaporated before them. The slower craft all came down to a fuller picture, and naturally, this helped them by around the same amount it had hurt the others.

So with decent wind in the River Derwent on Friday morning, which is what brought the super maxis home, but an overall weather picture that is still dominated by a huge high and some troughs, if the quicks get delayed in Storm Bay, and the river shuts down at night like it nearly always does, then some grand old gems likely to finish on Saturday afternoon may well be in the chocolates for the big one.

This could mean the sentimental favourite, Mark Twain, may be in with a chance. All of that in turn may mean it will be Sunday morning before an overall winner is declared. So then, if this is about calling the ball, then I reckon the quicks have it. If they make their declaration by say lunchtime on Friday, then the remaining 40nm should happen before the sun gets too low, and it will be theirs.

Exactly whose, well, Envy Scooters and Gweilo from the village of the TPs were part of it overnight, but now have left Ichi Ban with an armada of 60-somethings all hunting her. These include Matt Allen’s other Ichi Ban, the Carkeek 60 racing as Winning Appliance (and don’t they know how to race/sail), the brilliantly campaigned R/P66 Alive, which overtook Ichi Ban as this was sent live, the girls of Ocean Respect Racing on Wild Oats X, and then the old R/P63 Limit (built by Hart Marine in Mornington), which is now Voodoo.

They are all tough campaigners, and literally only a few hours separate them (on corrected time), and others like Hollywood Boulevard, Privateer, and the Mark Mills 68, Prospector, which hails from the USA. Like Voodoo and Wild Oats X, Prospector has a full North Sails wardrobe, and there is a good chance a massive Code Zero could be needed to get up the river later on today. Game on.

Elsewhere, the Moody 54, Calypso, that had gone into Eden for repairs has actually now retired. Sydney 46 Russian SeaVentus Mahligai came up at 0057hrs to provide her position after missing the sched. The reason they missed it was that they were looking after a guy that had a fall overboard. No further information provided, so it is assumed all is ok. At 0206hrs Hobart Race Control informed the Radio Relay Vessel (JBW) that Showtime had lost electrics and will provide Position reports via satphone at appropriate times so JBW can inform fleet.

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