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Posts Tagged ‘sydney’

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Post Of The Week

The annual Sydney-Hobart ‘Let Multihulls Race’ thread is raging nicely in the forums, and the rambling discussion turned to the reasons behind the Hobart fleet’s shrinking trend, both in fleet size and worldwide stature.  Compared to the record fleets of recent Fastnets, Caribbean 600s, and Middle Sea races the Hobart is stagnant, even with one of the best Maxi/Canter/Mini Maxi fleets in recent memory on the line.  

Longtime SA’er and master debater ‘Chris 249′ got deep into the reasons for the Hobart’s decline, and his opinion is our Post Of The Week.  Continue the debate in the thread.

The Hobart is very much a big-boat fest these days, whereas when it was more popular the fleet was mainly composed of much smaller boats. That means that very few people can now afford to run a “competitive” boat, as in one that will finish close enough to the bulk of the fleet and among a group of similar boats.

The change can be seen by looking at the Hobart itself over time, and in comparison with the Fastnet both now and then. The fleets used to look quite similar in terms of the proportion of big boats to small boats; now the Fastnet has a vastly stronger small-boat and medium-size boat fleet.

Looking at the last races (and throwing Hobart PHS boats and Fastnet 2H IRC boats in their respective divisions) we see that there is a striking similarity in the number of boats of TP52 size and speed and more in each race. The Fastnet had 24 starters in the Canting and Zero classes (One 100′ supermaxi, TP52s, fixed keel mini maxis, Volvo 60, Swan 60, Farr 52 OD etc) whereas the corresponding classes in the Hobart attracted 23 boats, including three 100′ canters and a 100′ fixed keeler.

But in the next size down (39-46′ IRC racers like Rogers and Kers and big cruisers) the Fastnet had 52 boats, the Hobart just 17. The class after that (Beneteau 45s and 40s, etc) had 89 boats in the Fastnet and 19 in the Hobart.

In the smallest boats the disparity is even more marked; once you get under IRC 1.05-ish, (10m IRC racers, J/109s, Beneteau 36.7, Sydney 36, J/35, old IOR boats of 47′ or less) there’s a staggering 184 boats in the Fastnet compared to 17 in the Hobart!

If you add in the Class 40s and Figaro IIs (one designs I left out of the above calcs as there is no comparable scene in Oz) the proportion of ‘small’ boats in the Fastnet increases even more.

It’s also interesting to look at long-term trends. I found the ’79 Fastnet and ’77 Hobart fleets to compare their composition with the current fleets. At the time, the Hobart fleet (132 boats) was much healthier (compared to today and to populations) compared to the record Fastnet fleet (303 boats).

The Hobart fleet’s composition was also strikingly similar to that of the Fastnet, in terms of boat size and design apart from the fact that Class I (50 to 43 foot racing boats and big old cruisers) was miles bigger in the Fastnet, partly because of the 50-ish boats that did it because of the Admiral’s Cup*. For example if we look at (roughly) IOR 34-30 footers we see 116 boats in the Fastnet and 53 in the Hobart; pretty close to the ratio between overall fleet sizes.

Over time, though, the races have diverged to the Hobart’s cost. In the Fastnet it looks as if the number of “raceboats” over 38′ has actually declined as the fleet has grown and people move to cruiser/racers. The number of boats of 36′-ish and less has stayed static. The growth has been in the 40 foot cruiser/racers like Benny 40s….the sort of boat so many slag off but which keep so much of the sport going.

In contrast the Hobart has a larger number of big race machines, but a vastly smaller number of small boats and a much smaller overall fleet. If the Hobart had maintained the same sort of fleet composition as it used to have, and the same sort of composition the Fastnet still has, we’d see dozens of boats like J/109s, Archie A 31s etc bouncing down to Hobart.

And why have the small boats stopped? Not sure. The Cat 1+ safety requirements have hurt. The accent is also all about the big boats, and there’s no real stepping stone from small boats and small races like there used to be. I think in the last days of the “small boats to Hobart” scene there was a strong (and often expressed) feeling that anything under 36 feet just was not welcome. As another example the CYCA, which used to have a JOG division (= MORC, for boats under 31′) AND a separate half ton class, now bans any boat under 30′ from even doing day races offshore. We have nothing like the Euro/UK quarter ton and half ton scenes or UK JOG, or the smallish OODs of the USA; there’s no replacement for the JOG and half/quarter scenes of yore. No owner-measured IRC certs are allowed so almost no small boat owners spend the extra bucks for full measurement and there’s no PHRF, so for the small-boat owner there’s only golf handicap and therefore no reason to try hard or sail well.

I sold an investment property a few months back and thought of chucking the cash into a boat for the Hobart etc, but decided there was no point when the small-boat numbers have dwindled so much that there’s no one to play with. It’s a vicious circle, especially when no one seems to give a fuck about stopping the spiral. So I race dinghies and boards and will do some local racing; ironically now I’ve moved away from Sydney’s big boat oriented scene I can race my 4kt “SB” again. CBF crewing on big boats as I don’t want to specialise in doing just one thing.

What the Hobart and Fastnet analysis does show, IMHO, is that increasing the proportion of big fast boats, and the emphasis on them, really does nothing to increase the race’s status, viability, fleet size or competitiveness. The idea that putting in big multis will increase interest and therefore numbers falls down, IMHO, when we see that putting in big canters has done nothing to increase fleet sizes and may have reduced them. People are not getting into the race because the fast boats are getting faster….. in fact they are no longer turning up like they used to. It’s no fun getting to Hobart to find that the party is over.

As is so often the case, it’s the much-abused practical boats like Beneteaus that are keeping the sport strong and healthy, and the scene that concentrates on spectacular boats is the one that is sick.

And the Fastnet shows that people WILL still sail offshore in fairly small and cheap boats if they are encouraged, rather than bagged out for sailing 5 knot shitboxes. But there seems to be a big cultural difference between the RORC and CYCA these days.

All just my 2¢ worth, it’d be interesting to hear from Fastnet and Bermuda racers and guys who still do the Hobart.

* 57 boats did the AC but at least 9 or 10 of them were chartered UK boats or boats from France, Holland, Ireland etc which would have done the Fastnet even if there had been no AC.

November 1st, 2013 by admin

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Sean Langman’s Team Australia (ex-Banque Populaire IV) just set the reference time for the Sydney to Auckland passage at 2:19:02:45 – that’s an average of just under 19 knots for the rough and unpredictable stretch of water. TA dried themselves off in Auckland, grabbed ‘pick-up crew’ Moose Sanderson and Dean Barker, then promptly sailed the wrong course to lose a practice race to the big South’s other ORMA – NZ’s Team Vodafone Sailing (click here for cameraphone video).

Both boats square off later today as the Coastal Classic begins, and NZ’s marquee fleet race is clearly doing something right; 139 monohulls and 25 multis entered for a 100+ mile race in a country no bigger than a shoebox ain’t bad!

Here’s the report on the record run from crew Ben Kelly, and be sure to check the thread for the trip ‘as it happened’:

“Funny, I expected the boat to make the speeds feel like less, but doing 22-25 knots a couple of hours out from the heads felt crazy fast because of the sea state and our high angle to the breeze. Then as we slowly cracked away into the night I got to experiance 25-30 knots, this is pretty full-on in 4mtr waves and quite a violent action on the body that took some time to get used to. By early morning we were seeing up to 40 knots of wind and the speed sitting around 32 knots, and every now and then with an insane burst of acceleration, we would get a run on that would take us to 36-38 knots and then work its way back to around 32 again.

I would say that whilst the high speeds are quite full-on and the adrenaline is definitely pumping, the action of the boat improves by the time you are doing 35-40 knots.  With the boat simply obliterating whatever whatever it’s going through, it’s more of a vibration, and one of the best felings I have ever experienced.  I’m sure the motion changes depending on the sea state and direction and especially the angle to the breeze.

“The best true wind angle seemed to be 115 degrees, at this angle in 30+ knots of wind the driving is easy, the boat behaves insanely well, she is bow up with 2/3 of the leward float out of the water and the centre hull in/out constantly. Unfortunately we had the wind at around 80-90 for a big part of the leg across which just held us back a little from consistantly higher averages, basically if the top end of NZ had have been 100 miles further south I think we may have done 600+ nm for the 24hrs. You have to trust the foil when driving, on non foil boats you tend to have to run away with the pressure. With a foil that works so effectively when the power comes on and you are staring down the back of the next big growler you head up (if you react early enough), put more power into the boat, the bows rise as the boat accelerates and the foil works even more, then you get to the back of the wave in front and launch over it from behind as if it is a ramp, basically the best feeling ever!

“The problem is at 80 degrees true you feel like coming up is a bad option and you feel like going down is bad so quite often you just hold your course and your nerve and let the boat do its thing! Give me the helm of that thing, 25-30knots of wind, 4-5 metres of swell 2 x reefs in the Main and the smallest HWJ jib and I would be in heaven! I miss it already.  All the best to the crew of the Coastal, I think they have the legs….”

PIRATE STYLE

But here’s even bigger news:  In just 60-odd days, if this interview with Sean Langman is accurate, Team Australia and Team Vodafone will race against each other in the Sydney-Hobart!  But before you old Sydneysiders fall off your rockers – no, Bob Oatley’s America’s Cup challenge hasn’t suddenly spurred the CYCA to join the 21st Century, and no, the Hobart Race won’t stop being ridiculed as the race that allows diesel-driven keels and winches…but no multihulls.  Apparently, dealing with these conditions doesn’t make a boat safe enough for the Hobart…

Instead, the two ORMAs will sail the S-H pirate style, starting two hours after the last boat is off and presumably tearing through the fleet handily on their way to a new S-H record that Wild Oats fans and motor-driven yacht lovers won’t claim is ‘unfair because of different conditions.’  This is going to be the most exciting Hobart in years, thanks largely to two boats that aren’t even allowed to race.  Follow that thread here.

 

October 24th, 2013 by admin

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It’s better late than never for the new Carkeek 60 Ichi Ban, which arrived in Oz a couple of weeks ago from Dubai just in time for fitout and launch before the 2013 Hobart Race.

With a fleet including a couple of late model Volvo 70s, five 100-footers including the Loyal (ex-Speedboat), and a couple of badass mini-maxi downwind monsters — Ichi and the sparkly new Botin 80 Beau Geste – and even the full fleet of Clipper/Winnebago 70s, 2013 is looking like the best Hobart big-boat fleet in a decade.

Got news?  Got goss?  Got questions for the more-than-50,000 Sydney-area sailors who make Steak-and-Kidney the biggest Sailing Anarchy audience in the world?  Hit the Hobart thread.

October 24th, 2013 by admin

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