The Big Three

The Big Three

Cold temps, breeze in the teens and twenties, and rain kept the spectator crowd small for the start of the Sydney Hobart, though of course the Anarchists were out in force, including long time SA’ers Phil and Mel Yeomans on the start boat.  Thankfully the SA army is doing what they do and keeping people posted with pics, up-to-the-minute updates, pics (this one is from ‘yachtbuoy’, and tracker and weather analysis, because the coverage – both official and unofficial – was surprisingly crappy.  The official S2H tracker was broken for at least the first 12 hours of the race, the official Yahoo!7 coverage was dull and broke to commercial breaks at idiotic times, and the exciting live deo from aboard the old VO-60 Merit came out choppy and embarrassing, and instead of live updates, there are a couple of technogeeks sitting in a studio trying to be broadcasters.  The race reporting on the SA forums starts here.

While the coverage sucks, the race is a good one, with the Big Three of ICAP Leopard, Alfa Romeo, and Wild Oats XI battling for line honors as they beat to Hobart.  Leopard’s size and weight played into Mike Slade’s hands early, allowing her to carry a full main while the narrower, lighter Sydney maxis were reefed and ragging.  As of 2 PM EST, Leopard and Alfa are within a half mile of one another with Wild Oats just two miles behind.  All three are just off Eden and have just transitioned into the lighter pressure now that they are through the large trough which influenced the first 12 hours so strongly.  And in some very expected news, Grant Wharrington’s Etihad Stadium/Wild Thing didn’t even make it out of the harbor before realizing their shiny new rig wouldn’t work.

And we just heard that Limit, a favorite to win the whole thing has dropped out. We’ll get the story from the boys at Evolutiion Sails…

I Ran So Farr Away On handicap, the Farr/Cookson 55 Living Doll is holding off the powerful Ran on IRC, and continues to sail in better pressure than much of her fleet.  CYCA commodore Matt Allen’s ex-Volvo 70 Ichi Ban is just behind.  The SA battle between the modified Farr 40 AFR Midnight Rambler and the modified Ker 11.3 Tow Truck is hot as well, with just 2 miles separating the rivalry.

Here are three reports; one from SA’er "Gimley Cimru" aboard Rapture, one from richiec who was out on the harbor watching the start, and one from WunHungLo who was spectating online from North America.

From Gimley: Heading 140, true wind speed 20.3 knots. True wind direction 194. We are in ninth place. Doing 9.87 knots. We are much further east than everyone else but we wanted to stay east.

The start wasn’t quite the chaos we thought. Canting hunded footers accelerated away quickly. We were stuck with the little boats. Got a good start with clear air and managed to hold steady breeze all the way to the mark inside the heads. Great driving by legendary Jason Beaver, reunited for hobart this year with the other half of the dynamic duo on the pointy end, Anthony "Cappa" Hussey.

Ocki [legendary pro surfer Mark Occhilupo -ed] seems to be enjoying his first offshore race so far. Though his balance seems more adept to surf board than 100 foot yachts. Conditions are good for us. Sailing into a bit of chop. 15-17 knots breeze. Probably most leeward boat but holding pace with Loyal, though they point much higher. It’s about to rain and we are in our watch system. I’ll write again later.

From Richie C [About Wild Thing:] They just never looked happy after they left Melbourne. The guy is very good with PR. But the bloke with the biggest smile on his face is Croakey, who has a million in the back pocket for a mast he was probably never gunna use again. No more rent for the shed where the mast lived in France either. Good on Warro for having a go, but DEEP down he must have known it was never gonna happen. I wonder if he would have been pulled the pin if it had been a 20 knot N-Easter forecast all the way south?

I got down off Maroubra on a RIB. Boats that looked the goods… Without doubt, all three leaders. In this weather and with a flithy night at sea ahead of them, I reckon Slade will be grinning. That weapon is built for this messy stuff. WOXI and AR reefed somewhere off Bronte, but Leapoard just kept on trucking, sticking it’s fingers up to the weather and saying, ‘bring it the fuck on…’

The other boat that blew my mind in all of this…. RAN.

To go round the harbour mark, within almost spitting distance of boats 30 feet longer, was a mighty effort. Dunno what happened to Quest, but someone on the race commitee radio said something about a 720 not long after the start. They’ll get it together. Too much experience on that boat not to. All in all, we’re set for an amazing, tactical Hobart.

When I get back near a solid email/net connections, I’ll upload FIVE minutes of startline goodness on Youtube so all you dudes who have never seen this, from the water, will appreciate the unique carnage of a S2H startline on Boxing Day. And marvel at the power, size and awe of the world’s biggest, fastest bitch’nist maxis going at it, like Rocky and Ivan Drago. Gotta love this city – gotta love this race!

From WunHungLo: The Merit start was not the greatest..in fact a bit chaotic and amateurish. No one calling time, the helmsman not having a watch either, kept saying he wanted time, said he didn’t know where the line was, no direction from a tactician …. bloody awful at that level of the game. The skipper/helm barking out orders to no one in particular (as if he didn’t know crew names and surprised when no one moved), then frequently changing his mind within seconds, then calling for tacks or gybes and shouting at the crew during the tack or gybe ‘come on guys,… guys come on.,.. guys…." when the helm had hardly moved.. he just seemed overly excited and/or scatter-brained. Christ the number of times he said guys… pre-start.

When he called for chute hoist… nothing happened… crew not ready as if it was a surprise. In a few minutes he calls for a spinnaker pole and no sooner had he called it, he called a gybe… which took forever… It was as if he had no start strategy at all and the crew were totally unprepared for what he wanted. The mainsail trimmer must have been dreaming half the time as the helm repeatedly called for more trim.

After getting out past the heads, the helm spent more time yacking anf f’ing at the crew than just concentrating on his job and driving through the bad slop. Eventually I had to turn it off. It was some of the worst communication, crewing and helming I’ve seen at any level … god help the crew on that unhappy boat.

Be sure to check back for updates as they happen.