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Displaying items by tag: Sydney Hobart

Ever wonder how much work goes into preparing a yacht for the Cruising Yacht Club of Australia’s Rolex Sydney Hobart Yacht Race – never mind a big boat that has just returned from Europe amid the COVID-19 pandemic?

Peter Harburg had not planned on Black Jack’s return to Australia when he put the 100-foot supermaxi on a ship bound for her new home in Monaco, but COVID-19 arrived, with Europe hit extremely hard.

Harburg’s skipper Mark Bradford says, “We weren’t planning on coming back to do the race. We thought last year was to be the last one."

However, just after the ship left Australia, the virus struck.

“We had a squad of five ready to go to Europe to take care of the boat. But then the virus risk increased, so got we got a team to unload it and put it on a ship back to Australia.

"It’s a bonus we got to come back and have another go.”

On readying the yacht to race, Bradford explained, “Loads and engineering are such a big part of preparing - you have to go through it all again; you have to be as safe as you can; you need to understand loads and that takes a long time because it involves a lot of different equipment that can break if you don’t get it right.

Black Jack leads Comanche as they close in on the 2018 Rolex Sydney Hobart finish lineBlack Jack leads Comanche as they close in on the 2018 Rolex Sydney Hobart finish line. Mandatory photo credit: ROLEX/Studio Borlenghi

“You also have to learn the changes that have been made to the boat. The bow modification was pretty significant. You have to keep up with the others - Wild Oats XI got better and better - so you learn how to sail the boat again. The fortunate thing is that last Christmas the level we prepared to was pretty high.”

Bradford concedes they are also missing some of their key crew. “Of the Kiwi guys who usually sail with us, Scott Beavis was the only one who could join us.”

The replacements include America’s Cup-winning Olympic gold medallist and world champion sailor, Tom Slingsby. Slingsby was in the afterguard of Perpetual LOYAL (now Christian Beck’s InfoTrack) when it took line honours and broke the race record in 2016.

And if the conditions are right, Black Jack, which took line honours as Alfa Romeo in 2009, could make it a second victory in a year where there is just one other super maxi entered: InfoTrack.

The two boats haven’t much in common. Black Jack is a 2005 Reichel/Pugh design, while InfoTrack was built in 2008 and comes from the drawing board of Juan Kouyoumdjian. Regular updates keep the boats fast and interesting.

“Black Jack is still the boat to beat in lighter wind. Our big advantage is in eight knots. Theirs (InfoTrack) is 20 plus knots,” Bradford said of the boat that bears both Monaco and Queensland on its transom to reflect Harburg’s homes. It is based at Sydney City Marine as it awaits the 628 nautical mile race to Hobart.

“We kicked off training yesterday; the start of two weeks of pretty solid sailing. Racing-wise we’re doing the Cabbage Tree Island Race (Friday 4 December), Big Boat Challenge (Tuesday 8 December) and CYCA Trophy Race (Saturday 12 December).

The two ‘supers’ will have slightly smaller but fast yachts keeping them honest: Thunderstruck, the Botin 80 formerly known as Beau Geste (owned by AUS 80 Pty Ltd and led by Grant Wharington) and Jim Cooney’s Volvo Open 70 Maserati.

“For sure those two could take line honours, but it would probably take some break downs on the 100s, or if it’s a traditional race (hard upwind), but the stars would need to align.”

Bradford admits that if it blew 25 knots the VO70 should be able to do it. “But then the risks go up in that breeze too. You can’t discount them though.” Giacomo (a VOR 70) finished second over the line to Perpetual LOYAL in 2016 when the record went, so it can happen,” he said.

“We’re sailing again with a full crew. We haven’t done it all year, so we’ll have to remember how,” he said with a laugh. “We’ll do more training and we’ll be rusty for sure, but it’s pretty much standard procedure. In 2005 we had no idea how to sail these types of boats, but we’ve had the best part of 15 years’ experience now.

“I’ve been pretty vocal in ‘don’t call the race off until you have to’, and I think it is the right path. It’s great for us, but more so for the event’s history. And it brings money into the marine industry – so I’m happy about that because it’s been tough for so many.

“Right now, I’m just happy to see there will be a good fleet on the start line.

“It’s disappointing not having Wild Oats XI in the race, but I understand the reasons why. We’ll miss the competition. And for Scallywag to get the owner and entourage in from Hong Kong makes it very hard. It’ll be quite different with just two 100s. The two have been close for a long time though, so it’ll still be a great race. InfoTrack’s just got better and better.”

Published in Sydney to Hobart
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While this year’s Rolex Sydney Hobart has been given the go-ahead after lengthy consultation, at least two big names won’t be joining the 100-strong fleet next month.

Sailing Anarchy reports that the legendary 100-footer Wild Oats XI will remain in storage for the start on 26 December — the first time in 16 years that the Reichel-Pugh won’t compete in the annual blue water classic.

And Wild Oats’s arch rival Scallywag has withdrawn from the race, reportedly because owner Sen Huang Lee and a number of crew were unwilling to meet the mandatory two-week quarantine for all racers entering Australia from abroad.

With these two giants of the race now out of the picture — leaving only two 100-footers, Black Jack and InfoTrack in contention — could this spell the end of the dominance of the supermaxis? Sailing Anarchy has more on the story HERE.

Published in Sydney to Hobart

A strong Rolex Sydney Hobart fleet is set to light up Sydney Harbour again this Christmas. 

The prestigious, world-renowned 628-nautical-mile blue water classic will go ahead after a lengthy period of consultation with state governments, health authorities and other key stakeholders. The opening of Tasmania’s borders to New South Wales travellers this coming Friday 6 November has made the race a reality.

CYCA Commodore Noel Cornish AM was delighted to confirm that the event would be going ahead: “We are thrilled to have so many yachts participating this year, particularly given the general uncertainty and necessary restrictions placed on many sporting events in Australia over the past six months. The size of the fleet has exceeded all our expectations and is a tremendous show of support for the Race. We are excited that we can host the Rolex Sydney Hobart Yacht Race in this challenging year.”

“Whilst 2020 has been a very difficult year for all Australians due to the impact of COVID-19, we feel that it is important for the Cruising Yacht Club of Australia and the sailing world to help support the various Governments goals to assist economic recovery and help communities return to some sense of normality within strict health and safety guidelines.”

“We would like to sincerely thank the Governments of New South Wales and Tasmania, their associated health, police and maritime departments, events and tourism authorities, local councils and all our media and corporate partners for their continued support.”

Entries officially closed last Thursday 29 October with 100 boats looking to head south.

Unfortunately, representation from many international competitors has not been possible this year due to ongoing global restrictions. The CYCA’s thoughts are with the offshore sailing community around the globe and the Club looks forward to welcoming all sailors, families and support crews back in 2021.

An array of returning yachts are amongst likely contenders for the Tattersall Cup which honours the overall winner on handicap, including previous winners Ichi Ban (2017 and 2019), Alive (2018) and Quest (2008 and also 2015 as Balance). Competition from a sizeable fleet of other yachts in the 50- to 70-foot range will be strong.

Should this year’s conditions favour smaller yachts, the likes of Solveig (overall winner in 1954), and Noakes Sydney Gold Coast Yacht Race winners Chutzpah (2018) and White Bay Azzurro (2017 as Komatsu Azzurro), will give the bigger boats a strong nudge for podium placings.

Supermaxis

The super maxis, InfoTrack (line honours 2016 as Perpetual Loyal) and Black Jack (2009 as Alfa Romeo) will do battle for line honours to claim the John H Illingworth Challenge Cup.

Importantly, there are an impressive number of yachts entered to compete in the newly introduced Two-Handed division of the Rolex Sydney Hobart, with a perpetual trophy being introduced to honour the division’s overall winner.

75 Years of Women sailors in the Sydney Hobart Race

This year will also celebrate the 75th year of participation by women sailors in the Sydney Hobart Yacht Race. Female crews will be significantly represented across all divisions, including six skippers: Wendy Tuck (Speedwell), Tiare Tomaszewski (Maris), Annie Lawrence (Solveig), Sibby Ilzhofer (Dare Devil), Genevieve Warlow (Dodgeball) and Jiang Hui Lin (Min River).

The safety, health and well-being of all participants, families and broader communities has always been the major focus for the CYCA and its race partner, the Royal Yacht Club of Tasmania.

Digital coverage

A number of significant changes will be made to the event this year. More focus will be on enhanced digital coverage of the race and all team briefings will be undertaken online. The social events and parties usually held at the CYCA in the lead up to the race in December will not be taking place this year and there will be restrictions imposed across the Clubhouse and marina, spectator fleets and gatherings at public vantage spots for the race start on 26 December. The Hobart Race Village and its associated festivities will be restructured in line with the best practice recommendations from authorities with the Village and marina closed to the general public.

New guidelines and regulations regarding COVID-19 safety, tracking and social distancing are being constantly reviewed and appropriate measures will be strictly adhered to as required.

With only 54 days remaining to the Rolex Sydney Hobart start, the Club wishes crews and support teams all the very best in preparation for the Great Race.

Published in Sydney to Hobart
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This year's Rolex Sydney Hobart Race, the 76th running of the Australian race, welcomes a new division of boats and sailors to the world-renowned racecourse with the Two-Handed division included for the first time.

After witnessing the worldwide increase in popularity of two-handed sailing, culminating in the inclusion of two-handed sailing in the Paris Olympics, the Club decided that the inclusion would be a great progression for offshore sailing in Australia. In 2019 this new and exciting division joined the Club's sailing calendar with the Two-Handed Pointscore, with many embracing and undertaking the challenge.

In 2019, with the announcement of the Two-Handed Pointscore, the Cruising Yacht Club of Australia also announced that a Two-Handed division would be included in the 2020 Audi Centre Sydney Blue Water Pointscore including the annual Sydney Hobart Yacht.

However, the inclusion of the new division, and the way in which the teams compete, brings a new complexity of sophisticated sailing technology with the use of Autopilot units.

The Club acknowledges further understanding needs to be gained to appreciate the full capacity and range of technology available to two-handed competitors, and how these are accommodated within different handicap rating systems. "With hindsight, because of our enthusiasm in embracing two-handed sailing, we may have acted too quickly allowing two-handed boats to be eligible to compete for one of sailing's most prestigious trophies, the Tattersall Cup," said Commodore Noel Cornish.

As such, the Club has amended the 2020 Rolex Sydney Hobart Notice of Race to reflect those two-handed entrants will be scored within their own handicap category divisions and not be eligible to compete against fully crewed boats in divisions or for the overall race win.

This decision to separate two-handed and fully-crewed divisions will also be reflected across other point scores including the Audi Centre Sydney Blue Water Pointscore.

The inclusion of the Two-Handed division is an important step forward and as such the Club will honour it with a new perpetual trophy for the IRC Two-Handed overall winner.

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People have been unobtrusively getting on with sailing in many places during the pandemic, determinedly maintaining social distance afloat and ashore, reducing their interaction with outsiders to such a minimum it's almost non-existent, and doing it all thoughtfully, with properly-located face coverings.

Where racing has been held, it has been kept low key, and the traditional après sailing became so restrained that many folk, having got in their evening race or mini-cruise or whatever, simply decided to go straight home rather than use the carefully-planned compliant catering which the clubs have worked determinedly and with vision to provide.

Amongst club officials meanwhile, the central thinking is that each club should keep to itself, each boat should keep to itself, and each sailing family should stay within family limits. It's the complete opposite, in other words, of the Hockey Union, which seems to have been penalising clubs because some team members have refused for health reasons to travel to matches at other clubs.

Michael McCann's Etchells 22 on her way to winning the Royal Cork's evening raceThe sense of well-being and feelings of good health induced by evening racing like this is beyond measure. Michael McCann's Etchells 22 on her way to winning the Royal Cork's evening race of Thursday, July 9th 2020. Photo: Robert Bateman

Who got Covid-19 through sailing?

Fortunately, the nature of our sailing is such that a comparable situation doesn't arise. The result is that the sailing community has managed to maintain such a high level of good health that incidences of COVID-19 within it seem very rare indeed, often to the point of non-existence. But instead of making such sweeping assessments based on personal observation and hearsay, Afloat.ie would like to put the record on a more substantial footing, so if you know of anyone in sailing who currently has, or has experienced, COVID-19, then please let us know.

Of course, we don't want names – that would be a gross intrusion on privacy, and probably illegal. But if we could get some sort of ballpark figure (if it exists), it would give substance to the arguments of many club officers, who feel that the National Authority has gone too far in declaring that even the humblest club racing is now verboten, and who feel instead that our beloved and exceptionally healthy sport – of which club sailors are the backbone – deserves much the same treatment as that meted out to golf.

The problem, of course, is that while sailing is a peaceful and often solitary pursuit without paying spectators, it is a high visibility activity. Even the smallest boats popping out for a quick race in the bay will be seen – albeit with scant genuine attention – by very many people. And if one sector of the population is finding its activities restricted in the severest possible way, it's only human to strike out and make sure that everyone else has to endure the same restrictions, and preferably worse.

Dun Laoghaire Water Wags on Lough ReeDun Laoghaire Water Wags on Lough Ree. Casual observers will not be aware of the details of sailing, but they'll certainly know it's going on. Photo: Cathy Mac Aleavey

Despite all this, we've had a truncated but interesting sailing season in Ireland in 2020, and at the time of writing this it's still developing, with Pam Lee and Cat Hunt in the process of setting a new women's two-handed round Ireland record (Record established in a time of 3 days 3d 20h 29m 28s subject to ratification - Web editor). Looking ahead, if allowed there are also prospects of late Autumn and early Winter leagues among people who have come to a fresh realisation of just how much sailing means to them.

It's all controllable within a very defined club bubble, but special challenges arise when a major international event comes up on the agenda, and those involved think they can just about run it provided the countdown and the participants have all been careful beyond diligent in preparing themselves and their crews.

Middle Sea Race's impressive turnout

Today's Royal Malta Rolex Middle Sea Race really has bent over backwards to be pandemic-fit. But even in Malta, there are Middle Sea-proven boats and crews who wouldn't dream of taking part. Despite that, the entry of 71 boats with crews from 21 countries is an impressive turnout, and there seems to be a basic underlying feeling that the race must take place as scheduled at 11 o'clock local time today (Saturday), not least for the morale of Malta and the good of world sailing.

This may all sound a bit high-flown for a specialised sporting event, but the Middle Sea Race can happen with no detrimental effect on preventing the spread of COVID-19, it will further improve the health of those taking part, and it will do us all no end of good simply to know it's taking place.

The Podesta family's First 45 Elusive 2The Podesta family's First 45 Elusive 2 on her way to winning the Rolex Middle Sea Race 2019. Photo Rolex/Kurt Arrigo

So we find every bit of Irish interest that's going. Even the defending champion. the Podesta family's First 45 Elusive 2, has a tenuous connection to us. The late Arthur Podesta, the father of the remarkable Podesta siblings Maya, Christoph and Aaron, took a best result of third overall in the Middle Sea Race with the first Elusive, which was an earlier First 45 – a sister-ship of Cormac Twomey's Sarah J which won the Dingle Race in 1997 and 1999 – which had originally been taken out to the Mediterranean by John Sisk of Dun Laoghaire.

Thus we need to claim a bit of Elusive 2, as our key offshore sailors in Malta - Barry Hurley and Brian Flahive who have many outstanding offshore achievements between them - are sitting this one out, though they have been getting in a spot of sailing by both being at the sharp end of SB20 racing in Malta.

Another serious contender that rings a bell is the hugely individualistic Lombard 45 Pata Negra, the vehicle of dreams for many Irish offshore successes. She's chartered this time round by Andrew Hall of Pwllheli and the Irish Sea Offshore Racing Association.

Jean-Pierre Dick's JP 54 The Kid took line honours in the Malta Coastal Race on Wednesday, and placed third overall Jean-Pierre Dick's JP 54 The Kid took line honours in the Malta Coastal Race on Wednesday and placed third overall

And though Honorary Irish Sailor Jean-Pierre Dick (he was up at The Park, don't y'know) put down a marker for line honours with his JP54 The Kid in Wednesday's 30-mile Malta Coastal Race, the formidable talents of Nin O'Leary of Crosshaven have been shipped aboard the Dutch-owned Maxi 72 Aragon, a Reichel-Pugh design. And there's nothing Nin enjoys more than making a luxury performance cruiser sail much faster than anyone thought possible.

So there's an Irish lineup of sorts, and doubtless once the fleet finally crosses the start line, we'll find that there are others of us among the crews, for there's also representation in the multi-hulls with northerner Mikey Ferguson crewing on the MOD 70 Mana

Nin O'Leary's Middle Sea contender AragonNin O'Leary's Middle Sea contender Aragon - her CV already includes winning the RORC Transatlantic race.

Vendee Globe in November

The pace is then ratcheted with the Vendee Globe getting underway in November. Theoretically, it’s the perfect lockdown event, as it's all about isolation. But there is the problem that if anything happens to one of the contenders, they might have to put into some remote little island which would be just rife for infection from all sorts of novel viruses and bacteria. But that’s an unlikely enough scenario, and either way we can be sure that Marcus Hutchinson, much involved in recent days with the Magenta Project Female Two-Handed Round Ireland Record, will be right in the thick of things in Les Sables d’Olonne, even if they are going to try and run the legendary village oo socially distanced lines.

 The hundred footers make their start in the Rolex Sydney-Hobart Race. Until the pandemic struck, three of them had hoped to be racing in European waters this summer. Photo: Rolex/Carlo BorlenghiThe hundred footers make their start in the Rolex Sydney-Hobart Race. Until the pandemic struck, three of them had hoped to be racing in European waters this summer. Photo: Rolex/Carlo Borlenghi

Sydney Hobart holds out

Beyond that, the focus will swing to the southern hemisphere, where the Cruising Yacht Club of Australia are determinedly holding out on being able to stage the annual Sydney-Hobart race on December 26th. If it does happen, defending overall ace is our own Gordon Maguire, and the likelihood of top navigator-tactician Adrienne Cahalane – originally of Offaly – being in some key role in the fleet can be taken as read.

America's Cup selection stages

Meanwhile, December will see the first selection stages of next year's America's Cup being raced in New Zealand. New Zealand has of course been the poster-girl for national avoidance of COVID-19, so the anti-viral tests which boats and crews being shipped out to Auckland have had to pass are of the most demanding and rigorous type.

New Zealand has been under almost total outsider-exclusion for quite some time now. Thus the chink of light which may be allowed in by the America's Cup is surely welcome, as the prolonged period of virtually total isolation seems to have resulted in the distinctive Kiwi accent becoming even more different from English as she is spoken elsewhere than it was already. Unless some outsiders get in there quite soon, it's only a matter of time before there won't be anybody who can understand a word they say……..

Auckland, the City of a Thousand SailsAuckland, the City of a Thousand Sails, where the total pandemic isolation of New Zealand is resulting in the development of a strange new dialect of English

Published in Vendee Globe

Rolex Sydney Hobart Yacht Race organisers at the Cruising Yacht Club of Australia (CYCA) are continuing their planning for the 2020 edition this December.

Two weeks remain for entries to the 76th edition of the Australian summer bluewater classic, which starts the day after Christmas each year.

The CYCA says it is committed to conducting a COVID-safe race for competitors, spectators, volunteers, officials and staff alike.

To this end, the club says it has been working for many months with authorities including the New South Wales and Tasmanian governments in the shared goal of conducting a great race.

“Our aim is to bring Australia and those watching around the world the amazing spectacle that is our annual blue water classic safely,” the CYCA said in a statement. “Fans should expect a number of changes to be made to the shore-side aspect of the race.”

As previously reported on Afloat.ie, entries will close on Thursday 29 October for this year’s race, which not only will mark 75 years of women in the great race but will also be the first to include a two-handed division.

Irish sailing has figured strongly in previous editions, with last year’s overall winners Ichi Ban featuring Howth’s Gordon Maguire as sailing master.

Published in Sydney to Hobart
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A new two-handed division has been included in the 2020 Rolex Sydney Hobart Race, encouraging new entrants in the Cruising Yacht Club of Australia’s famous blue-ribbon event.

Entries are now open for 2020’s 628-nautical-mile challenge, with the just-launched documentation encouraging the usual brigade of sailors – plus a whole new pool of talent – to join the adventure.

A fresh fleet of adventurers look set to sail to Hobart, too, following the introduction of a two-handed division in the race for the first time. Interest will also be high in the ever-increasing number of women participants, supporters and fans, with the 2020 race marking 75 years of female participation in the race.

First conducted in 1945 from the Cruising Yacht Club of Australia in Rushcutters Bay, Sydney, the annual bluewater classic, which starts on Boxing Day each year, has evolved into a pinnacle sailing event, drawing interest and entries from around the globe.

“The 2020 Rolex Sydney Hobart Yacht Race, following our incredibly successful 75th Sydney Hobart in 2019, should be one for the history books once again,” CYCA Commodore Paul Billingham said.

“With the introduction of two-handed sailing, ahead of its inclusion in the Paris 2024 Olympic Games, and the celebration of 75 years of female participation in the race, there’s plenty to look forward to and plenty of reasons why this will be a huge event.”

The 2020 Sydney Hobart Yacht Race fleet looks set to intrigue. While reigning overall winners, the Tattersall Cup-winning Ichi Ban (with Howth's Gordon Maguire as sailing master), is likely to return, the line-honours title winners Comanche, led by Irish ex-pat Jim Cooney and Samantha Grant, has been sold. Who will claim some of world sailing’s most sought-after silverware in 2020 is anyone’s guess.

The Notice of Race and online entry is now available under the ‘For Competitors’ tab on the official website. Entries close at 1700 hours on 29 October.

Published in Sydney to Hobart
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Matt Allen’s Botin 52 Ichi Ban, with Howth Yacht Club's Gordon Maguire very much on the strength of a crew of all the talents, is currently leading IRC overall in the 75th Rolex Sydney Hobart Race as the fleet emerges from the torrid fluctuations of a relatively windless patch off southeast Australia in the approaches to the Bass Straits.

While there is now no way any of the fleet leaders can hope to approach the record course time set by Jim Cooney & Samantha Grant’s hundred-foot Comanche in 2017, a reasonably enthusiastic northeaster is developing off the east coast of Tasmania, and as she begins to get the full benefit of it with 202 miles to the finish, Comanche is leading on the water and recording 25.6 knots.

But in the IRC handicap racing for the all-important Tattersall Cup, the consistent Matt Allen-Gordon Maguire combo on the Botin 52 Ichi Ban are currently leading. Ichi Ban led her class out of Sydney Harbour in convincing style, and in some of the flatter patches on down the coast she was at times embarrassingly close to the five hundred footers in the SuperMaxi division.

Yet even Ichi Ban had to take her punishment in getting through the flattest patches, and at one stage the computer analysis had her briefly back in 81st overall. Those fluctuating computer snapshots can be moments of torture – or wild over-encouragement - which experienced crews learn to take in their stride. But for the Sydney-Hobart virgins on Darren Wright’s First 40 HYC Breakthrough, it was real roller-coaster stuff, hero to zero and all that, as they went from being in single figures in both Division 6 and overall yesterday evening into the relative full stop in the soft patch which at one stage had them looking at 100th overall and 15th in class.

Now they’re getting back on track with a return to 9th in class, though there’s still a mountain to climb as they’re at 77th overall, but in a very fluid situation.

Meanwhile, in the clarifying overall leadership battle, Ichi Ban currently finds herself in close competition in the numbers game for the overall lead with the French Milius 50 Daguet (Frederic Puzet) and Quentin Stewart’s experimental 46ft Maverick 49 - entered as home-porting in Guernsey in the Channels Islands - which sports both canting keel and DSS foils. Ireland’s Sean McCarter was involved in the test pilot periods of her development from being new in 2013-2014, and while she has recorded an eclectic listing of successes, a podium place in the 75th RSHR really would hit the button.

Race Tracker here

Published in Sydney to Hobart
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After rapid initial progress southward from Sydney in the 75th Rolex Sydney-Hobart Race, the big boat leaders on the water are being slowed by a large area of light airs off Australia’s southeast corner, and the smaller craft are making hay as they continue to carry the fair wind which sent the fleet on their way in classic style from Sydney Heads.

The mighty hundred footer Comanche (Jim Cooney & Samantha Grant) did well to take over the line honours lead by choosing a course to the eastward of other fleet pace-setters, but this evening at 1800 hrs Irish time a carefully selected route down the middle or even slightly to the west seems to be paying off.

Breakthrough First 40HYC Breakthrough chasing other First 40s as the run southward begins. As of this evening, she had overtaken three of them

It’s certainly working big time for the sole Irish entry, the First 40 HYC Breakthrough (Darren Wright, Howth YC). For much of the day, HYC Breakthrough was placed at 14th in Division 6 and 25th overall. But the tactics of the Howth crew in seeking the best breezes have paid off with the boat making a breakthrough and currently ranking as 11th overall in IRC in the 157-strong fleet, and 7th in Division 6 in the midst of some very tightly-packed times, having overtaken three other First 40s during the past four hours.

But with 495 miles still to race and several different wind permutations being suggested by forecasters, this is developing as a Hobart Race for those who are tops with patience, persistence – and good luck.

Race tracker here

Published in Sydney to Hobart
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Irish fortunes in the Sydney Hobart race are led by the super maxi co-owned by Jim Cooney (whose family hails from County Meath) who is the fleet leader while Irish hopes are also high on Darren Wright's Howth Yacht Club First 40 Breakthrough that started well among the First 40s to be currently placed 16th in class 6, 17nm SE of Kiama. Also from Howth, sailing master Gordon Maguire, is a race favourite on the TP52 Ichi Ban and second on IRC and the current IRC 1 division leader. Yet another Howth sailor on the JV62 Chinese Whisper Shane Diviney is eighth overall in IRC. Navigator onboard Chinese Whisper is Sydney local with Irish roots Adrienne Cahalan.  Afloat's WM Nixon previewed the race here

Early Lead for Commanche

Comanche, the 2017 line honours winner and race record holder, fought back brilliantly from a slow start in this year’s 75th running of the Cruising Yacht Club of Australia’s race by taking the lead soon after exiting Sydney Heads.

Sydney hobart startThe front runners dash to be the first to exit Sydney Harbour and make a jump on the rest of the fleet. Photo - Rolex/Carlo Borlenghi

The super maxi, co-owned by Cooney (who hails from County Meath) and Samantha Grant, seemingly laboured for speed from the start compared to her four rivals, but once offshore, her downwind superiority came into play.

Comanche, third on line honours last year, was fifth out of the heads. First was InfoTrack, and then Wild Oats XI, SHK Scallywag, and Black Jack respectively.

However, by the time Comanche was sailing abeam of Cronulla, she was the furthest out to sea and leading ahead from InfoTrack, SHK Scallywag, Black Jack and then Wild Oats XI.

InfoTrack's navigator, Brad Kellett, reported at 1445 hrs, saying: “Comanche has come into her own; she is leading and holding us off.

ComancheComanche with the other 100-foot super maxis in her sight which she quickly reeled in and nudged past. Photo: Rolex/Carlo Borlenghi

“Wild Oats XI and Black Jack have different plans and we are into our own routine. We’re sailing tight downwind at 20 knots of boat speed. We can’t do anything about Comanche. We will just sail to the best of our ability. The race is anyone’s…”

Howth Yacht ClubBreakthrough FlagHowth Yacht Club fly the flag for Ireland on Darren Wright's Breakthrough entry before the Sydney Hobart start

The start was spectacular. The fleet of 157 set off from four lines on Sydney Harbour in a building 10-15 knot north to nor-easterly breeze. The harbour was awash with spectator boats.

Meanwhile, as the front runners charged away through lumpy waters and their first night at sea, last out of the Heads was the American 52-footer, Cailin Lomhara. Owned by Larry and Charlene Green, the pair is on a cruise of the world and thought it was an ideal opportunity to join in the 75th race.

The 2019 Rolex Sydney Hobart start was officially declared clear, with no boats breaking their various start lines. There was an early concern though, when the Sydney 47, St Jude, reported she had lost steering.

However, soon after, Geoff Cropley reported from the Noel Cornish (Cruising Yacht Club of Australia Vice Commodore) owned yacht, that the problem had been resolved.

Published in Sydney to Hobart
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William M Nixon has been writing about sailing in Ireland and internationally for many years, with his work appearing in leading sailing publications on both sides of the Atlantic. He has been a regular sailing columnist for four decades with national newspapers in Dublin, and has had several sailing books published in Ireland, the UK, and the US. An active sailor, he has owned a number of boats ranging from a Mirror dinghy to a Contessa 35 cruiser-racer, and has been directly involved in building and campaigning two offshore racers. His cruising experience ranges from Iceland to Spain as well as the Caribbean and the Mediterranean, and he has raced three times in both the Fastnet and Round Ireland Races, in addition to sailing on two round Ireland records. A member for ten years of the Council of the Irish Yachting Association (now the Irish Sailing Association), he has been writing for, and at times editing, Ireland's national sailing magazine since its earliest version more than forty years ago

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