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Rolex Sydney Hobart Yacht Race and Cup news

by David Schmidt 24 Dec 2019 08:00 PST December 24, 2019
Wild Oats XI competing at Hamilton Island Race Week © Salty Dingo

Santa may be busy filling his sleigh, but most sailors are likely far more interested with the sleds that are being readied for nautical combat in this year's Rolex Sydney Hobart Yacht Race, which will see its 75th start unfurl on Boxing Day (Yankee translation: December 26).

While many of the biggest names in sailing will be lining up for this offshore classic, it's fair to say that a Christmas miracle arrived early for skipper Mark Richards and the crew of Wild Oats XI, as this star-studded team successfully rebuilt their turbo-charged sled after suffering a broken mast at deck level on November 8 while competing in the 180-nautical mile Cabbage Tree Island race.

In an impressive show of seamanship, the crew managed to keep the rig vertical, but this didn't stop the breakage from destroying a chunk of the deck and several structural frames. The team spared no resource or expense in repairing their silver turbo sled (Rudolph or not, Santa has nothing on Wild Oats XI), and recently completed a mandatory 24-hour offshore passage.

"We went into race mode for that trial and returned to our base more than pleased with what we had experienced," said Richards. "We couldn't fault a thing."

While this bodes well for the Oatley family's offshore machine, Richards and company can expect plenty of competition from the other super maxis that are also gunning for line honors in this rough n' tumble race, including (and most notably) LDV Comanche.

Meanwhile, in America's Cup news, the Defender (the Royal New Zealand Yacht Squadron) and the Challenger of Record (Circolo della Vela Sicilia) for the 36th America's Cup (March 6-21, 2021) have failed to reach an agreement over the upper wind limits for racing for the Auld Mug and for the races leading up to AC36.

According to Richard Gladwell's excellent reportage, Emirates Team New Zealand (ETNZ) wants 24 knots set as the ceiling, while Luna Rossa Prada Pirelli, wants 20 knots as the limit for the preliminary racing and 22 knots as the cap for Cup racing.

Get the full scoop, inside.

Also in Cup news, ETNZ was the first team to capsize their AC75 foiling monohull last week. According to reports and video footage, the team got their soft-sided wingsail salty in just 10 knots of breeze. Amazingly, the team managed to right their wagon and quickly climbed back up on their hydrofoils to resume their training mission, dismissing the incident as "a little whoopsie".

When one compares and contrasts that to the capsize suffered by Oracle Team USA leading up to the 34th America's Cup, the differences are dramatic.

Given the ETNZ's impressive foiling capabilities, and the fact that they have consistently been pressing the wind limits for their first-generation AC75, I couldn't help but wonder if this was somehow an intentional capsize, perhaps as a way of testing their systems and proving their ability to dust the salt off their sails...and perhaps to also throw down the gauntlet for the challengers. This is pure conjecture, of course, but it's an interesting piece of mental candy, nonetheless.

Sail-World wishes all Sydney Hobart competitors safe, speedy and successful passage to Tasmania, and we also have our fingers crossed that the fires ravaging the country's beautiful East Coast will soon abate.

Happy holiday to all!

May the four winds blow you safely home.

David Schmidt North American Editor

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