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A rough night for the L2H fleet but Jazz Player in tune

by Jane Austin 27 Dec 2020 21:30 PST 27-31 December 2020
Jazz Player at the start of the TasPorts Launceston to Hobart Yacht Race on the Tamar River, 2020 © Doug Steel

The TasPorts Launceston to Hobart fleet took a battering overnight with four boats now retired from the race.

After a slow start, the fleet encountered the forecast west to south westerly winds averaging 25 to 35 knots for Banks Strait and adjacent areas.

At 20:24, Jeff Cordell, skipper of B&G Advantage and a stalwart of the race, retired after his Mumm 36 was dismasted. Sailing underpowered, with a storm jib and a reef in the main, Cordell said the mast broke in two stages and they lost the lot. "There was no incident, we had done our rig checks and were underpowered, running dead flat at the time, but something just gave way, with the mast shearing off at the deck. It took us 20 minutes to cut the rig away and unfortunately we weren't able to salvage anything," said Cordell.

The experienced crew responded quickly but were hit with more hard luck when the fuel line burst on the way back to Beauty Point. "We had enough fuel to get home but when the fuel line burst, we needed to shut it down, and were towed the last ten miles," said Cordell. It was a long and frustrating night for the crew of B&G Advantage as they were battered by steep waves in freezing cold conditions on the return to port, but Cordell reported that all onboard were safe.

Prima Donna skippered by Royce Salter and fresh from a total makeover, followed suit soon after, retiring from the race at 21:00 after experiencing mast damage. "We were having a great sail with a heavy weather kite and jib up until we pushed into the back of a wave and the top of the mast just folded," said Heather McCallum, co-owner of the boat.

"We were lucky that it happened just before dark and off Waterhouse Island. We got out the bolt cutters, cut halyards and strapped the main onto the boom, before heading to Binalong Bay. We tried to rig up a storm jib to sail but the angle just wasn't right. We are currently waiting on St Helens Coastguard to bring us some more fuel for our trip back to Hobart," said McCallum.

McCallum was full of praise for the support of the St Helens Coastguard, the Race Committee and other competitors during what was a very tough night.

And just before midnight, Zephyr Insurance Masters retired from the race after experiencing rudder damage. "The clamp that holds the rudder in place slipped about 30mm which meant that we were slowly taking on water through the gap while we were sailing. We are on a MAST mooring alongside Prima Donna in Binalong Bay working out a plan to repair the rudder so we can make our way back to Hobart. We saw over 40 knots last night and had to tackle the opposing wind and currents that the area is renowned for," said skipper, Ian Johnston.

As at 11:30 AEDT, John Dryden's Jazz Player from the Kettering Yacht Club/Derwent Sailing Squadron, is sailing the race of a lifetime, leading on IRC, AMS and PHS handicaps and second on line honours to Alive, skippered by Duncan Hine. AdvantEDGE, skippered by Andrew Jones and sailing from the Port Dalrymple Yacht Club, is in third place on line honours, while Black Magic, skippered by Graham Mansfield, has just retired citing crew seasickness.

Alive is scheduled to finish the race in the early evening, but much will depend on whether a sea breeze builds to bring them up the River Derwent in style, or whether the River shuts down in the late afternoon. Alive will be focused on taking the race record which was set in 2009.

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