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Yacht Georgia Lost Off Point Perpendicular!

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Wild Oats XI Takes Line honours!


0900hrs, 31 DECEMBER 2008

1998 Sydney Hobart Yacht Race Remembered

Threatening skies complemented a somber mood as skippers, crews and volunteers gathered together dockside to pay tribute to the six sailors who have lost their lives during the Sydney to Hobart ocean racing classic ten years ago.

Joining them were family members of Bruce Guy, skipper of the ill-fated Tasmanian yacht Business Post Naiad, and crew member, Phillip Skeggs. Both perished during the storm that engulfed the yachts off Gabo Island in the 1998 race.

Matt Allen, Commodore of the CYCA, recalled that 10 years ago a severe storm resulted in the biggest ever maritime rescue conducted in Australian waters. 25 aircraft, six vessels and approximately 1000 search personnel braved gale force winds and dangerous seas to rescue 55 sailors. 5 yachts sank and only 44 of the 115 starters make the finish to Hobart. He paid a sincere tribute to all search and rescue personnel who continue to assist sailors when in need.

Allen also remembered all those who have perished during and because of this race since 1945, and acknowledged the presence of family members of the five crew of the Tasmanian yacht Charleston which perished in Bass Strait when heading for the start of the race.

"The 98 race is a poignant reminder that the sea always holds the trump card," Allen said. "Ocean racing, like many other pursuits in life which contain a level of excitement, will always have an element of danger and risk."

Commodore of the Royal Yacht Club of Tasmania, Clive Simpson, joined Matt Allen to lower a reef into the waters of the Derwent harbour. This was followed by one minute's silence to reflect and to remember those who had lost their lives.

Family members were visibly moved by the ceremony. Mark Guy, son of Bruce, said that "I never forget my Dad and he is truly missed every day. Today's tribute was a very special way to remember our Dad and others who lost their lives during this race. It is a lasting legacy to my father that safety changes were implemented after the race."

Ros Guy, wife of Bruce, believed the memorial service was especially important for the grandchildren.

As the service concluded, Polaris of Belmont was welcomed safely to its marina berth, leaving just one yacht still racing, the Tasmanian 30 footer, Nest Property, which is due to finish during the afternoon.


Father Brian Nichols recited A sailors farewell
We will miss you always
We will remember you always
We will learn from the tragic circumstances of your deaths
May the everlasting voyage be blessed with calm seas and gentle breezes
May you never have to reef or change a headsail at night
May your bunk always be dry
To us you will always be family and we wish you farewell.

0900hrs, 31 DECEMBER 2008


The final two yachts sailing in the 2008 Rolex Sydney Hobart are expected to enjoy the rarity of a New Year celebration on dry land.

In previous years, many yachts were still at sea negotiating the 628 nautical mile course when the New Year rings in, but 2008 has witnessed a particularly fast race time for the majority of entrants.

Chris Dawe's Polaris of Belmont, from NSW and Murray Wilkes' Nest Property, from Tasmania, are expected to finish before the clock ticks over into 2009 and both crews will be eager to reach Hobart to join in the festivities on the waterfront.

Polaris of Belmont is predicted to reach the finishing line by around midday today, while Nest Property is likely to receive a substantial applause from the Hobart faithful to conclude the 2009 race around 4pm this afternoon.

This will be Nest Property's first Hobart, while veteran Polaris of Belmont will have completed 24 Hobarts.

90 yachts have now completed the race, with six yachts finishing between the hours of 6pm yesterday and 5am this morning, including Sean Langman's Maluka of Kermandie - the smallest boat in the fleet - and Peter Goldsworthy's Getaway Sailing 2, which had five Russian crew members from Trading Network Alye Parusa on board, after their yachts was forced to withdraw prior to the start due to keel damage.

Today, the divisional winners of the Rolex Sydney Hobart Yacht Race will receive their battle flags at a public ceremony at 11am on Hobart's Constitution Dock. CYCA Commodore Matt Allen and RYCT Commodore Clive Simpson will remember those lives lost at sea in the 1998 Sydney Hobart Yacht Race and others who have been lost during the course of a Sydney Hobart, with a one minute silence and casting a wreath into the water.

30 DECEMBER 2008

Dutchman will come back despite the Derwent

Atse Blei, the owner/skipper of the Dutch S&S 41 Pinta-M says he will just have to leave his boat here and come back for a crack at the real Rolex Sydney Hobart, with the violent southerly fronts and the cold hard, dead of night bashes into big steep seas it is renowned for. That is the kind of Hobart race this Fastnet veteran has always imagined, and the kind of race his strong, 1972 IOR classic would revel in. Four days of relentless downwind running and reaching is definitely not ideal an IOR boat. Still, when he stepped off Pinta-M this morning Atse declared he had thoroughly enjoyed himself.

"It was beautiful," he said. "It was obviously not what we came for so we may have to do it again. It was a good race and very enjoyable. It is a lot better than the Fastnet. More tactical. Yeah, I'll leave the boat here and do it again. "

Atse estimates that he spent about 80,000 euros ($160,000) bringing Pinta-M to Australia and preparing here for the race. So were the last 4 days worth 80,000 euros? "No," he laughs, "but it will be cheaper next time. We can divide it by two."

"We had a rough night the second night. Twenty eight knots of wind and a lot of sail changes. We blew out our big spinnaker on the first night which didn't help very much. We had to do the rest of the race with a smaller one. If we had kept that big spinnaker we would have finished earlier and missed the last 3 hours on the Derwent River."

"How can you finish an ocean race on a river," a bemused Blei asks. "We got a text message this morning that we needed to finish by 10:44 to beat Winsome," another vintage Dutch S&S 41 sailed by his good friend and Fastnet rival Harry Heijst. "We only had to do 3 miles and we had more than an hour to do them in." In the end it was to take Pinta-M more than two. "We had wind shifts over a hundred degrees so we were constantly on the wrong side of the river. We saw our windex go round 4 times. After beating all the way from the Iron Pot we actually managed to finish under spinnaker."

A Derwent River cantankerous enough to drive even the toughest skipper to distraction.

At least Atse Blei experienced one component of a typical Rolex Sydney Hobart after all.

By Jim Gale/Rolex Sydney Hobart media team

30 DECEMBER 2008

The resurrection of Valheru

Tony Lyall sailed his beloved Valheru to Sydney to compete in the 2002 Rolex Sydney Hobart Yacht Race expecting to put in a top performance. But within minutes of the start their race was done. Peugot Racing collided with Valheru, forcing her to retire with severe hull damage.

Lyall and his crew were devastated as they limped Valheru back to the marina. Returning to Hobart by air had not been on their agenda.

For several years the battered hull of Valheru was parked in her skipper's backyard while insurance companies were involved in protracted negotiations. It was a long and frustrating wait for Lyall who did little ocean racing during this time. Time was spent carefully planned the rebuilding of the yacht, with Fred Barrett designing modifications to both hull and rigging.

Lyall immediately started work on the restoration of his Elliott 13 once insurance claims had been resolved. In October 2008 Valheru set sail from its home town of Beaconsfield, in northern Tasmania, for Hobart where he and his crew competed successfully in all events, including the Maria Island race.

Valheru was now well prepared for their return to the Rolex Sydney Hobart. It was a poignant moment as they sailed through the heads into Sydney Harbour on the delivery journey. Crew raised their glasses in a toast to Tony Lyall, his vision and sheer determination to again compete in this great ocean racing classic.

Eight of the yacht's crew of ten had sailed on Valheru at the start of the 2002 race. For them it had also been a long wait, but also a demonstration of the loyalty and camaraderie that ocean racing can engender. According to one crew member, Ian Ross, "it was extremely important for us to get out of the harbour without incident and to finish the race for Tony. We have now erased some bitter memories."

After crossing the line at 7.39pm on Monday evening, skipper and crew celebrated being the first Tasmanian yacht to finish this year's Rolex Sydney Hobart. In fact, Lyall believes that just finishing the race is the biggest challenge. "If you win anything then that is a bonus," said the weather-beaten skipper.

Like most of the fleet, Valheru relished the hard running conditions. Skipper Lyall rated the first 24 hours of the race as "simply superb … champagne sailing", but Bass Strait was "pretty ordinary with 15 knot northeasterly winds."

Again, like most of the fleet, it was not until they rounded Cape Raoul that Valheru experienced strong northerly winds gusting 35 to 40 knots. "Storm Bay certainly lived up to its reputation and we had a slow, frustrating beat to the finish," Lyall said.

1300HRS, 30 DECEMBER 2008

Nest Property in the doldrums

At lunchtime today Murray Wilkes and his crew aboard Nest Property were really in the doldrums. They had come to a grinding halt just north of Maria Island after a scintillating spinnaker run that lasted a couple of hours.

"We are just sitting here doing absolutely nothing, and going absolutely nowhere," a rather forlorn Wilkes lamented.

"Music is blaring from down below, and curiosity has got the better of the occasional fur seal. We are having no trouble eating the remaining food that can't be brought ashore."

As they bob up and down in a small swell, the Rolex Sydney Hobart skipper notes that having six guys aboard a small 30 foot yacht has its downside.

"The boat no longer smells as it should," said Wilkes.

"It's a bit of a stink boat down below!"

This is the third time Wilkes and his crew of five have been becalmed. They wallowed in virtually still waters just south of Gabo Island for more than eight hours.

"I just sat there looking at the water, reflecting on the contrast of ten years ago when yachts were confronted by monster waves," Wilkes said.

Then again last evening Nest Property spent more time drifting without wind and Wilkes and his crew couldn't help thinking about the fortunes of ocean racing, and how the front pack had experienced such fantastic reaching and running all the way to Tasman Island.

Morale, however, is good, especially as the crew has Tasman Island in their sights, and that means Wilkes and his crew are nearly home.

It has been a long journey for Nest Property which looks like being the last yacht to finish this year's Rolex Sydney Hobart sometime tomorrow morning, New Year's Eve.

30 DECEMBER 2008

Sole female skipper arrives in Hobart victorious

Sally Smith, the lone female skipper has completed her first Rolex Sydney Hobart at the helm of Helsal IV. The big 20 metre cruiser owned by her father, Dr Tony Fisher, was one of two Helsals in this year's race. Tony and Sally's brother Rob were competing on their more race oriented Helsal III.

Sally had just one objective. To beat the best time her brother had ever recorded in earlier races when he skipped Helsal IV. She did that with half a day to spare.

"We certainly broke Rob's record of 4 days, 5 hours and 29 minutes," says Sally, "though I must admit that when we were sitting out there totally becalmed I was thinking it won't be 4 days 5 hours it will be 5 days 4 hours."

In the end Sally did it in 3 days 18 hours and 21 minutes.

"What will be the first thing I say when I see Rob? Where's my bottle of Bollinger!" she laughs.

Sally promises that she won't rub it in that while she steered Helsal IV, big brother Rob and father Tony were forced to retire when they wrapped a brand new spinnaker around their rudder during a sail change that went wrong.

"I was a bit nervous when I hadn't heard from them," she says, "I was glad it was only something minor and that no-one was hurt. There's always next year."

Certainly Sally could scarcely have chosen a better year to do her first Rolex Sydney Hobart. "What a perfect race," she says. "We'd be scooting along at 13 knots, and then we'd be becalmed and then a bit of wind would come along and off we'd go again. I'll definitely be back again."

Not that Helsal IV's race didn't have its frustrating moments. "We got down to Bass Strait in the first 24 hours, which we thought was fabulous. But it took us another 24 hours to do another 60 miles. It was very frustrating. We were a fair way out, we had to come back in, then we had to go back out again searching for breeze.

"It was the same last night. A bit of breeze, then nothing, then a bit of breeze again. It was amazing just off Maria Island. We were sitting there for about an hour with absolutely nothing. Just sitting there. We'd been doing 1 knot for 3 or 4 hours. Then all of a sudden the breeze came in and within 10 minutes we were on our ear doing 18 knots.

"The first night we ripped our asymmetrical spinnaker," Sally recalls. "We couldn't use it again and I thought, next time I'll bring a sewing machine instead of a hair dryer. Though actually when we tore Big Red, our other spinnaker, we did use the hair dryer to dry it off to put a patch on so maybe I'll bring a sewing machine AND a hair dryer."

0830HRS, 30 DECEMBER 2008

Shogun disqualified; Ragtime, Telcoinabox Merit granted redress

The International Jury, chaired by John Kirkjian, with jury members Katsuya Hasiba, Lars Nyvqvist, John Rountree and Tony Mooney heard three protests and two applications for redress yesterday evening.
After an incident on the start line on Boxing Day, Rob Hanna's Cookson 50 Shogun was protested by Stephen Ainsworth's Loki and Syd Fischer's Ragamuffin. The jury found that Shogun had breached rules 11, 12 and 14, and was subsequently disqualified.
The International Jury also heard applications for redress from Ragtime and Telcoinabox Merit, after both yachts provided assistance in the successful rescue of Georgia crew members from their stricken yacht on the evening of 26 December.
The International Jury commended the outstanding assistance provided by Telcoinabox Merit by awarding them an 18 hours time correction. Telecoinabox Merit heard the request for assistance from Georgia and was requested by Race Control to go to her assistance. Telcoinabox Merit removed all 14 crew members from Georgia and travelled approximately 36 miles towards Batemans Bay so that the crew members could be transferred to a police launch when light permitted. She was then released by Race Control and resumed racing by which time she was in a different weather pattern to her closest competitor, a similar vessel. This resulted in Telecoinabox Merit finishing 16th across the line and the provisional winner of PHS Division (to be confirmed once all yachts in PHS Division have finished).
Ragtime, who had observed the distress flare and responded to the call from Race Control to render assistance, had their time amended by 115 minutes for standing by, having to backtrack to standby and then for the resumption of racing after being released by Race Control. This has now brought Ragtime's position to 18th across the line and 1st in IRC Division 2 (to be confirmed once all yachts in Division 2 have finished).

 The Hero's from the whitsundays! The crew of Telecoinabox Merit

 1730HRS, 29 DECEMBER 2008

Seven commercial skippers to the rescue

For those in peril on the sea, it would be comforting to know that people like Leo Rodriguez and his "motley" crew aboard Telcoinabox Merit are at hand.
When the Victorian Farr 53 Georgia lost its rudder and began sinking on the first night of this year's Rolex Sydney Hobart Yacht Race off Batemans Bay, Telcoinabox Merit, the former Volvo 60 now based at Airlie Beach in Queensland, was two miles in front of her.

On her crew were seven commercial skippers, veterans of 15 years in the charter business in the Whitsundays and right up to speed on survival at sea training. They included skipper Leo Rodriguez who had just completed a refresher course as he prepared for this year's Rolex Sydney Hobart.
Telcoinabox Merit was ahead of John Williams and Graeme Ainley's Georgia, romping along under spinnaker in 25 knots of wind, and 18th in the fleet of 100.
"We heard Georgia call JBW (the radio relay vessel) for help then we were asked by JBW to attend because we were the nearest vessel," he recalled today on Telcoinabox Merit's arrival in Hobart.
"We were two miles in front so we had to motor back to the position of the boat. We told them that we were 35 minutes away but they were concerned that 35 minutes might be too long. When we got there the boat was in a pretty bad state. There wasn't much time left "
Rodriguez said that when they reached Georgia they asked the crew to board their life rafts, seven at a time.
"When we arrived the nav (navigation) lights were about two inches from the surface of the water so there wasn't much time left at all. They (the crew) had been in waist deep water for quite a while so my main concern was to get them on board and get them warm and get them down below and make sure no-one was hurt in any way."
They completed the rescue by using Georgia's liferaft in two ferrying operations. A stern line was attached to Georgia and a bow line to Telcoinabox Merit. When the final crew member was in the raft, they cut the stern line and were hauled aboard Merit.
"We got them on board pretty much without a hitch," he said.
"They were pretty glad we were there. There was no chaos.
"Basically, the boat rolled over about 10 minutes after we got them all off the boat. It didn't take long at all. It still had the mainsail up when it rolled. The nav lights and stern lights were still on below the surface.
"They were very thankful that we were there; very thankful that we answered their call."
He said there were closer boats but they did not get the call.
"We didn't think we were the closest boat. We were the ones that responded and we were the ones that could take them safely, so we did.
"The beauty with our boat is that we have seven commercial skippers on board so we've all done it before, done our sea survival courses. I personally did the sea survival course, just as a refresher. Things like that always help."
After the rescue, Telcoinabox Merit took their passengers inshore towards Batemans Bay where the police boat Nemesis had said conditions would be calmer and where they could be off loaded into a RIB.
"At that point we hoisted sail and got going," Rodriguez said.
Cruising Yacht Club of Australia Matt Allen, on behalf of the crew of Georgia, personally thanked the crew on Georgia's behalf and handed over an ample gift of refreshments.
"Thank you and your crew for your assistance in what was a very important time for them," Allen said.
Telcoinabox Merit has lodged claims for eight to nine hours redress, since, when they rejoined the fleet they were in 73rd place and sailing in far less favourable conditions. They finished in 28th place. The International Jury is currently hearing the request for redress.
Chris Welsh's USA based Spencer 65 Ragtime observed the distress flare from Georgia and was asked by the race committee to proceed to their location. They remained on standby and this afternoon were awarded 115 minutes redress and were commended for their action.
With redress, Ragtime is currently 11th overall on the IRC handicap pointscore.
By Bruce Montgomery/Rolex Sydney Hobart media team

1430HRS, 29 DECEMBER 2008

Helsal III Reaches Triabunna After Retiring from Rolex Sydney Hobart

The Tasmanian retiree in this year's Rolex Sydney Hobart Yacht Race, Helsal III, has reached Triabunna despite a damaged rudder and will not resume racing.
Skipper Rob Fisher told the Rolex Sydney Hobart Media team this afternoon that he had taken the prudent course to withdraw from the race after problems with the rudder compounded after the first night.
"We dropped a spinnaker in order to reduce sail. It went in the drink and wrapped itself around the rudder," Fisher said.
"One of the crew, John Davis, went over the side to cut the spinnaker free, but there was obviously some damage to the rudder mounting.
"As the race progressed, the top plate housing the rudder post began to move by four and five inches. We got to 50 miles east of Bicheno and I thought the prudent course was to retire."
Part of the cost will be a bottle of Bollinger champagne for his sister, Sally Smith, who is skippering the family's other boat Helsal IV. That was the bet for the first of them to finish.
"She rang me: first to make sure we were OK. Then to ask 'where's my bottle?' " Fisher said.
It is the first time in the Rolex Sydney Hobart's 63-year history that boats have been skippered by a brother and sister.
Rob and Sally's father, Dr Tony Fisher, originally owned Helsal III, a 20 metre pocket maxi, in the late 1980s and early 1990s. He chose to sail this race with his son, not his daughter.

 Kirk Watson, at the helm to take her over the line

 1330HRS, 29 DECEMBER 2008

Elementary, My Dear Watson

Sailing in his fourth Rolex Sydney Hobart Yacht Race, 35-year-old Kirk Watson was handed the helm by skipper of Sailors with Disabilities, David Pescud, to sail the yacht across the Castray Esplanade finishing line in 25th place overall today.
Nothing unusual about that, you say?
Kirk Watson is blind. And he relished the experience.
"It was a bit stressful at first, but exhilarating, and it was great to hear the hooter as we crossed the line," he said.
Watson's major responsibilities are on the mainsheet, optimizing the sail shape of the mainsail. He is expected to perform like any other member of the crew. While he may not be able to see, Watson, like any other sailors trimming the mainsail, relies on feel, but he more so.
"I can feel the load on the mainsheet and know instinctively when to ease and when to harden, but communication with the drivers is just so important as well," he said as he worked with others on the crew to pack up sails.
For this race, the 54 footer Sailors with Disabilities had four sailors with a disability. One had reduced leg movement due to polio. Two, including Pescud, suffer from dyslexia.
Pescud said he was totally committed to providing sailing opportunities for people with a disability and has often sailed with a full complement of sailors with a disability.
"It demonstrates the capacity of what disabled people can do, often on a daily basis. And it is important that disabled people participate in this sport … it should be an even playing field," Pescud said.
He was a little disappointed with their performance, believing they would have finished a little higher in the pecking order, perhaps even winning their division, if the right tactical decisions were made.
Like many other of the early finishers, Sailors with Disabilities experienced great sailing conditions and arrived in Hobart without breaking any gear and having only one serious problem.
"We ran out of coffee!" he groaned.
Pescud hopes to continue his involvement in the Rolex Sydney Hobart, but without sponsorship he is feeling the pinch.
"I am really hoping we can pick up a generous, committed corporate sponsor to ensure that people with a disability can have the opportunity to participate in this great event," he said today.

Bob Steel wins his second Rolex Sydney Hobart


29 DECEMBER 2008

Bob Steel wins his second Rolex Sydney Hobart

One of Sydney's most successful yachtsmen, Bob Steel, today completed a rare double in the history of the Rolex Sydney Hobart Yacht Race when his latest Quest was declared the overall winner of the 2008 race, the winner on corrected time.
For that he receives the 'sailors prize', the Tattersall's Cup, the trophy he first won in 2002 with a previous Quest, a Nelson/Marek 46.
"I am humble about the double. To win it twice is sensational, the fight was pretty daunting," said Steel.
His third and latest Quest is a TP52, with which he had already won the 2008 Skandia Geelong Week and finished second in the 2008 Audi Sydney Gold Coast Race.

Steel's crew is one of the most experienced in this year's Rolex Sydney Hobart Yacht Race in terms of the number of Hobart races completed - 170 between 14 crew.
When told the news this morning by the Commodore of the Cruising Yacht Club of Australia, Matt Allen, Steel replied: "We did our very best."
"Your best was good enough," Allen replied.
Quest crossed the finish line at 2pm on Sunday, four and half hours behind the line honours winner Wild Oats XI and at the head of the highly-competitive TP52 fleet that competed in the race.
Steel is a former tourism entrepreneur in Sydney and is semi-retired. He was named the Cruising Yacht Club of Australia's Ocean Racer of the Year in 2003 following that 2002 Rolex Sydney Hobart win and in the same year was named Australian IRC Offshore Champion.
His record with his latest Quest is equally impressive.
"This is the greatest sport in the world," Steel said as Allen presented him with the Tattersall's Cup.
"Anyone can take part in it - from the young to the very old, like me.
"This has been one of the best and strongest fleets in a Hobart ever. To be in front of this fleet and to take home this amazing trophy and my second Rolex makes me proud of the crew and the boat."
Rolex Sydney Hobart first timer, Sydney based Quest crewman Stuart McCuaig, 26, was proud as punch this morning. McCuaig only joined the Quest crew this year and when the offer came up to do the Rolex Sydney Hobart he jumped at the chance.
Given there was still some uncertainty late yesterday about the provisional winner, Quest's crew celebrations were fairly tempered last night, "we went out and celebrated being the first TP52 home" added McCuaig.
Previous Rolex Sydney Hobart multiple overall winners include GD Gibson in 1947, 1948;Trygve and Magnus Halvorsen in 1954, 1957, 1963, 1964, 1965; Vic Meyer 1956, 1962; Graham Newland 1958, 1960; Peter Kurts 1974 and 1978 (his boat Love and War won a third time in 2006); Lou Abrahams 1983 and 1989; Gary Appleby 1985,1990.

0820HRS, 29 DECEMBER 2008

Fleet update - two additional retirements

An additional two yachts have retired in the Rolex Sydney Hobart Yacht Race.
Both Helsal III and Leukaemia Foundation have suffered rudder damage and are now out of the race. The two yachts are expected to arrive in Triabunna halfway down Tasmania's east coast this afternoon.
Twenty five yachts have now arrived at Constitution Dock in Hobart, with another 70 still racing.
The Overall Winner is expected to be announced today, with Bob Steel's NSW boat Quest holding onto its lead overnight.

1730HRS, 28 DECEMBER 2008

Close up and personal

Nearly half the Rolex Sydney Hobart Yacht Race fleet, more than 40 boats, are locked in battle this evening, east of Flinders Island, a long way out to sea and battening down the hatches as strong winds continue.
A strong wind warning is current for their field of play, up to 85 miles off the island coast. The forecast until midnight is for north-west winds 15 to 25 knots, reaching 30 knots at times, tending westerly at 15 to 25 knots this evening, with two to three metre seas.
Tomorrow's forecast for the length of the Tasmanian east coast is for westerly winds 15 to 25 knots, again reaching 30 knots at times.
The second half of the fleet are grouped like a swarm of bees on the Yacht Tracker website, making between six and 10 knots, a network of private competitions. Most will reach Hobart on Tuesday.
On boats like Flying Fish Arctos ingenuity is the order of the day as gear begins to take punishment. They broke both spinnaker poles yesterday and today and have spent fruitful hours refashioning makeshift new ones from jockey poles, which are usually employed keeping spinnaker sheets clear of the shrouds that support the mast on each side of the boat.
Flying Fish Arctos is the flagship yacht in the Flying Fish offshore training fleet and has a crew of Australians, Europeans and Americans aboard.
Geoff Boettcher's Secret Mens Business 3 from Adelaide is the next yacht due across the Rolex Sydney Hobart finish line, due at 7.30pm this evening.
Thirteen yachts are now safely tucked up at Elizabeth St Pier with 84 still at sea.

It's not the size, just feel the quality

1650HRS, 28 DECEMBER 2008

Sydney yachtsman Bob Steel may be on the verge of his second overall win in the Rolex Sydney Hobart Yacht Race. Six years after winning the race on corrected time with a previous Quest, Steel now has a nervous night's wait to see if he has won again.
Quest crossed the finish line at 2pm this afternoon, four and a half hours after Wild Oats XI, nearly twice as long in length, had taken line honours.
"A fantastic sleigh ride," is how Steel this afternoon described his 16th Rolex Sydney Hobart race as he led Quest's two TP52 sisterships, Syd Fischer's Ragamuffin and Alan Whiteley's Cougar II across the line by 12 minutes and 46 minutes respectively.
"It looks like we could do quite well on handicap, now we've just got to wait for the big result," he said.
"This Rolex Sydney Hobart was very kind to us, probably the easiest race I've done but there were parts you wished you were somewhere else," he said.
"We've got so much experience on the boat, around 160 Hobarts between us and we've got a very good yacht, one of the leading TP52s in Australia."
Just ahead of Quest across the line was Geoff Ross's Yendys. Ross has a similar story to tell having won the Rolex Sydney Hobart in 1999 with a previous version of Yendys.
Ross was claiming some sort of record despite being pipped by Quest for leading player in the clubhouse on corrected time.
"We think we have the race record for under 60 foot boats. I got the record for under 50s in 1999 in very similar conditions in a Farr 49," he said.
Andrew Short Marine Shockwave 5, a former Alfa Romeo Shockwave, was fourth across the line, skipper Andrew Short's personal quest to be realised another day.
"Winning this is not just a dream. It is my life-long goal and I'll keep going until I get it," Short said.
"The Rolex Sydney Hobart is the pinnacle and you're only as good as your last Hobart race and you want to do your best. In the old days it was a four to five day slog. Now it's more intense, you have to work harder to get results.
"It's an eight year old boat. I'm not the wealthiest bloke in Australia - none of the crew gets paid. We do it for the love of the sport."
Meanwhile, it's hard to keep a good man down.
Roger Hickman, sailing master on Alan Brierty's new 19.5 metre Reichel Pugh design Limit, today crossed the finish line in the Rolex Sydney Hobart Yacht Race in fifth place and still standing despite what should of been a debilitating leg injury before the race start.
Hickman, one of Hobart's most accomplished yachtsmen who made the migration north to live in Sydney, hobbled aboard Limit on Boxing Day for the start with his right calf heavily bandaged after a fall during the Rolex Trophy.
According to orthodox medical opinion, he should not have started the race.
"A couple of doctors told me it would be three weeks on crutches for me and three months of physio before I was walking again," he said.
Instead, Hickman visited a Sydney physiotherapist for a four-hour session on Christmas Day and another three-hour intensive massage before the start on Boxing Day - and then took his place at the wheel of a new boat whose limits were yet to be tested.

Two days and 628 nautical miles later, he was still standing.
"I can walk, but I can't stagger," he said as he sipped his first beer after tying up at the marina. "It was OK, but steering was hard. I didn't do as much as usual."

The shark that ate Skandia

It seems a two metre shark has played a crucial role in the line honours outcome of the 64th Rolex Sydney Hobart Yacht Race.

At 9.34am this morning Wild Oats XI crossed the finish line, creating race history by being the first yacht to lead the fleet into Hobart for four consecutive years.

Her time was 1 day 20 hours 34 minutes and 14 seconds, 1 hour and 54 minutes outside the record she set in 2005. But that didn't worry an elated Wild Oats XI skipper Mark Richards one bit.

"When it's your own record it doesn't matter at all. We had one goal and that was to get here first. If you want to beat that record you want to smash it."

In the end it seemed that everything had gone to plan. Before the race Wild Oats XI had been at unbackable odds to win line honours. The bar room drum was that all she had to do was show up to win. In reality, though, Wild Oats XI had to fight a determined Skandia from behind, and may owe her victory to a very battered and bruised shark.

"We had a really tough race, and the first three quarters of it we were behind Skandia," Richards said.

"There's no question this was the toughest race by a country mile. It doesn't seem to get any easier," tactician and helmsman Iain Murray conceded. "This race was particularly hard on the crew. A lot of variable winds and a lot of changing sails and a lot of decisions whether to go in or out," he said.

"We must have done 60 sail changes in the last 24 hours," Richards said.

Expected to clear out from the fleet from the outset, Wild Oats XI instead appeared slow.

"There were times when Skandia was just sailing away from us, which we hadn't seen before. We didn't think we were sailing as fast as usual. We didn't achieve our target speeds and Skandia was sailing very well. He (Grant Wharington, Skandia's skipper) was sailing the shifts nicely and getting into the weather.

"When we left Sydney Heads we were pretty confident we got something wrapped around the keel," Mark Richards said.

"We couldn't see it but the boat was sailing like an absolute dog for 24 hours. We couldn't get out of our own way.

"Then around 4pm on Saturday we wrapped a shark around our rudder. We couldn't get rid of it so we ended up backing off and going backwards to clear the shark.

"All of a sudden Wild Oats XI was back to her old self and we took off. We were going faster and within a half hour we were ahead of Skandia."

Richards says that this single incident was the most instrumental factor in Wild Oats XI finishing first. "Getting the thing off the keel. It was as simple as that. Yesterday before the shark they were eight miles in front of us and within two hours we were five miles in front of them."

As the boats sailed down the Tasmanian coast the conditions also started to better suit Wild Oats XI.

The strong 20 to 30 knot northerly winds of the first day began to lighten and become more variable. Both yachts sailed into holes and were totally becalmed.

"We couldn't steer the boat. We did loop the loops, headed back to Sydney for a while. We had every sail up 40 times," Iain Murray joked.

"If the breeze had stayed 25 knots from the north we were struggling to catch them. But we always knew that it was going to get tricky down here and in light winds we were always comfortable with the boat's performance. We have bigger light air sails."

"Skandia was really slippery in the conditions," skipper Grant Wharington said of their fabulous day of match racing that put them ahead.

"We were really focussed on the job we had to do, which was racing the fleet (for the handicap win).

"Tactically we sailed a great race. We found we were faster than them in the fresh conditions. But we hit two parking lots and they wrecked our race."

Wild Oats XI survived a serious challenge from Skandia to celebrate a famous victory.

"It's Bob Oatley and the whole Wild Oats team," Richards declared. "Without Bob none of us would be here and without all of us Bob wouldn't be here."

The proud owner said of his crew's win, "winning an America's Cup would be no greater than today's win".

"In hindsight we should have backed back earlier," added Richards. "It's very hard. When you're travelling at high speed what do you do? You keep second guessing yourself. Thank god the Lord looked after us and put the shark in front of us and we backed down anyway."

 1120HRS, 28 DECEMBER 2008

11th hour battle for Tattersall's Cup glory

An 11th hour battle among Australia's top 50-foot yachts for the ultimate prize in the Rolex Sydney Hobart Yacht Race, the Tattersall's Cup for the winner on corrected time, has been taking place in Storm Bay at the entrance to Hobart's Derwent River.
Three TP52s are in the top six places, with Bob Steel's Quest in first place, the indomitable Syd Fischer sailing his 40th Hobart race with his latest Ragamuffin snapping at Quest's transom in second and Alan Whiteley's Victorian sister to those two boats, Cougar II, in sixth place.
Between them are Ray Roberts' Quantum Racing and Geoff Ross's Reichel/Pugh 55Yendys.
Ragamuffin, behind Quest on the water, is within seven minutes of Quest's corrected time.
Quest is 11 hours inside her required finishing time to win the race on corrected time as she enters the Derwent for the final leg of the race.

Fischer on Ragamuffin is also well inside his required finishing time but with an hour less to spare.
Quantum Racing, Yendys and Cougar II are a further hour behind in their zone of comfort.
At 9.52am this morning Bryan Northcote, navigator of Quantum Racing, reported damage to the Sydney-based canting keeled Cookson 50.
"Everything was rosy until around 10pm last night we hit something doing 27 knots and broke our rudder at the post leaving about 1 metre below the hull. This reduced our boat speed down to 60% making it a very difficult trip down the Tassie coast.
"After extensive checking of the steering system established we could continue at reduced speeds, which dashed all our high hopes for IRC overall," said Northcote.
Despite the damage, Quantum Racing remains fourth overall.

0945HRS, 28 DECEMBER 2008

Wild Oats XI takes record fourth consecutive line honours win

Wild Oats XI has lived up to its pre-race expectations and at 0934, 14 secs AEST this morning sailed into the Rolex Sydney Hobart Yacht Race history books. Her elapsed time was 1 day 20 hours 34 minutes and 14 seconds.
In 15 knots of north nor'east breeze and with a sizeable spectator fleet escort, the mighty Sydney-based 30m maxi owned by Bob Oatley and skippered by Mark Richards achieved something no other boat has in the race's 64 year history - four consecutive line honours wins in the 628 nautical mile ocean classic.
Wild Oats XI overcame a number of setbacks including a torn spinnaker soon after the 1pm start on Sydney Harbour on Friday, a too-close encounter with a shark last night that could have caused serious damage to their rudders and yesterday's valiant fight back by Skandia to lead the high tech Wild Oats XI for most of the day.
The record for the most line honours wins in the Rolex Sydney Hobart Yacht Race is held by Morna/Kurrewa IV, the same boat which sailed to seven line honours victories under two different owners and two different names, the last time in 1960 as Kurrewa IV.

Last year Wild Oats XI equalled Morna's record three-in-a-row, set in the 1940s, and this year she has taken her own slice of history with her fourth back to back win.

Wild Oats XI is also the current record holder with a time of 1 day 18 hours 40 minutes 10 seconds set in 2005 when she took her first line honours win having only been on the water a matter of weeks.

Wild Oats XI's finish times

2005 (record) 1:18:40:10

2006 2:08:52:33

2007 1:21:24:32

2008 1:20:34:14

There have been no further retirements with 96 still racing south and Skandia the next due to finish, at 10:34 AEST

Wild Oats XI heading into the history books

0530hrs, 28 DECEMBER 2008

The crew on the 30m maxi Wild Oats XI look likely to get their dream finish in this year's Rolex Sydney Hobart after all. Grant Wharington's former overall winner Skandia stole the limelight yesterday but this morning she trails Wild Oats XI by 15 nautical miles on approach to Tasman Island.
Barring mishap, Wild Oats XI's line honours domination of Australia's premier ocean classic looks set to be cemented with a record fourth line honours win in Hobart this morning.
Currently their ETA across the finish line off Battery Point is 9.30am.

Nor'westerlies are expected to build across Storm Bay with 30 knots offshore and there is plenty of wind in the Derwent River to give the expected flotilla of spectators a real chase as they escort the likely line honours winner Wild Oats XI to her place in history.
The leading handicap positions have remained fairly static overnight with Alan Whiteley's Melbourne TP52 Cougar II ahead of Bob Steel's sistership Quest and Geoff Ross' Reichel/Pugh 55 Yendys.
This morning, Yendys' navigator Will Oxley reported interesting times and close racing.
"Cougar II is in sight behind, Loki is to weather and ahead a few miles. The wind is getting pretty light," said Oxley.

"The boat is in great shape so far with no sail damage yet!

"We are up for a big 12-15 hours and a tilt at this one. To try and have a better handicap we have run with only four spinnakers and so there have been a few nervous times but excellent helming has so far kept us out of trouble."

2100hrs, 27 DECEMBER 2008

The shark factor enters the Rolex Sydney Hobart equation

Wild Oats XI has confirmed that it hit a two-metre long shark at 6.40 pm tonight while sailing at about 20 knots east of Schouten Island on Tasmania's east coast and while engaged in a tense match race with the other maxi in the Rolex Sydney-Hobart race fleet,Grant Wharington's Skandia.
The impact was so great that the shark bounced off Wild Oats Xl's forward rudder and wrapped itself around the aft rudder. The boat has two rudders to improve steering and loss of leeway caused by the canting keel on the boat.
Co-navigator Ian "Fresh" Burns said the crew had to stop the boat, adjust the sails so that the maxi sailed backwards; and the shark was able to shake itself free and swam away. Wild Oats then reconfigured its sails and resumed hostilities with Skandia.
A short time ago, Skandia had resumed the lead in their duel and was 1.7 nautical miles ahead as they closed in on Tasman Island, the next turning point of the race, about 90 miles ahead of them.
Although they are both on race record time, the forecast at Tasman is for a light easterly tonight with a north-westerly not expected to fill in before about 4 am. That makes the 7.40 am local time race record tantalising.
Up until the shark incident, Wild Oats XI had been making solid gains in fresh reaching conditions, according to Burns.
"We have at stages reached up to 28-29 knots and have passed Skandia. This has pepped the crew up, but it is still likely to be a long night," said Burns.
Wild Oats Xl is going for a record fourth successive line honours win in the 628 nm race.


1600HRS, 27 DECEMBER 2008

Cougar II stalks the ultimate prize

For the true believers, the Rolex Sydney Hobart Yacht Race 2008 is not the heavy weight contest at the front of the fleet. This year it's the tight competition among the 50-footers for the ultimate prize, the Tattersall's Cup, for the winner on corrected time.

Two TP52s lead the race on corrected time. The Victorian yacht Cougar II (Two) is the new leader in the IRC division with a 45-minute margin over the boat which has led for most of the day, Bob Steel's Quest. The winner of the IRC division, the biggest grouping in the race, wins the Tattersall's Cup.Cougar II's margin over Quest just after 2pm this afternoon was about 46 minutes as they cleared Bass Strait, well east of the northern tip of Flinders Island off the north east corner of Tasmania. For Cougar II's owner/skipper Alan Whiteley this is unfinished business. The boat was forced to retire in the 2007
race from a winning position after suffering rig damage.

Whiteley scored the IRC division 1 win at Audi Hamilton Island Race Week this year, beating Bob Steel's Quest by two points. Now the two sisterships are at it again, with the same ferocity but this time over a 628 nautical mile stretch.

For Steel, this is an attempt at a second win but in a different boat. He won the 2002 Rolex Sydney Hobart on his previous Quest.

They lead three other NSW 50-footers - Yendys, Quantum Racing and Syd Fischer's new TP52 Ragamuffin.

The Queensland yacht Wedgetail is in sixth place, revelling in ideal sailing conditions according to sailing master Kevin Costin.

"We're in the middle of Bass Strait in 21 knots of wind and making 12 knots," he told the Rolex Sydney Hobart media centre in Hobart this afternoon.

"If the wind goes west tonight we'll be in reasonable shape."

The ACT boat Inca leads the Performance Handicap System (PHS) division from Flying Fish Arctos and Lloyds Brokers Too Impetuous.

The Sydney 38s are having their usual intense competition in the second half of the fleet. Because they are one design boats, they race on the same handicap. Morris Finance Cinquante reported an intriguing battle with J Steel Yeah Baby off Green Cape.

"We are having a cracking time," Cinquante crew member Darren Pickering told the media centre.

"We have had nothing less than 15 knots of wind. We haven't parked up like the bigger boats. We are just barrelling along."

Mitchell Gordon's much-decorated Sydney 38 The SubZero Goat was holding down third place on corrected time in that division.

The Victorian Northshore 46 Somoya leads the Cruising Division from Pippin and Charlie's Dream.

Tonight's forecast is for NNE 5-15 knot winds tending NW in the evening and 20 knots offshore. Tomorrow, 10-20 knot NW winds increasing to 15-25 knots are forecast for the morning with 30 knots expected offshore.

Gripping arm wrestle in Bass Strait

1400HRS, 27 DECEMBER 2008

At 2pm on day two of the Rolex Sydney Hobart Yacht Race 2008 the seemingly
impossible was happening 90 miles east of Tasman Island.

Wild Oats XI, the presumed pre-race line honours favourite was trailing Skandia
by almost six miles. Far from a procession, the two maxis have been locked in a
tense match race all day, with the advantage swinging from one to the other.

Following yesterday's 1pm start from Sydney Harbour, skipper Mark Richards'
race went to plan with the 30m maxi Wild Oats XI maintaining a steady
advantage over her rival. But in the early hours of this morning Skandia began
to lay down her own claims and at one stage opened a ten mile lead over the
favourite. In the last hour or so, though, Wild Oats XI has been gradually
clawing her way back.

Wild Oats XI reports that the two yachts have been sailing gybe for gybe
through Bass Strait in classic match racing fashion, in a strong 28 knot
northerly. They have been using their enormous "super whomper" spinnaker
and reaching speeds of 25 knots.

Wild Oats XI navigator Iain Burns says that Skandia is giving them very little
opportunity to make a break.

"This is good racing, great sailing," he said.

"We hit a calm patch a while back but now with the wind picking up we are just
working hard to catch Skandia.

"The crew is in good spirits, the conditions are great and we are hoping to
catch a few breaks as we head for the finish."

While computer predictions have at least five yachts finishing within record
time, Burns thinks that the race record is probably beyond either boat now, and
says it is anyone's call who will get to Hobart first.

Unexpectedly good winds today in Bass Strait have been good news for the
boats in the 50 to 60 foot range with Alan Whiteley's TP52 Cougar II, Bob Steel's
TP52 Quest and Geoff Ross' Reichel/Pugh 55Yendys shuffling between the top
three handicap places all day.

The pre race forecast had suggested that light winds in Bass Strait were likely
to rob the 50 footers of any real handicap chance this year, favouring the 40
footers, but so far those light winds haven't eventuated and it has been a great
day for what is arguably the most hotly contested division in the race.

Further back up the racetrack the Queensland 40 footer Wedgetail has been
forced to bide her time, waiting for the winds to swing to her advantage.

"We are doing 12 knots in 20 knots of wind," says Kevin Costin, Wedgetail's
sailing master.

"The wind just went back to the north. We did have it from the north/north west
for an hour, but I don't know what it's doing. We have taken a bit of a punt but
we are in a good position if it does go west.

"It has been an easy trip so far."

At this stage, the first boats could feasibly arrive in Hobart in the early hours of
Sunday morning, conditions pending.

0730hrs, 27 DECEMBER 2008



Twelve hours into the Rolex Sydney Hobart Yacht Race and 25 miles off Jervis Bay Ian Kiernan’s stunning Tasman Seabird Sanyo Maris retired from the 628 nautical mile race with a broken goose neck.

“We were changing down spinnakers in 30 knots. We gybed and the gooseneck (attaches the boom to the main mast) carried away,” said a disappointed Kiernan today.

“It wasn’t repairable out here so with regret we retired at around 1am this morning.

“Given the Green Cape rule we didn’t think it would be acceptable to enter Bass Strait,” he added.

Following the 1998 Sydney Hobart, mandatory reporting from Green Cape on the south east Victorian coast was introduced. On approach to Green Cape each skipper has to consider whether their boat is in a satisfactory condition to continue.

Sanyo Maris is now motoring back to Sydney where they are due to arrive at approximately 8.30pm this evening. The boat is heading back to its mooring in Mosman Bay.

Following a 10 year absence from the Rolex Sydney Hobart Kiernan and his crew, which includes yachting legend Hugh Treharne and co-owner Tiare Tomaszewski, Sanyo Maris returned to racing this year to celebrate her 50th birthday.

Sanyo Maris is the second retirement following the rescue of the crew of Georgia, and subsequent confirmation that the yacht has sunk, while the crew has arrived safely in Batemans Bay.

After reaching Batemans Bay this morning, Graeme Ainley had mixed emotions about being back on dry land.

“I was sailing in what I thought was my last Hobart – my 25th – but it looks like I may just have to do another one to get that medallion!” said Graeme Ainley

“It all happened pretty quickly out there. We were running under spinnaker at about 15 knots, and having just completed the radio sked, we heard a loud bang, followed by a second bang. I guess we must have hit something reasonably solid – but we couldn’t see it.

“The rudder stop had pulled out and water came through the back of the boat. We then had no steering and had to get the spinnaker down quickly.

“We then tried to stop the influx of water, but it was getting worse so we made the decision to abandon the vessel.

“The yacht Telcoinabox Merit was behind us and she stood by to render assistance. The radio relay vessel JBW was informed and they managed us through the whole situation in an excellent and professional manner.

“It just goes to show the importance of the sea safety and rescue course as it allowed the rescue to go according to plan.

“We were transferred by liferaft to Telcoinabox Merit, whilst awaiting the arrival of police launch Nemesis. About half an hour after being on board Merit, we watch Georgia go down.

“We motored back to about 13 nautical miles off Batemans Bay and were transferred on board Nemesis, who brought us ashore. I would like to thank the CYCA, and Rolex as sponsors of the Rolex Sydney Hobart, Telcoinabox Merit, NSW Police and the race management teams for getting us here safely without injury to any crew member. I also commend my crew,” concluded Ainley.

A fleet of 98 is still racing south.

0530HRS, 27 DECEMBER 2008

Race leaders enter Bass Strait after Sinking of Georgia

For most of yesterday the top six boats in the Rolex Sydney Hobart Yacht Race chewed up the miles, the 30ms maxis peaking at 20 knots of boat speed before the winds lightened off considerably just before midnight. This morning frontrunners Wild Oats XI and Skandia are virtually side by side, but are off record pace.

Just one mile separated the two leading maxis as they entered Bass Strait around 5am this morning in a moderate 15 knot breeze. The two yachts have returned to speeds of around 16 knots in this morning's freshening breeze after decelerating in the light patches overnight.
The maxis were the first to reach the lighter winds allowing the mid-range boats to close in. But their joy was short lived. They too found the lighter breeze which is when the maxis began to reassert their dominance.

By 5am the two front runners were sailing side by side, Grant Wharington's Skandia closer to the rhumbline with Wild Oats XI just a little further out to sea. About twenty miles behind them were Black Jack, ASM Shockwave, Ichi Ban, Loki, Limit and Yendys.
Skandia's performance has been quite outstanding. Set up to maximize her chances of an outright win on handicap she was never expected to match Wild Oats XI in straight-out boat speed.

Wild Oats XI's skipper Mark Richards has made no secret that he is focused totally on a record fourth line honours in a row at the expense of his rating. What everyone expected to be a one horse conga line to Hobart has become a tense and exciting match race.

After a perfect start on Sydney Harbour yesterday afternoon the Rolex Sydney Hobart Yacht Race has again lived up to its reputation as one of the world's toughest ocean races with dramas overnight for the Victorian Farr 53 Georgia. In reasonably benign conditions, including a good sea state, skippers Graeme Ainley and John Williams issued a Mayday 32 miles east of Point Perpendicular at Jervis Bay after losing their rudder and taking on water.

The crew of 14 successfully transferred to race entrant Telecoinabox Merit via life raft before the boat motored to rendezvous with the Police launch Nemesis. At 0540hrs this morning the crew of Georgia was transferred from Merit to the launch. They are due to arrive at Batemans Bay shortly.

In the all important handicap stakes there are few surprises this morning given the overnight north nor'east breeze, conditions well suited to the lighter weight mid-range downwind performers including current overall leader Quest (Bob Steel) and Bruce Taylor's Victorian IRC 40 Chutzpah.

Geoff Ross' Reichel/Pugh 55 Yendys has this year had specific modification to its keel bulb to improve their performance downhill and those mods plus, the smart decision to stay offshore where the current is favourable appears to have turned the all rounder into a downwind sprinter.

Bob Oatley's Wild Oats XI established the current course record of 1 day 18 hours 40 minutes 10 seconds in 2005. In order to better this time the first yacht needs to be at the finish in Hobart before 0740 AEDT tomorrow morning, Sunday 28 December.

0015hrs, 27 DECEMBER 2008



At approximately 21:20 hrs, 32 miles south east of Point Perpendicular, a mayday call was issued from the yacht Georgia, a Farr 53 owned by Graeme Ainley and John Williams from Sandringham Yacht Club, as a result of losing her rudder and taking on water.

Tim Cox, Race Committee Chairman liaised with the relevant authorities including AMSA, NSW Water Police and the CYCA Emergency Management Team to effect a rescue. Radio Relay Vessel JBW assisted with the rescue by communicating instructions from the Race Committee to nearby vessels. Telcoinabox Merit, being closest to the stricken yacht effected a rendezvous and stood by for further instructions.

At approximated 23:00 all 14 crew members from Georgia were transferred to Telcoinabox Merit without incident via liferaft.

Telcoinabox Merit set course for Batemans Bay, where the crew will be transferred to the Police launch Nemisis in daylight.

At the time of the crew transfer the yacht was on verge of sinking and is likely to be lost at sea.

0015hrs, 27 DECEMBER 2008



At approximately 21:20 hrs, 32 miles south east of Point Perpendicular, a mayday call was issued from the yacht Georgia, a Farr 53 owned by Graeme Ainley and John Williams from Sandringham Yacht Club, as a result of losing her rudder and taking on water.

Tim Cox, Race Committee Chairman liaised with the relevant authorities including AMSA, NSW Water Police and the CYCA Emergency Management Team to effect a rescue. Radio Relay Vessel JBW assisted with the rescue by communicating instructions from the Race Committee to nearby vessels. Telcoinabox Merit, being closest to the stricken yacht effected a rendezvous and stood by for further instructions.

At approximated 23:00 all 14 crew members from Georgia were transferred to Telcoinabox Merit without incident via liferaft.

Telcoinabox Merit set course for Batemans Bay, where the crew will be transferred to the Police launch Nemisis in daylight.

At the time of the crew transfer the yacht was verge of sinking and is likely to be lost at sea.

1900HRS, 26 DECEMBER 2008

Lead yachts setting breakneck pace

"This is the most comfortable first night we've ever had," is how 26 Rolex Sydney Hobart race veteran Bruce Taylor summed up life on board his IRC 40 Chutzpah this afternoon.

"We have a beautiful breeze, we have our large spinnaker up and we are slowly heading out to sea as the wind is moving towards the north. We are doing 16 knots and the world is a wonderful place."

Bruce Taylor could have been speaking on behalf of everyone on board the competing yachts this afternoon as the fleet rushed down the New South Wales coast at a frantic pace.

By 5pm, just four hours into the 628 nautical mile race that began at 1pm this afternoon from Sydney Harbour, Wild Oats XI was two thirds of the way between Kiama and Jervis Bay and just ahead of Skandia, the next group of TP52's and 60 footers were already abreast of Kiama, and the main body of the fleet was already off Wollongong and Port Kembla.

"We have been sailing between 16 and 20 knots for the past three hours and making good progress," said Mark Bradford from the Queensland Reichel/Pugh 66 Black Jack.

"We are getting ready for tonight, we are expecting 25 knots of wind. In the dark it's trickier to keep the boat on its feet but we're pretty comfortable at 22 knots true and have had no problems."

Despite being the third yacht out of Sydney Heads Bradford thought their start was less than perfect. With Peter 'Billy' Merrington doing a great job on the helm they eventually found clear air and began passing boats.

While the spectator craft swarmed around Wild Oats XI they left Black Jack pretty much alone.

"We had no problems with the spectator boats," he said, "though it seems the further south we got the more drunk the spectators."

At 1700hrs this afternoon Bryan Northcote, navigator aboard Ray Roberts' Cookson 50 Quantum Racing was also pleased with their progress.

"We had a good start and were happy to lead (the bigger Reichel/Pugh 55) Yendys out of the harbour," he said.

"They are abeam of us now and all the TP52's are astern and closer into the coast. We are currently doing 17 knots with some slight assistance from the current.

"We plan to stay east of the rhumbline (the shortest route to Hobart) and set up for Bass Strait. Depending on the trough that is expected tomorrow the critical entry into Bass Strait will be the main tactical decision."

At 1900hrs this evening Geoff Ross' Yendys was leading the IRC handicap chase, navigator Will Oxley commenting, "We are just rolling on here. We were very happy with our start and trying to set ourselves up to make the best use of the southerly current. Spirits are high on board.

"Fantastic downwind sailing and the modifications we made to the boat are a big improvement to our downwind performance so we are happy about that!" added Oxley, who reported 20-22 knots of NE breeze.

Chutzpah has emerged as a firm handicap favorite, running second to Quantum Racing in the betting. Taylor is very pleased with how the day has gone so far.

"We had a nice start. We went out the heads with boats bigger than us and that's a happy place to be. Right now we are going along with some Volvo 60s and 50 footers so we are very comfortable."

For the faster boats, Bass Strait is speeding towards them sooner rather than later, and with a front that will bring lighter westerly winds due to move through the Strait tomorrow, important tactical decisions will need to be made during the next few hours.

How far into Bass Strait they are when those lighter winds settle in, and how well they have set themselves up for the angle in towards the Tasmanian coast will be critical to the race record hopes of Wild Oats XI and the handicap fortunes of a great many wannabes.

For the smaller boats, who look to be out of the running this year for a shot at the Tattersall's Cup, life is a little more relaxed although the goal is still the same.

Following a meal of wife Cathy's meat and potato stew washed down with chocolate Yogos, Sean Langman and his crew of five aboard Maluka of Kermandie, the smallest and oldest boat in the fleet were tonight approaching Kiama ahead of a 15 knot northerly breeze.

Wild Oats and Skandia lead fleet after perfect start

1600HRS, 26 DECEMBER 2008

Sydney Harbour was showcased in all its splendour for the start of the 64th Rolex Sydney Hobart this afternoon when one hundred boats set off from two start lines north of Shark Island on a perfect Sydney summer afternoon.

In a 12 knot nor'easterly breeze and with the drone of a dozen helicopters overhead, the huge fleet made allowance for the outgoing tide and managed a clean start from both lines with Wild Oats XI charging to Sydney Heads in clear air ahead of Grant Wharington's former line honours winner Skandia.

Just a shade over 16 minutes following the 1pm blast of cannon fire, things became interesting at the sea mark for the front runner when the largest spectator fleet in many years converged on the 98 foot Wild Oats XI in all manner of craft, including a couple of audacious A class Hobie sailors.

With a possible record fourth consecutive line honours win up for grabs, a steely-faced Mark Richards was able to carefully guide Wild Oats XI through the flotilla and the ocean that had become a washing machine to get away without incident, although there were a few nervous looks from the crew.
Skandia was second to the sea mark followed by the Mark Bradford skippered Black Jack from Queensland setting off on its debut Rolex Sydney Hobart with high expectations.

Amongst the 50 footers, Graeme Wood's Wot Now won the start, pacing itself alongside Skandia before the larger Loki (Stephen Ainsworth) and Limit (Alan Brierty) climbed over the top of the bold TP52.
Amongst the pre-start nerves there was still interest from the crew of Sanyo Maris as to the current cricket score and on board Optimus Prime there was time for the crew to grab some quick happy snaps as Mark Richards powered past them on a practice run from his favourite end of the line, the pin end.

This afternoon the leading boats are surfing south along the New South Wales coast off Port Kembla ahead of a 22 knot nor'easter with Wild Oats XI and Skandia humming along on 19 knots of boat speed.
Last out of Sydney Harbour this afternoon was the big Cruising division entry Pachamama behind Sanyo Maris, Sean Langman's Maluka of Kermandie and the second smallest in the 100 strong fleet, Nest Property from Tasmania.

 They are OFF!!

100 boats are off to a perfect start in two waves from two lines 400 metres apart. Wild Oats gets the best position and flys. Skandia not quite as sharp on the start but fighting her way through the scrum past sow and pigs and onward to the heads. At the seaway its Wild Oats first around and launching the screecher for the run down the coast.

Tough decisions ahead for Rolex Sydney Hobart tacticians

The Bureau of Meteorology's Michael Logan has told Rolex Sydney Hobart skippers at this morning's final weather briefing that the downwind sprint predicted by the long range forecast has held, with the race starting in strengthening northerlies and a big westerly in Bass Strait on Sunday night.

Saturday has emerged as the key day for determining the outright winner, and whether there will be a race record in the 64th edition of Australia's premier ocean classic.

On Saturday a front will push lighter westerlies through Bass Strait while the northerlies along the southern New South Wales coast will either lighten, or possibly even shift to the south west as a result of the Bass Strait change. That change is also forecast to produce a light southerly off the Tasmanian east coast.

Even when a strong westerly front kicks in across Bass Strait on Sunday night, producing strong wind warnings in that area, there will still be patches of light wind in the lee of the east Tasmanian coast.

Picking the right time to gybe, and deciding whether to hug the coast or head out to sea before the Saturday fronts, as well as picking the right angle into Tasman Island could well be the difference between Hobart glory and a just pleasant 628 nautical mile passage south.

Who'd be a tactician?

The race for the Tattersall's Cup looks wide open, with the timing of the westerly fronts the key to which division will turn out to be the most favoured. This is one of the most heavily contested races in recent years for the handicap prize.

The Rolex Sydney Hobart fleet of 100 will be split across two start lines off Nielsen Park, Sydney Harbour, for the 1pm blast of cannon fire thanks to official starter Lou Abrahams who retired from the ocean classic last year after equalling the record - 44 races, which is about to be surpassed by Tony Cable on Getaway-Sailing.com

 Conditions Perfect!

Will Records be Broken??

 A fast "friendly" race to Hobart

The Bureau of Meteorology has confirmed early predictions of fresh northerly winds over the first two days of the Rolex Sydney Hobart 2008, ensuring the sailors a fast, thoroughly enjoyable ride to Tasmania.

At the traditional Christmas Eve skipper's briefing Michael Logan, the BOM's manager, Severe Weather Services told the competing skippers they can expect to start in a 15 knot north easterly breeze, which will freshen to 20 to 25 knots during the afternoon as they speed down the New South Wales coast under spinnaker.

The fresh northerlies are forecast to hold throughout Saturday and into much of Sunday off the NSW coast, though a soft change on Saturday could see the lead boats encounter lighter winds in Bass Strait.

By Sunday night a major front will move through Bass Strait, producing strong, and possibly gale force westerly winds before they shift to towards the south on Monday.

It will be a tougher race for the smaller boats than the fast frontrunners, which are due into Hobart before Sunday night's big blow.


 Andy Beadsworth of Loki

 Ray Roberts of Quantum Racing

 "This is my fifth Hobart and this looks like one of the best forecasts I've seen," said Andy Beadsworth, tactician on the week old Reichel/Pugh 63 Loki, one of the handicap favorites.

"The forecast certainly looks friendly for Loki. She was fresh out of the wrapper a few weeks ago so a slightly softer downwind forecast is definitely welcome. We don't want to break the boat on its very first outing but we also want to push the boat hard and see what it will do."

The forecast also looks tailor made for Ray Roberts' Cookson 50 Quantum Racing, which looks increasingly like the yacht to beat for the Tattersall's Cup.

"It's a particularly good forecast for us," Roberts said today, "Quantum Racing has a canting keel and as long as we have over 15 knots of breeze we can get her up and planing very quickly."

In the dash for line honours there seems little in the forecast to dampen spirits aboard the 98 foot maxi Wild Oats XI, already a Rolex Sydney Hobart legend for her three consecutive first across.

The biggest threat to her taking out a record four-in-a-row is gear failure rather than her race rivals, and there are no back-breaking bashes to windward or overly strong winds to threaten her in the forecast.

She will be well and truly in Constitution Dock before Sunday night's big change. Yet skipper Mark Richards shows no sign of overconfidence.

"You've got some fairly fresh running conditions and especially at night things can go wrong. You can blow a chute or muck up a sail change. Everyone will be going quite quickly and if you loose a guy over the side at night doing 25 knots of boat speed you'll not find him for quite some time.

"It's not going to be an easy race."

If there is a fly in Wild Oats XI's ointment it could be the soft weather change forecast for Saturday, which will produce lighter winds in Bass Strait while further back up the track the New South Wales south coast will still see fresh northerlies.

"I think Skandia and ourselves will have the same problem," Richards says. "There is a chance of us going down the coast in really good breeze and then hitting a light patch and the boats behind us doing two and three times our speed."

It's variables like that which make Richards wary of predicting a race record.

"You could get to Tasman Light in 24 hours and to get from there to the finish line (across the notoriously fickle Storm Bay and up the Derwent River) could take 12 hours. We just don't know," he says.

For every yacht the challenges posed by this forecast are the same.

"Sailing through the night with big spinnakers is hard sailing," says Ray Roberts.

"Visibility is quite difficult so you have to have a helmsman who can sail by feel. You're going to get some big waves. You're steering down a big wave in the middle of the night and often hitting the next wave because of the speed you're travelling so typically you get a lot of water over the boat and that starts to wash the crew around.

"You have to be consistent over the whole period of the race. It's very easy to burn out early because everyone is very pumped up at the start. You've got to manage the energy levels - when it's easier going you must rest your crew - so they're fit and ready when the conditions get hard.

"It's a very energy sapping environment so keeping fit over the two or three days is critical. It's not being good at the start or at the end but being consistent throughout the race."

Roberts also argues that while maintaining optimum boat speed this year will be vital, the currents, and the likelihood of some very light patches of breeze off the Tasmanian coast in the later stages of the race will make it a very tactical contest as well.

"It appears to be just a straight line race from Sydney to Tasmania but you've got variable weather conditions and very complex current systems travelling in big circular motions.

"You have to be in the right place for the front, and you've got to get yourself in the favorable current that can be running two to three knots north to south. If you don't get that right you could find yourself pushing against it."

One thing is for sure. Win or lose it is going to be great sailing this year, and no-one is going to arrive in Hobart wondering. "We'll be pushing Loki hard, trying to find the edge," Andy Beadsworth declares. "Whether it's the crew we find the edge of first, or the boat remains to be seen."

This being the 10th anniversary of the stormswept 1998 Sydney Hobart, safety is at the forefront of everyone's mind.

"1998 was the race that changed ocean racing forever," CYCA Commodore and skipper of Ichi Ban, Matt Allen said before today's briefing commenced, as he led the competitors in a minute's silence in memory of those who have died during and on the way to or from the race since 1945.

 Sydney Hobart lead-up events.

 Ragamuffin shines while Terra Firma terrorises


On day one of the Rolex Trophy eighty-one year old Syd Fischer and his crew on board Ragamuffin threw down an early challenge to the rest of the fleet preparing for the start of the Rolex Sydney Hobart Yacht Race in eight days time.

Fresh from being named the CYCA’s Ocean Racer of the Year for 2007/08 last night, Fischer followed up with a first place in race one and a fourth in race two to finish the day tied for first on 5 points with Geoff Ross’ Yendys and Alan Brierty’s Limit

For the opening day of the Rolex Trophy the fleet of thirteen yachts, divided into two divisions, was greeted by light nor’easterly breezes. Principal Race Officer Denis Thompson set the course straight out from Macquarie Light to a course area best known as Macquarie Circle

“Today we experienced nor’easterly breezes and reasonably flat conditions. It was what you would call gentlemanly racing,” said Thompson.

Race one started in an 8 knot sea breeze that built to 10 knots. Peter Harburg’s Queensland 66-footer Black Jack showed her racing colours in division 0/1, taking the lead early from Limit which stayed in touch with Black Jack throughout race one.

While Black Jack crossed the finish line comfortably ahead of Limit, it was Ragamuffin’s day on handicap with an IRC division 0/1 win in race one ahead of Yendys and Limit.

Race two’s start was delayed due the light conditions. Thompson lengthened the course to three laps and again set the course to the north east. Ragamuffin’s race two was marred from the start with an On Course Side penalty for the TP52 forcing her to take a 360 degree turn, which cost fifteen seconds of race time.

For the first two roundings of the bottom mark, the breeze was consistently nor’east but on the last leg the breeze swung to the easterly. Meanwhile those at the back of the fleet had to contend with a drop in the breeze, down to four knots.

Limit and Black Jack picked up where they left off, duelling all the way to the first gate. By the time they rounded the gate a second time, Black Jack had pulled away to a 100 metre lead, which she held to claim back to back line honours wins.

In IRC Division 0/1 Graeme Wood’s TP52 Wot Now finished first in race two, with the Reichel/Pugh 62 Limit second and the Farr 55 Yendys third.

Commenting on today’s racing, Syd Fischer said “The boat’s feeling good and we are always learning something.

“A series like this sharpens up the crew, they get quicker and become more careful.” Ragamuffin was named Boat of the Day in IRC division 0/1.

The day one pointscore has a three way tie in IRC Division 0/1 between Ragamuffin, Yendys and Limit. In IRC Division 2 Terra Firma finished at the top of the leaderboard, with Sam Newton’s Kirribilli second and Guy Stening’s Optimum third.

In division 2 the fleet was issued a general recall at the start of race one with the second start clean. Nicholas Bartels’ Sydney 47 Terra Firma performed consistently in this division to finish the day with two firsts and be named ‘Boat of the Day’. – By Jennifer Crooks/Rolex Sydney Hobart Media Team


14 DECEMBER 2008

For the third and final day of action in the Rolex Trophy One Design Series, the two fleets returned to the Macquarie Circle for their final races of the series. Inside the Harbour the breeze was kicking up its heels. Offshore, the Sydney 38s and Farr 40s enjoyed a fantastic racetrack with a 15 knot sou'west breeze and flat waters compared to the rolling seas of day two.

The top mark was set off the cliffs of South Head and again the race committee was kept on its toes relocating the top mark to accommodate the shifting breeze. For the Farr 40 fleet in race one, New Zealander Brett Neill and his White Cloud crew recovered well from rounding the top mark last, moving through the Farr 40 fleet to take the first gun of the day ahead of overnight leaders, Lang Walker's Kokomo, helmed by Matt Allen in the owner’s absence with six-time Olympian Colin Beashel calling tactics

For the second race of the day the race committee set a new course for the two fleets and under a cloud-dappled sky, the building breeze provided some fast downwind rides. Ivan Wheen's Sputnik took the lead early, making the rest of the fleet follow their red spinnaker around the course. Michael Dunstan stepped into the tactician role for Sputnik regular, Olympic Gold medallist Tom King. Sputnik won, closely followed by Lisa & Martin Hill’s Estate Master in second and White Cloud third.

The seventh and final race for the Farr 40s showcased tight one design racing at its best. Winners Lisa and Martin Hill's Estate Master had to hold off a threatening Kokomo to secure the top spot and finish second overall for the regatta. Estate Master was named Boat of the Day.

Overall results for the Farr 40s in the Rolex Trophy One Design Series saw Kokomo take victory with second and third place decided on a countback as Estate Master and Guido Belgiorno Nettis' Transfusion finished on equal points. Estate Master finished in second with Transfusion third.

"The whole series we have had tight and close racing. It showcases how competitive one design racing can be", said Allen.

“I was proud to helm for Lang in this regatta. The crew worked well in some tough conditions. We came out with an overall series win, so it’s a great team result.”

Principal Race Officer Dennis Thompson was pleased with the day’s racing.

“Today we experienced some of the best Farr 40 racing I’ve seen in heavy breeze conditions,” remarked Thompson.

“In the final race Kokomo and Estate Master were bow for bow as they planed to the finish in 24 knots of breeze

“We saw some outstanding crew work in both fleets in the heavy air sailing , with particularly close racing in the Sydney 38 fleet, which handled the heavier breezes really well.”

In the Sydney 38 class Geoff Bonus' Calibre got off to a good start, reversing their misfortunes of Race one of the series to win the first race of the day. The ever consistent crew on Daryl Hodgkinson's Uplift finished in second and Steve Proud's Swish had their best result of the series, picking up a third on the results sheet.

In Race 4 Calibre and Uplift reversed their results from the first race of the day with Uplift first, Calibre second and Ian and Shane Guanaria's The Tavern completing the podium for race two in the Sydney 38 fleet.

For the last race of the day in the Sydney 38 fleet, Alan and Tom Quick's Iplex Outlaw left the best until last, winning the final race for the Sydney 38 class with Tony Walls' Acuity crossing the line in second and regatta winner Uplift taking third.

Uplift was named Boat of the Day and took out the Sydney 38 Series with a 12 point lead over Iplex Outlaw second and The Tavern third.

“This has been an amazing series for us”, commented Daryl Hodgkinson, owner of Uplift.

“We have backed up our win in the NSW state championships with a win in this regatta.

“This is one of the heaviest weather regattas we have ever experienced. We had very challenging conditions and it was a great thrill to sail in wind gusts of over 30 knots.

“My thanks go to my crew who have now proven that our win in the State championships was not a fluke. They put in a great effort and have come up with the best result – a Rolex Trophy One Design Series win,” added Hodgkinson.

black jack’s voluntary safety briefing
pre-Rolex Sydney Hobart

Monday 15 December

The crew of Queensland 66-footer Black Jack will next Monday undergo a voluntary briefing with marine safety consultant Genevieve White to run through emergency procedures and cover off any final questions from the crew prior to the Boxing Day start of the Rolex Sydney Hobart.

The crew has satisfied the race entry requirement that at least 50% of every crew contesting the 64th blue water classic must have completed the Yachting Australia Safety and Sea Survival Course or equivalent. Black Jack’s crew are being proactive in arranging a boat specific briefing with a qualified consultant as part of their pre-race preparation.

Genevieve White will run the Black Jack crew of 16 through drills including inflating Personal Flotation Devices, personal EPIRBs, Man Over Board procedures, the on board chain of command, everyone’s role on the boat and where safety gear is stored.


13 DECEMBER 2008

Box of chocolates for day two of Rolex Trophy

The ever-changing weather conditions had the Rolex Trophy One Design race committee busy re-laying marks and kept competitors on their toes with today’s winds a bit like Forrest Gump’s box of chocolates – you never knew what you were going to get.

“Within 45 minutes we had up to four changes in wind direction in race one including one 300 degree shift,” said Principal Race Office Denis Thompson this afternoon.

“All we needed was a sou’easter and we would have had breeze from every direction,” said tactician Sean Kirkjian from today’s duel winner, the Sydney 38 Uplift.

Just two races were completed today before Thompson again brought the fleet ashore. Once the gusts climbed to 28 knots out of the north-west and the breeze continued to be unstable, the two fleets headed back to their home clubs.

Both the Farr 40 and Sydney 38 fleets were sent offshore for day two of the Rolex Trophy One Design Series, racing on the waters known as Macquarie Circle, an area located off the Macquarie Lighthouse on Sydney’s South Head.

A wafting breeze between four and six knots from the north-east and a few big rollers, thanks to a long, slow swell, made for a challenging first race of day two.

Lisa and Martin Hill’s Farr 40 Estate Master and Guido Belgiorno Nettis’ Transfusion were both a bit too eager to start and were re-called by the race committee.

The Farr 40’s began their regatta yesterday, completing two races. Lang Walker’s Kokomo went into today’s third and fourth races off the back of two straight wins yesterday but they weren’t able to keep up the pace, finishing third and fourth today. They still lead the series by one point from Transfusion.

Brett Neill’s Farr 40 White Cloud scored its first win of the series in race one today.

Late comer Ivan Wheen's Farr 40 Sputnik, arrived on the race course for race four, its first of the series, and led the fleet around the one-lap shortened course to take the gun.

For the Sydney 38 division conditions were described as ‘freaky’. As the fleet approached the top mark in race two, boats that were 200 metres apart had headsails and spinnakers up heading towards the mark and then had to reach towards the finish line. Bizarrely, those carrying kites to the top mark dropped them, reached to the mark and then continued to the finish under headsail.

Uplift sailed a faultless two races to beat its class mates and claim Boat of the Day and lead the provisional pointscore going into tomorrow’s second and final day of racing.

The Farr 40 Boat of the Day was Transfusion

Big boat battle in the small pond of Sydney Harbour

12 December 2008

The two 30 metre maxis in town for this year’s Rolex Sydney Hobart, Grant Wharington’s Skandia and Bob Oatley’s Wild Oats XI, will meet for the first time since their encounter in last year’s bluewater classic in the SOLAS Big Boat Challenge on Tuesday 16 December 2008.

While it is largely regarded as a fun race, this Sydney Harbour spectacle does offer a sneak preview to the looming Rolex Sydney Hobart Yacht Race line honours contest. Wild Oats XI has claimed the last two line honours wins in this unique big boat race.

The SOLAS Big Boat Challenge will be the one and only race outing for Wild Oats XI and her crew prior to the start of the Rolex Sydney Hobart on Boxing Day. The maxi is vying for an historic fourth consecutive line honours win and the crew has opted not to contest any of the lead up regattas, instead conducting their own training program

“We are looking forward to some tight maneuvering around Sydney Harbour. The SOLAS Big Boat Challenge is always a great day out,” said Wild Oats XI skipper Mark Richards today.

Other crowd favourites to join in the fun are Ichi Ban, owned by CYCA Commodore Matt Allen, and Andrew Short’s Andrew Short Marine Shockwave 5.

All four of these boats will carry two guests who won the right to be aboard for this race via the SOLAS Big Boat Challenge eBay auction, which raised over $3,500 for the SOLAS Trusts charity.

Making their racing debut will be Alan Brierty’s Limit, a Reichel/Pugh 62, and Stephen Ainsworth’s Reichel/Pugh 63 Loki, which was launched in Sydney yesterday. Limit is due to arrive in Sydney today following its delivery from Melbourne where the boat was built and launched last week.

The two boats are near sisterships and plenty of sibling rivalry is anticipated between the two crews who have only seen the ‘other’ Reichel/Pugh in photographs.

Bob Steel’s Quest and Graeme Wood’s Wot Yot, both TP52s, will go head to head on the Harbour as the two prepare to line up for a crack at the prized Tattersall’s Cup for the Rolex Sydney Hobart overall winner

Peter Harburg’s Black Jack, named after motor racing legend Sir Jack Brabham, will make an appearance following her recent third in the Sydney Short Ocean Racing Championship.

The SOLAS Big Boat Challenge provides a rare opportunity for Australia’s largest ocean racing yachts to flex their muscles around one of the world’s most iconic waterways without the limitations of having to maneuver around a large fleet that usually includes much smaller and slower boats.

For the third time in the event’s 13 year history, the race committee will on the day select from two courses, one a 14 mile course and the other a 12 mile course around Sydney Harbour, ensuring a windward start.

The SOLAS Big Boat Challenge, one of Sydney’s most spectacular sporting and harbour events, will start off Steele Point, Vaucluse, at 12.30pm on Tuesday 16 December and will take the fleet twice around Sydney Harbour, passing many of Sydney’s famous landmarks including Fort Denison, Mrs Macquarie’s Chair and the Sydney Opera House, which backdrops the finish line.

Tickets in the annual CYCA SOLAS Trusts raffle will be on sale for only $5 each or 11 tickets for $50 until 3pm Tuesday 16 December 2008. Tickets are available at CYCA or via the CYCA website http://www.cyca.com.au/newsDetail.asp?key=3983 with the prizes drawn at the official prizegiving for the SOLAS Big Boat Challenge.


11 DECEMBER 2008

lOKI launched, living doll LOOKING LIKELY


 Photo Christophe Launay

Stephen & Nanette Ainsworth onboard Loki as she goes into the water

Today an excited and relieved Stephen Ainsworth joined with his wife Nannette as she poured champagne over the bow of their brand new Reichel/Pugh 63, Loki, to christen the boat in the traditional way just before it was launched at Woolwich Dock.

It’s been a mixed year for Ainsworth who was airlifted, along with his crew, from his previous Loki as it foundered dangerously close to the northern Sicilian coastline without a rudder during last year’s Rolex Middle Sea Race.

“It’s great to have it in the water, a year is a long time not to have a boat,” said Ainsworth today.

Within days of his misfortune in late October last year, Ainsworth had contacted US designers Reichel/Pugh and commissioned them to draw him a new boat. By March this year the building program had commenced, and he’s never looked back.

At today’s launch sentimentality was noticeably absent and, Ainsworth wasn’t pulling any punches as he proudly surveyed his latest toy and spoke about his chances in this year’s Rolex Sydney Hobart. “You don’t go in a race to come second,” he said with a laugh.

Loki is named after the Scandinavian god of mischief and trickery and adorning the boat’s bow and stern is the icon of the Norse god taken from a Viking stone carving found in a Danish museum.


The boat left McConaghy’s on Sydney’s northern beaches in the early hours of Wednesday morning and travelled to Woolwich Dock via Mona Vale Rd. Mona Vale Rd was the easy part, it then took the truck driver and the crew standing atop the deck an hour and a half to cover the final three kilometres as the truck wound slowly down to Woolwich Dock along darkened tree-lined suburban streets that proved a real challenge given the height of the load.

The news is better for Michael Hiatt, owner of the Farr 55 Living Doll that broke its mast on Port Phillip Bay last Saturday. So no time is wasted, the owner has ordered repairs based on what he and a team of experts presume went wrong.

“We are still waiting to hear what went wrong. We’ve gone ahead with work prematurely on the presumption we know what happened. Everyone’s been working long hours to get us to the Rolex Sydney Hobart start,” said Hiatt this afternoon.

With just 15 days to the start of Australia’s premier blue water classic Hiatt’s schedule is very tight, particularly as he has to factor in a three day delivery from Melbourne.

Hiatt is anticipating the repaired mast will be put back in the boat this Sunday and tuned Monday with a tentative departure date of Thursday 18 December. - By Lisa Ratcliff/Rolex Sydney Hobart media team



11 DECEMBER 2008


Three Olympians will add a touch of glamour to this weekend's Rolex Trophy One Design Series which starts tomorrow when a fleet of six Farr 40s take to the waters off Sydney Heads in what is forecast to be a heavy air regatta.

Within the Rolex Trophy One Design fleet are three Australian Sailing Team members, all of whom competed at the Beijing 2008 Olympic Games.

On board the Farr 40 Estate Master are Men's 470 Gold medallist Malcolm Page as trimmer and 49er skipper Nathan Outteridge calling the shots as tactician. It's a busy schedule for Page who, after the Rolex Trophy series finishes on Sunday will drive to Melbourne to line up next Tuesday with new skipper Mat Belcher for the 470 class at Sail Melbourne, the first event of the new World Cup Series.

Double world champion Laser sailor Tom Slingsby is tactician on the Farr 40 Transfusion which is currently leading the Australian Farr 40 pointscore.

"The Rolex Trophy is one of the peak events for our circuit," said Slingsby today.

"We've been out training for this event and we are using it as preparation for our 2009 Rolex Farr 40 Worlds campaign in Porto Cervo, Sardinia.

"We've been sailing with the same crew all season and we'll take this crew to the Worlds next year.

"Our main rivals for the season so far have been Estate Master and Kokomo. Last event it came down to the last race to decide the winner and I'm sure this weekend will be no different.".

The line-up of Farr 40s includes Chris Way's Easy Tiger II, Martin & Lisa Hill's Estate Master, Lang Walker's Kokomo, Ivan Wheen's Sputnik, Guido Belgiorno Nettis' Transfusion and Brett Neill's White Cloud.

CYCA Commodore Matt Allen will step back into the Farr 40 class for the second time in a month, sailing on Kokomo, a boat he previously owned, for its current owner Lang Walker. Last year Allen was the overall winner of the Farr 40 Rolex Trophy One Design Series.

 Living Doll’s living nightmare

The bang of a mast breaking is a noise no skipper wants to hear, particularly on a seven-week old boat five days before it’s due to leave its home port to contest Australia’s premier ocean classic.

Michael Hiatt’s brand new Victorian Farr 55 Living Doll was club racing last Saturday on Melbourne’s Port Phillip Bay when the breeze freshened to 20 knots. Hiatt’s crew bore away then heard a loud bang, which they initially thought was the forestay breaking. Instead they found their 23 metre tall mast had compressed 100mm at the deck.

“It was the full break, we came very close to losing the whole mast,” said the disappointed skipper today. Hiatt is now working with a team of experts to establish what went wrong so he can attempt to have the mast repaired in time for this year’s Rolex Sydney Hobart Yacht Race start on 26 December.

“This certainly adds a new dimension to our race preparations....being ready for the Rolex Sydney Hobart is only a possibility now for us.”

A new mast would take 4-6 weeks to build so the only way Hiatt will be heading for Hobart in 18 days is if the damaged mast can be repaired.

“We’ll just have to sit on the fence for the next 10 days. Until the mast is repaired and tested it’s a bit premature to think about lining up in Sydney Harbour on Boxing Day,” added Hiatt.

Living Doll was due to leave Melbourne this Thursday for the delivery to Sydney in time for the Rolex Trophy lead-up regatta from 18-21 December.

The current Rolex Sydney Hobart fleet size stands at 106 with Trading Network / Alyse Parusa still to officially withdraw.

Tonight Stephen Ainsworth will celebrate the end of an ambitious build program with his crew and team of boat builders at McConahgy’s at Mona Vale on Sydney’s northern beaches.

Ainsworth’s brand new Reichel/Pugh 63 Loki, the replacement for his previous Loki which had to be abandoned during last year’s Rolex Middle Sea Race, will be trucked to Woolwich Dock in the early hours of Wednesday morning and will be officially launched Thursday prior to Friday’s first test sail.