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In the closest contest in the history of the Sydney Hobart Yacht Race, the four remaining super maxis in the Cruising Yacht Club of Australia’s 628 nautical mile race were separated by just five nautical miles this morning - Comanche leading the way

Jim Cooney, who hails from Bolliver in County Meath, and Samantha Grant’s Comanche are off record pace, 34nm behind her record of last year, but lead the pack from the Oatley family’s Wild Oats XI, with Mark Richards at the helm. Peter Harburg’s Black Jack and Christian Beck’s InfoTrack have taken the inside lane closer to the rhumb line as they try to slip past the two leaders.

The four yachts are south-east of Gabo Island in Victoria, ready to sail across Bass Strait this morning.

Chris Links reported from Wild Oats XI this morning: “We crossed tacks with Comanche a couple of times this morning between 3 and 4am. We can just see Black Jack too. There’s nothing in it. We’re doing 18 knots in a northerly of 15 knots. We’re on the edge of Bass Strait – entering it.”

Links conceded, “This is the closest race we’ve been in – we’ve been in close races with Comanche before, but never been in such a close race with four of us.”

It is early days to talk overall contenders, but it will be no surprise to anyone that Matt Allen’s TP52, Ichi Ban, continues to lead the race for the Tattersall Cup. Bruce Taylor’s Caprice 40 Chutzpah is revelling in the conditions she was built for, and is currently in second place from the Carkeek 60, Winning Appliances and Ray Roberts’ Farr 55, Hollywood Boulevard.

Carl Crafoord reported from his and Tim Horkings’ Sail Exchange this morning: “We are going great,” he said from 10th overall. “We’re first in Division (3). We’re gybing in current, 30 miles off Bermagui with Enterprise (the modified Farr 40 owned by Anthony Kirke). All well on board – we’ve had a good night.”

A fourth retirement from the race overnight, with M3 Team Hungary, led by Roni Ormandlaki, suffering a broken rig and on her way back to Sydney. She joins other early retirements, Zen (NSW), Sun Hung Kai Scallywag (Hong Kong) and Patriot (Vic), leaving the fleet at 81 and nine internationals.

Published in Sydney to Hobart
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What would Christmas be like without sailing? Such a state of deprivation just doesn’t bear thinking about writes W M Nixon. But thanks to the wonders of modern communication - which at other times can be too much of a good thing - your Irish sailor who finds Christmas is becoming over-powering can hide away and dial up the already busy entry list for next summer’s Volvo Dun Laoghaire Regatta, or follow the racetrackers for the Golden Globe or the Rolex Sydney-Hobart Race, and there he or she is – gone…….

Marvellous. You don’t even need to go sailing to get sailing at Christmas. There’s the ongoing drama of the Golden Globe to take you away. In it, the wonderful senior sailor Jean-Luc van den Heede (who looks for all the world like Willie Nelson’s much healthier brother, and sails every bit as well as Brother Willie sings) is hanging onto his lead despite his rig being in shreds, and in recent days has even managed to hold his distance ahead of the very determined Dutchman Mark Slats.

jean luc van den heede2Separated at birth…..? Singer Willie Nelson and sailor Jean-Luc van den Heede 

willie nelson3

Slats doesn’t look like any iconic singer that we know of, but we’re open to suggestions, for our knowledge of the Dutch music scene is limited, and this is the season of goodwill. That said, we’re all rooting for Willie (sorry, for Jean-Luc), for the man has sailing talent and courage to spare.

For the rest of us, if the complete lower shroud mast fitting started cutting its way down through the alloy extrusion of the mast itself, then it would be a matter of getting to port pronto under power, putting professional riggers on the job, and maybe even getting m’learned friends to write a letter to the manufacturers.

But when it happened to Jean-Luc after a massive knockdown of his Rustler 36 Malmut, he was in the middle of nowhere, yet somehow this 73-year-old guy got himself up the mast in the midst of the very rolling ocean and did enough between the shroud tangs and the lower spreader sockets to stop the shrouds cutting any further south.

mark slats boat4Mark Slats’ Rustler 36 Maverick looking decidedly purposeful. Despite two knockdowns in the storm which dismasted Gregor McGuckin and Abilash Tomy, Maverick’s rig is still intact and he is remorselessly hunting down the damaged Golden Globe leader Malmut

It did mean that he could no longer drive his Rustler 36 Malmut as hard as he would have liked, as the mast at times has been giving a passable impression of a piece of spaghetti. So in going on round Cape Horn and such things, he was forced to be sailing with three reefs in when one or two would normally have been all that was required.

Thus an astonishing lead of well over a thousand miles on second-placed Slats has been steadily whittled away, but as of today (Friday) van den Heede is through the 3,900 mile barrier to the finish and 707 miles ahead of Slats. But with some very difficult conditions to be negotiated with this dodgy rig before he gets beck to Les Sables d’Olonne, his problems will be prodigious, for there’ll almost certainly be rugged windward work in the Northeast Trades, and the cobbled-together rig setup emphatically dislikes slugging to windward.

If he does get back under his own steam, there’ll be some party, and this item here from Facebook shows that Jean-Luc isn’t shy of giving it a bit of a lash with the old vocal cords himself. It may not be comparable with Willie Nelson giving his defining rendition of The City of New Orleans, but then we doubt if Willie could get up a mast and carry out the repair which has carried Malmut over thousands of miles.

Meanwhile, the Southern Ocean is now becoming quite cluttered with abandoned Golden Globe racers, and all of them mastless. Gregor McGuckin’s Biscay 36 Hanley Energy Endurance is the most salvageable at the moment, as she has drifted to within 1,250 miles of Western Australia.

Although any salvor would have to think about a new rig in due course, at least there’s the bonus of the special Glendalough whiskey which - all being well - is still safe in its barrel down below decks, as the pre-race foredeck location at Dun Laoghaire, Falmouth and Les Sables was for display purposes only. Ultimately, the idea was to bottle it at race’s end as a collector’s item, with each bottle selling for ginormous amounts. It could happen yet.

glendalough whiskey5Attention all whiskey enthusiasts in Western Australia…..this unique barrel of Glendalough is stowed below aboard Hanley Energy Endurance only 1250 miles away from Perth. Photo: W M Nixon


When we think of what the Glendalough barrel and the boats have been through since this Golden Jubilee Suhaili circumnavigation re-enactment began on July 1st, it does rather put the claims about the Rolex Sydney-Hobart being one of the most rugged in the world into perspective. But for sailors who aren’t superhuman, the 628-mile annual classic can be quite enough to be going along with – a view which is supported by the many Volvo Ocean Race veterans who will be on various boats of significance when the race to Hobart gets going on December 26th.

Among them is ex-Pat Gordon Maguire, very much an Australian sailor these days, but he cut his sailing teeth in Howth. He did his fair share and more of successful Volvo racing, but next Wednesday the number one item on the agenda is getting the best performance out of Matt Allen Botin 52 Ichi Ban, with which the Allen-Maguire team took the Tattersalls Cup – the overall IRC winner – in 2017’s race. If they manage it again this time round, it will only be the third time in the race’s history that it has been won back-to-back.

ichi ban6Matt Allen’s Botin 52 Ichi Ban, with Gordon Maguire on the strength for his 21st race to Hobart, is looking for another overall IRC win for the Tattersalls Cup in next week’s Rolex Sydney-Hobart race

ichi ban7A potent yet simple racing machine – tiller-steering enthusiasts see their dreams fulfilled aboard Ichi Ban

Inevitably much interest focuses on the half-dozen hundred footers, with the Mark Richards-skippered Wild Oats XI increasingly fancied, as it doesn’t look as though there’ll always be enough wind around to get the best out of the big fat girls such as Jim Cooney’s Comanche and Christian Beck’s Infotrack.

There’s Irish interest in both of them, as Jim Cooney maintains family links with Ballivor in County Meath and Justin Slattery is in his crew, while Infotrack we knew well when she wasn’t quite looking her best – she was then called Rambler 100, and was more than somewhat inverted at the Fastnet Rock in August 2011.


infotrack racing8The boat of many identities. The JK100 Infotrack has had several different names over the years, and looks decidedly different these days in Australia (above) than when last seen in Irish waters near the Fastnet Rock in August 2011 (below)

rambler capsized9

Other Irish interest focuses on the attractive Sydney 47 Wot’s Next, as Brian O’Sullivan of Tralee (overall winner of the 2013 Dun Laoghaire to Dingle Race and June 2013 “Sailor of the Month”) is in the crew. Wot’s Next is as Australian as the kangaroo - the Sydney 47 marque was designed by Murray Burns and Dovell in 2004, and they’re built in state-of-the-art style by Sydney Yachts, which was spun out of the late Ian Bashford’s raceboat building company. The word is the Sydney Yachts inheritors build just slightly more ruggedly than Bashford aimed for. He was so obsessed (and quite rightly so) with keeping weight out of the ends, that it’s said you could almost push your finger through the transoms of his all-conquering J/35s. Maybe so, but they did the business - they were winners every which way.

wots next10The attractive Sydney 47 Wot’s Next will have former Dun Laoghaire to Dingle Race overall winner Brian O’Sullivan of Tralee in her crew for the Sydney-Hobart Race
sydney 47 accommodation11The accommodation style in the totally Australian Sydney 47 is very much ahead of the curve


Christmas is a time for mixed feelings this year for the organisers of the Volvo Dun Laoghaire Regatta, for this week they lost one of their founding fathers with the sad death of Owen McNally. will carry an appreciation of Owen in the near future, and he of all people would have been delighted with the healthy uptake there has been in early entries for 2019’s staging of Ireland’s ultimate sailfest, whose dates are July 11th to 14th.

Already they’re pushing towards the hundred mark, with early entries in 22 of the 39 classes for which racing will be scheduled, and notably strong input from outside Dublin Bay.

You may recall that Half Ton Classics Champion Dave Cullen with Checkmate admitted - after he’d won the title in Belgium - that he always like to have things done well in time, so doubtless Checkmate has already been prepared for next season by Alan Power at Malahide. Meanwhile, she’s firmly on the list for Dun Laoghaire next July, as too are the two HYC-owned J/24s which - in a sign of the times - are to be campaigned by Under 18 crews.

In the depths of the economic recession, they were sailed by Under 25 crews, but in these boomtime days, it seems that any capable 24-year-old is expected to have secured his or her own boat by some means or other, but Under 18s deserve a helping hand.

Either way, getting the entry in early is not only efficient and evidence of good management, but it acts as a very positive signs for existing or potential crew, and it’s of interest to note that from the home fleet at Dun Laoghaire, those signed up include the Goodbody clan with their successful J/109 White Mischief, and the Dublin Bay 2018 First 31.7 champion Camira (Peter Beamish & Andrew Jones

camira racing12The Dublin Bay First 31.7 champion Camira (Peter Beamish & Andrew Jones) is already signed up for next summer’s Volvo Dun Laoghaire Regatta. Photo: O’Brien

Published in W M Nixon

Few international sporting events gives a stronger sense of the cohesive nature of the Irish diaspora than the annual Rolex Sydney Hobart Race writes W M Nixon. For there were certainly sailors of Irish descent in the first race of 1945, which was largely inspired by offshore racing legend Captain John Illingworth of the Royal Ocean Racing Club, who happened to be stationed in Sydney as a naval officer as World War II drew to a close and new distance races were once again possible.

Since then, Irish crew either chartered complete boats, or were significant parts of crews. But the real breakthrough came with 1991’s Irish three-boat team’s overall winning involvement in the Southern Cross Series, of which the Hobart Race was the climax.

In the final inshore race, the boat being campaigned by Howth sailors Gordon Maguire and Kieran Jameson was dismasted in a collision with an Australian boat which was at fault. Points allocations were adjusted accordingly to the end of the series, but this led to personnel changes for the race to Hobart, in which Ireland now had only two boats.

atara 1991 sydney2John Storey’s Atara in Sydney Harbour, celebrated on the Afloat magazine cover after she took her place in history as overall winner of the 1991 Rolex Sydney Hobart Race, sailed by Harold Cudmore and Gordon Maguire.

One was the John Storey’s 43ft Atara, which was being skipppered by Cork’s Harold Cudmore, who promptly drafted Gordon Maguire into his helming lineup. Ireland got their first Hobart race overall win and the Southern Cross Trophy with it, while Gordon Maguire’s gradual progession towards becoming a leading Australian sailor got under way, though several years were to pass before he moved Down Under for good.

While he was always in the frame in any Rolex Sydney-Hobart Race he sailed, his next overall win didn’t come until 2011 with Steven Ainsworth’s Reichel Pugh 63 Loki. And now, after several years of successful partnership with Australian Sailing President Matt Allen in a number of boats all called Ichi Ban (it’s Japanese for No.1), Maguire has recorded one of the finest overall wins yet achieved, in the most demanding section of perhaps the most competitive fleet ever assembled.

When that was added to Jim Rooney’s super-maxi LDV Comanche being awarded the Line Honours prize with Justin Slattery as bow-man, it put the Irish links on the pinnacle of success. But this was only the start of it. For in addition to noted Irish-Australian names to be found at the front of several classes, four Irish sailors had travelled out to Sydney to take part.

The one who had got there by the longest route was of course Conall Morrison of Derry/Londonderry, skippering in the Clipper 70 Round the World race. The Sydney-Hobart’s inclusion in the Clipper programme has been good for the sailors of Lough Swilly, as Sean McCarter also won this leg when he was racing round the world. But while Sean McCarter was to be awarded international recognition for a rescue at sea in a different stage of the Clipper Race, Conall Morrison and his crew carried out a man-overboard rescue of a crewman from another boat racing to Hobart, and did it with such exemplary skill that eventually both boats were able to continue with the race, with’s redress of rescue time giving her a clear win in the Clippper Class.

Meanwhile at the front end of the fleet, international navigator Ian Moore, now Cowes-resident but originally from Carrickfergus, was calling the shots on the Cookson 50 Mascalzone Latino 32. In a races round which the TP 52s fitted perfectly, it was only occasionally that a Cookson 50 figured prominently in the rankings, yet somehow Moore placed Mascalzone to such good effect that at some stage she was in the top three, and at the finish was fifth overall and second in Class 0.

As for our general impression of the race, it is Ian Moore’s opinion that Ichi Ban was raced “exceptionally well throughout” which carried most weight. But meanwhile that second in Class 0 mustn’t obscure the fact that Class 0 was won by the American-owned former Volvo 70 Wizard (ex Giacomo) aboard which Dublin-born sailmaker Noel Drennan was sailing his 32nd Sydney-Hobart Race.

emmet kerin3Emmet Kerin of Limerick (centre) in Hobart with the Class 3 trophy won by Ariel

For Limerick GP Dr Emmet Kerin, who normally sails out of Kilrush on the family’s First 36.7, the jaunt to Sydney to race with Ron Forster on his First 40 Ariel is a yearly highlight, but 2017 will be remembered better than most – Ariel won Class 3.

A noted Irish sailor making his first foray to Hobart was Mini-Transat hero Tom Dolan. He shipped with a mixed Australian-Chinese crew on the veteran Jarkan 12.5 China Easyway, and they’d their best race yet, recording third in Class 4. But that was only the beginning of success in Class 4, as Offaly-born navigator Adrienne Cahalane was doing her 26th Sydney-Hobart, and she did it aboard a veteran-plus – the 1931-built Sparkman & Stephens Dorade, which won the Fastnet Race in 1931 and again in 1933, but has been so well restored by American owner Matt Brooks that she’s able for the rugged Sydney-Hobart Race, and not merely as a survivor – Dorade, at 86 years old, took second in IRC Class 4.

Briefly annotated, the achievements with Irish involvement are:

Line Honours and 19th overall: LDV Comanche (Jim Cooney and Justin Slattery).

First Class 1 and First Overall: Ichi Ban (Gordon Maguire).

First Class 0 and Fourth Overall: Wizard (Noel Drennan).

Second Class 0 and Fifth Overall: Mascalzone Latino 32 (Ian Moore).

First Class 3 and 34th overall: Ariel (Emmet Kerin).

Second Class 4 and 31st overall: Dorade (Adrienne Cahalane).

Third Class 4 and 32nd overall: China Easyway (Tom Dolan)

mascalzone latino 1The Cookson 50 Mascalzone Latino revelling in the stronger winds, on her way to second in Class 0 and fifth overall. She makes for a fascinating comparison with the TP 52 Ichi Ban (below). For although the Cookson 50 theoretically offers a cruising option with ample accommodation and the comfort of twin wheel steering, the TP 52 is total racing, crewed by bruised and battered athletes, and with massive tiller steering only for people who really know what they’re at.

ichi ban racing5

Published in Sydney to Hobart
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As indicated yesterday here, Matt Allen’s Ichi Ban with Howth Yacht Club's Gordon Maguire onboard has been confirmed as the overall winner of the 2017 Rolex Sydney Hobart.

With 28 races under his belt, this is the culmination of a quest to claim the top prize at one of the world’s most revered sporting occasions by one of Australia’s stalwarts of the sport of sailing. The coincidence of a new boat and a forecast that encouraged the 50-footers, made Ichi Ban one of the pre-race favourites. That should not in any way diminish the scale of this achievement. Ichi Ban needed to sail a near perfect race to beat their immediate opposition, both on the water and on handicap.

Victory was celebrated at the dockside prize giving, where Allen and his crew received the coveted Rolex timepiece and Tattersall Cup as just reward for the persistence, courage and skill exhibited throughout the race. For Allen, the moment was not without emotion. A winner of the race back in 1983, as crew on Challenge II, this is his first taste of success as an owner and skipper. Allen has come close before, including last year when the Derwent arguably robbed him and his crew.

“Winning this race is a dream for us all,” said a grinning Allen, who detailed their preparations. “We built a fast TP52 hull, strengthening and waterproofing it for offshore racing and the rigorous conditions of the Rolex Sydney Hobart. We took the rig from our old boat, incorporated the latest technology and combined it with the most amazing crew I have ever sailed with.”

Over the years, Allen and his crewmates have become accustomed to the vagaries of the race, its ability to punish weakness and to be selective with luck. “We had to push the boat all the time,” he explained. “You are not going to win this race without pushing and the crew did just the most incredible effort, from the judgment calls by Gordon Maguire and Will Oxley to the guys driving the boat. The crew left nothing on the table, they worked for each other and were inspirational.”

The race was not without issues. Sails were damaged and bodies bruised in the hard, downwind driving conditions of the second day. There was an alarming, fortunately brief, park up on the Derwent. Sailing Master, Gordon Maguire, on his 17th race was quick to recognize the crew’s contribution: “It was not the boat that won us the race and it wasn’t good fortune. We won it through sheer hard work and effort.”

Races can often be won and lost by decisions over when to press and when to pull back. In Ichi Ban’s case, there was little of the latter. There was no room. The usual caution to protect equipment and people was put to one side in a calculated throw of the dice. “It was everything or nothing,” according to Maguire, who has won the race twice before. “There was no point in not pushing 110% on the 27 December, because that was where the race would be decided. A point came where we said ‘stuff it’, forget the sails, just keep going. If it breaks we are out, if we don’t push we are out.”

Navigator, Will Oxley, also emphasised the critical significance of the human component in this race: “We’ve learnt a lot over the years and invested effort in making sure things function in all conditions. That allowed us to get the information we needed to make the correct decisions. But in this race, the most important element was the guys on deck, driving the boat and trimming. Those guys really won us this race.”

Bob Steel, the two-time winner of the Rolex Sydney Hobart, whose boat Quest posed the biggest threat to Ichi Ban, eventually finishing second overall, confirmed the importance of people: “The downhill conditions suited our boat, but it was hard work. You had to concentrate 24/7. It was physically very challenging. The guys on the winches grinding the spinnaker and the main in and out needed rotating every 10, 15 minutes to avoid complete exhaustion.”

The threat to the boat in such conditions can be severe, as Steel agreed: “As every puff comes through, you risk being knocked down and your race being over. You can completely wipe a boat out accidentally gybing at 30 knots.”

John Markos, Commodore of race organizer the Cruising Yacht Club of Australia, expressed the club’s delight at Matt Allen’s success: “Wins like this are career pinnacles. They reflect the effort that people put into their sport. Matt’s engagement in sailing and this race is total. As an administrator, he is on the board of the CYCA and is a past Commodore; he is President of Australian Sailing and is on the board of the Australian Olympic Committee. This is his 28th race; it has been a long time coming and we couldn’t be happier.”

Both Oxley and Maguire have raced around the world, and continue to compete at the highest level. They are professional yachtsmen held in high regard by their peers. When they speak, it is with measure and certainty; hardened sailors they may be, but they take pride in their work and this win clearly means a lot.

Maguire commented “Winning this race is a life experience. To do so once is amazing. The second time, it doesn’t diminish. Each race is so individual. The battle to win the trophy becomes its own entity and each medal has its own story, its own memories. This will probably be my most memorable because everyone on the boat wanted it so much. There wasn’t a quitter among us. Everyone backed everyone.”

“This is the first time I’ve won this race on handicap,” advised Oxley, whose experience as a navigator spans close to 40 years. “As an Australian, this is the biggest race you can win. I’ve done five round the world races, but the first question people ask you in Australia, when they know you are a sailor, is whether you’ve done the Rolex Sydney Hobart and how many. In that respect, this is certainly the biggest win of my career.”

Passion and determination go hand in hand in any form of success. Both are required to overcome the hurdles, the disappointments and frustrations. If Allen’s result this year is anything it is a sporting lesson: “It hasn’t really sunk in yet. The Rolex Sydney Hobart – it’s the premier event – everyone follows it and knows the winners of this race. I did my first in 1980 at the age of 17 and I’ve been planning this race since about 2001. It’s been a long-held passion to win it.” And now he has.

Published in Sydney to Hobart
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A time penalty of one hour. That is the punishment meted out today by the International Protest Committee to Mark Richards and the hundred footer Wild Oats XI for the near-collision with Jim Cooney’s LDV Comanche in a port-and-starboard incident on Tuesday afternoon 15 minutes into the Rolex Sydney-Hobart Race 2017. The means that LDV Comanche is now the official Line Honours Winner writes W M Nixon. 

With boats this size, any impact is dangerous. The full-blown collision which was narrowly avoided by Comanche’s swift action thereby averted the very real danger of the high-tension carbon fibre hulls exploding in lethal splinters. Thus Cooney and his team felt they had to go ahead with their protest in the interests of safety as much as sportsmanship, and the very definite nature of the penalty means that the Protest Committee emphatically agreed with them.

comanche protestWild Oats tacks in front of Comanche, a maneouvre later penalised by the protest jury

Scroll along the timeline on the vid below to 20 minutes to see County Cork bowman Justin Slattery on Comanche signal the incident that led to Wild Oats losing line honours victory.

The orginal Line Honour top two placings are thus reversed, with LDV Comanche officially recorded as first to finish on 1 day 9 hours 15 minutes and 24 seconds, and Wild Oats 33 minutes astern on 1 day 9 hours 48 minutes and 50 seconds, but still nearly two hours clear of the third placed Black Jack (Peter Harburg).

Listen to Cooney talk to the media in the ABC newsclip after his Hobart protest victory here

In the equally important – some would say more important – handicap placings, the TP 52 Ichi Ban (Matt Allen), with Ireland’s Gordon Maguire as Sailing Master, is now firmly in first overall. But there has been a welcome up-grading for other Irish sailors, with the American-owned Volvo 70 Wizard, whose crew includes Noel Drennan, now officially fourth overall and first in Class 0, while the Italian Cookson 50 Mascalzone Latino 32, navigated by Ian Moore, has moved up 5th overall and second in Class 0, just 11 minutes behind Wizard.

In classes still racing though now with no chance of challenging the overall winners, the First 40 Ariel with Emmet Kerin of Limerick in the crew is currently third in Class 3 with 112 miles to race, while the veteran China Easyway with Tom Dolan from County Meath on board is currently fourth in IRC Class 4 and third in ORC Class 4.

Published in Sydney to Hobart
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Gordon Maguire, originally of Howth Yacht Club but now well established as a leading figure in Australian sailing, looks set to be confirmed for his third overall win in the annual Rolex Sydney Hobart Race this (Thursday) morning writes W M Nixon

Although most of the fleet still had to finish, as Sailing Master aboard Matt Allen’s new TP 52 Ichi Ban, Maguire had the satisfaction of hearing his skills praised as a primary factor in a fine win after a very hard-fought race.

While they were the leading TP 52 from an early stage, sail damage hampered their progress. And then this morning as they came into the final flukey stages in the Derwent River with a good margin in hand, a local calm patch had them parked for 20 minutes within sight of the line.

But they got going again and in the end their elapsed time of 1 day 19 hours and 10 minutes proved to be a course record for a boat with a non-canting keel and no water ballast, despite being only a 52-footer.

As for their corrected time of 2 days 12 hours and 13 minutes, this gave them a clear margin of 21 minutes on the next in line, another TP 52, the much-fancied Quest (Paul Clitheroe & Bob Steel).

Other sailors of Irish interest who have come in within the top ten include Dublin-born Noel Drennan aboard the American Volvo 70 Wizard, who can expect to be at least sixth overall and possibly better, and top navigator Ian Moore on the Italian Cookson 50 Mascalzone Latino 32, currently rated eighth overall but again with a chance to rise in the rankings if boats still at sea are slowed back.

Published in Sydney to Hobart
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If sailing has a more exquisite form of torture than the final miles of the Rolex Sydney Hobart Race, then we don’t really want to know about it writes W M Nixon. Having experienced proper offshore sailing southward since clearing Sydney Heads, you reach Tasman Island off Tasmania’s east coast, and then shape your coast west and then northwest into the increasingly narrow Derwent Estuary and the very urban finish line right on the Hobart waterfront.

The change in sailing conditions can be so total as to be disorienting. Yesterday, fleet leaders LDV Comanche (Jim Cooney) and Wild Oats XI (the Oatley Family, skippered by Mark Richards) came scorching down Tasmania’s east coast, sometimes doing better than 30 knots, which is quite something even when you’re on a hundred footer.

Comanche was leading, and leading well, for in a big breeze she’s the flying saucer. But when the winds fall light, she’s the fat lady that doesn’t sing, whereas the hyper-skinny Wild Oats can hang in there when the going is heavy, and when it goes light, she’s the fastest girl in town.

wild oats chasing comanche2The skinny girl chasing the fat lady – Wild Oats closing in on Comanche in the approaches to Hobart

Thus for a while they were actually trading places, but with less than ten miles to go to the finish and the sun setting, there wasn’t enough wind to go round, and Wild Oats got ahead and stayed ahead. Thus although they were only slightly more than a mile apart coming to the finish, LDV Comanche’s torture was such that this translated into a gap of 28 minutes.

There is of course a protest hanging on the incident 15 minutes after the start, when Wild Oats was forced to tack from port when very close indeed to LDV Comanche on starboard. But as with all protests, it may not turn out to be quite as simple as it appears from some of the photos. And anyway, had the wind only had the common decency to hold up enough to keep LDV Comanche on the pace, it might all be forgotten.

Meanwhile, Irish interest can alight in many other parts of the fleet still racing, as Gordon Maguire skippering the TP 52 Ichi Ban, and Ian Moore navigating on the Cookson 50 Mascalzone Latino 32, are a close first and third overall. Ichi Ban has 48 miles to sail, while the lower-rated Mascalzone has 74. But they won’t be easy miles, for in less than an hour, Ichi Ban will be shaping her course round Tasman Island and entering the Torture Zone.

ldv in derwent3Gasping for it. Once the wind falls below a certain level, LDV Comanche seems glued to the water as she glides towards the finish line

The race has been going so quickly that we’re still getting info about the Irish who are involved. So let’s hear it for Dr Emmet Kerin of Limerick, who sails out of Kilrush on the family’s First 36.7 Zallaq, but is doing the sprint to Hobart for the second time on the Beneteau First 40 Ariel (Ron Forster). They were third in IRC Division 3 last year, currently they’re second and they’re also first in ORCi-Div 4, so there could be celebration on Shannonside very soon.

Dublin-born Noel Drennan on the Volvo 70 Wizard, doing his 32nd Sydney-Hobart, has just 2.5 miles to go to the finish, but with a speed of 3.9 knots that finish line is still a tricky place to reach, though Wizard looks like taking second place in Class 0. Offaly-born Adrienne Cahalane, navigating the mega-classic Dorade of 1931-vintage for Matt Brooks, is on her 26th Hobart Race, and still has 303 miles to go, but must be in line for some sorts of classics prize.

As for Mini-Transat sailor Tom Dolan, he’s doing the race with some Chinese and Australian shipmates on the very veteran Jarkan 12.5 China Easyway, but as they currently lie 3rd in IRC Div 4, it looks as if this golden oldie is doing the business. This gallant boat won the IMS Division in 1991 when she was new and Gordon Maguire was new on the Australian scene and won the Hobart Race overall with Atara, so it looks like a case of what goes round comes round.

Race tracker here

Published in Sydney to Hobart
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Crossing the line 26 minutes after Wild Oats XI, LDV Comanche will take the provisional line honours winner of the Rolex Sydney Hobart Race to the protest room. Jim Cooney told Mark Richards: “Yes, I’m going to pursue it.” “OK, no worries, mate, no problem,” Richards said.

Later, Cooney explained the incident shortly after the start.

“It was a port/starboard infringement. We were the right-of-way boat: they were the give-way boat.

“We hailed starboard; they were the give-way boat and they left it until far too late to tack and they tacked right in our water. We had to take evasive action or possibly take both of us out of the race.

“We could have taken their backstay out; they could have broken our bowsprit.”

He said a few minutes in the race could have made all the difference.

The protest will be heard by an international jury in the next two days.

Published in Sydney to Hobart
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The notoriously light and flukey night sailing conditions of the Derwent River in the final stages of the Rolex Sydney Hobart Race are frustrating what has been an otherwise textbook performance by Jim Cooney's super-maxi LDV Comanche writes W M Nixon at 1000 hrs Wednesday December 27th.

Having led the rival Wild Oats XI (Oatley family) ever since clearing the entrance to Sydney Harbour in an often strong favourable breeze which saw both boats topping 30 knots at times, LDV Comanche’s much beamier hull has been at a disadvantage in the gentler going in the long sheltered approaches to the finish, whereas the extra-slim Wild Oats has been making ground all the time, and accelerating more quickly when a favourable puff of wind arrives.

Now with darkness coming on at 9.10 pm local time, Wild Oats has just 5.5 miles to sail and has accelerated to 9.5knot, while LDV Comanche has 6.3 miles to sail and is recording 8.2 knots. In the rest of the fleet Matt Allen’s Ichi Ban with Gordon Maguire as sailing master continues to lead the TP 52s on the water, but at the moment is lying fourth overall on IRC with 152 miles still to race.

Published in Sydney to Hobart
Tagged under

In the Rolex Sydney Hobart Yacht Race, the two leading supermaxis LDV Comanche (skippered by Irish–Australian skipper Jim Cooney with Cork's Justin Slattery as bowman) and Wild Oats XI are heading to a race record finish in the Derwent tonight.

They are each sailing down the Tasmanian east coast at 20-30 knots before a strong north-easterly wind, LDV Comanche 11 miles ahead of the eight-time winner.

The computer prediction shows a finish for both after 7pm tonight, though that could extend to the later evening once they turn at Tasman Island and tackle Storm Bay and the river. The good news is that the Bureau of Meteorology is forecasting a continuing north-easterly in the river tonight, which, while not from a favourable direction, at least represents continuing wind.

To break Perpetual Loyal's 2016 race record of one day, 13 hours, 31 minutes and 20 seconds, the first boat must be in before 0231 tomorrow.

Should LDV Comanche maintain her lead, it could render irrelevant her protest against Wild Oats XI for a tacking incident between the two shortly after the race start in Sydney. Oats had the opportunity to complete a 720-degree penalty but chose not to, indicating she feels she did nothing wrong.

Therefore, with a penalty of a minimum five minutes at stake, if Wild Oats XI crosses first, the line honours result could depend on the outcome of an international jury hearing in Hobart of the Comanche protest.

Wild Oats XI had managed to close the gap during the morning despite ripping the top out of the headsail most suited to the conditions. Skipper Mark Richards reported that the yacht had sailed "bare-headed" - mainsail only - for some time while the remnants of the damaged sail were recovered and a new sail set.

Corrected time honours are between the next wave in the fleet, with Matt Allen's new TP52 Ichi Ban ahead of last year's winner, the Volvo 70 Giacomo, now sailing as Wizard under its new American owners, Peter and David Askew.

The fleet stands at 101, with one retirement, the German TP52 Rockall, which suffered a broken rudder south of Eden this morning, The NSW Water Police boat Falcon was due to rendezvous with Rockall late this morning and is likely to take her in tow and head back to Eden, a slow passage that could take about five hours or more.

Bruce Montgomery (

Published in Sydney to Hobart
Tagged under
Page 2 of 5

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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