First Blood

First Blood

The first of the Sydney Harbour events leading up to the Hobart Race is over, and Neville Crichton’s Alfa Romeo took line honors from the all-conquering Wild Oats XI by just over a minute when Bob Oatley’s boys hourglassed their kite on the final leg to the finish.  The 18-Footer League has 45 minutes of great video with funny commentary at their site – the real action and the entire final-leg battle is in the fourth video from the left.  Check out the SOLAS Big Boat thread for loads of pics (thanks to ‘brit down under’ for this one) and the Alfa For Hobart thread for more videos, pics, and discussions.  It’s a great time of year for fans of maxi racing, and every year just seems to get better on the Harbour. Here’s a quick spectator report from ‘richiec’ (see one of his vids here). Solas results here. Photo abovefrom Christophe Launay and a bunch more here.

Anyway, what a mighty, mighty afternoon to be out on a Protector rib, zapping up and down the harbour following these two MASSIVE maxi yachts as they duked it out, from one ond of the harbour to the other. Just a spectacular sight. Alfa Romeo narrowly missed a collision with a spectator boat. Alfa skillfully threaded a narrow gap between several spectator craft at the Point Piper mark (Sydney Australia) during yesterday’s CYCA’s SOLAS Big Boat Challenge, while in a battle with Wild Oats who was narrowly leading at that stage.

Wild Oats later wrapped it’s spinnaker, dashing her line honors hopes. Thanks to Ken Terrens for the above shots.

Additional images can be viewed at www.myc.org.au, click on Gallery and follow the links.
They are very evenly matched on just about every point of sail, and Oats only got ahead at the first bottom mark (Fort Denison) – due to running a code zero or runner type of sail, while Alfa had a more standard jib on. That gave Oats the seperation to get out of the dueling zone with Alfa for much of the second beat.

It was anyone’s game on the final run then the wine glass appeared on Oats. What amazed me was that nothing seemed to happen on board Oats. You’d think a boat full of pros like that would have got it sorted in no time – hell even I know to ease the halyard a bit – but they took no serious or fast action to remedy the wine glass. It can’t have been a halyard issue as eventually they were able to drop the kite and go for a Code 0/reacher sail. I am amazed they were only a minute or so behind Alfa in the end.

Of the rest, the glamour is Maximus/Loyal. Beautiful presentation but some bizarre sail choices (kites of the hounds, a metre off the end of the sprit) etc. The thing looked ‘tippy’ as though it’s not got enough weight below. Should have been quicker, but I guess it’s tender and they’ve got plenty of tuning to do, and maybe they’re keeping the good gear in terms of sails for the S2H.

Surprise was to see Nicorette going fairly well after being out of the water so long. The exploding kite didn’t look pretty. Loki looks to have Limit covered. RAN is going to mix this duel up nicely you’d have to think. Lahana – was in there somewhere. Quest boys smoked the ‘small end’ of the fleet again – nice shiny new set of sails on by the looks of it too. Yes, it’s weird to call a TP52 ‘small end of the fleet’…

That was a seriously incredible bit of sailing to experience close up. Two of the worlds top maxis just going for it. The acceleration and speed is completely off the richter.