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#rshyr – With less than 24 hours  left to the start of the 70th edition of the Rolex Sydney to Hobart Race, Irish sailors, Barry Hurley, Catherine Halpin, Alexander and Kenneth Rumball sailing aboard the First 40 BREAKTHROUGH are completing some last minute touches prior to the start writes Kenny Rumball. The rest of the crew on the boat consist mainly of Australians with Matthew Vadas (skipper), Ben Hunter, Jonny Hoover, Adam Carpenter and Peter Thorp completing the 10 strong team.

The First 40 has undergone an extensive programme in preparation with new standing rigging, a largely new sail wardrobe and other essentials with Barry overseeing many of the upgrades throughout the year. The Australian crew have worked hard to tune the boat up in the Cruising Yacht Club of Australia Blue Water Points Score with the Sydney to Hobart being the last race in the series. Breakthrough have performed well in the series and currently stand 8th in the series and scoring a 4th place in the last race.

With the initial forecast giving 25-30kts for the first 24 hours after the start, the crew will have to work hard through the first night going down the eastern shoreline. The east Australian current will give the fleet a nice help along as they race south. The wind should hopefully swing into the north after day 1 allowing the teams to crack sails and raise spinnakers as they enter the Bass Straits. The infamous stretch of water between the south coast of Australia and Tasmania usually serves up a good test of man and ship with a large oceanic swell and some good breeze.

The 'organ pipes' on the south eastern coastline of the island of Tasmania will be a welcome sight for the tired sailors before the sail through storm bay passing the iron pot at the mouth of the Derwent river leading up to Hobart.

Published in Sydney to Hobart

#rshyr – In Sydney, forecasters have revealed that a southerly breeze will play in to the hands of smaller boats – including a number of Irish sailors –  for Australia's 70th Rolex Sydney Hobart race that starts on St. Stephen's Day.

Irish crews competing in four days time include Sydney–based Gordon Maguire, orginally from Howth Yacht Club racing on the front–runner Carkeek 60, Ichi Ban. And as Afloat.ie previously reported, Barry Hurley of Cork Harbour and the Royal Irish Yacht Club leads a part Irish crew on the First 40 Breakthrough with Irish National Sailing School brothers Kenneth and Alexander Rumball and Dublin Bay sailor Catherine Halpin on board. Hurley, a Middle Sea Race Winner from October, gave an account of his Sydney–Hobart preparations here.

Locally based Irish sailor Keith Hegarty is racing his first Sydney-Hobart on Merlin, a Kaiko 51, owned and skippered by 81–year–old David Forbes, a legend in Australian sailing with an Olympic Gold Medal from Munich 1972.

There are estimated to be quite a number of Irish sailors competing in the race spread across the fleet.

Pam Lee, daughter of Greystones dinghy sailor Norman Lee, is racing on board Blacksheep, a Beneteau 45 rookie boat owned by Sharpie sailors Derek and Martin Sheppard from Wollongong. Lee is one of three girls on board and is sailing despite having her knee in plaster due to an unintended gybe during a night practice race in November when her leg got trapped by the mainsheet as she played the spinnaker sheet.

Read more on Irish participation in WM Nixon's blog here. Also more here from David O'Brien in last Friday's Irish Times Sailing column.

The early Christmas weather forecast gift to small yachts means the big glamour boats (including five maxis) may yet miss out on oan overall handicap win with smaller craft – roughly forty foot in length – favoured.

"We're really excited by this forecast," says Tom Barker, the navigator on the Ker 40 St George Midnight Rambler. "In terms of handicaps, the slow start means that is more time the big boats will have to take out of us.

The 117 yachts in the Rolex Sydney Hobart will face an early test this year, with the Bureau of Meteorology (BOM) forecasting a sharp 20 to 25 knot southerly change on Boxing Day afternoon not long after the start.

A southerly is expected to hold throughout the night at around 20 to 25 knots so it will be a long, wet first day for all crews.

Andrew Treloar from the BOM says winds will get lighter the further south the boats go, and the front runners should cross a high pressure ridge around Gabo Island giving them light westerlies across Bass Strait on Saturday.

Winds off the Tasmanian coast on Saturday night are also expected to be pretty light westerlies. They could be quite fluky.

"The midfield and tail end boats will get a better go from the wind," Treloar says. "They will tend to stay up around 10 to 15 knots right through as they cross Bass Strait and sail down the Tasmanian coast."

So this is a classic mid-sized to small boat forecast. A southerly on day one, stopping the super maxis from getting too far ahead, and a northerly after the glamour yachts are already tied up in Hobart.

Published in Sydney to Hobart

#dbscturkeyshoot – With the tweets from the Dublin Bay Buoy giving an average wind speed of 10kts and gusts of 16kts, the two INSC teams (INSC1 skippered by Kenneth Rumball, INSC2 skippered by Alexander Rumball) headed out to the second DBSC Turkey Shoot race with smiling crews after the baptism of fire from the previous week writes Kenny Rumball. Such light southerly winds meant most 1720s thumbed a tow from passing engine driven yachts to hitch a lift to the outer harbour. As the training days for both INSC teams were mostly blown out, the two teams took advantage of the lighter conditions to practise a few hoists gybes and drops of the bigger mast head spinnakers on the 1720s.

Shifty conditions gave Fintan Cairns and his team on Freebird a tricky course to lay, so shifty that between the second and third start, there was almost a 50 degree shift from the south to south east turning a square start line into a heavily biased pin end line inside the sequence. INSC2 lined up for a run in on port tack at the pin end whereas INSC1 took a more conservative start on starboard tack near the pin end. INSC2 pulled off a great start but with a narrow infringement with a RIYC boat forcing the INSC2 team to do a few penalty turns. INSC1 got buried in the line and immediately set about rolling into a few tacks in the shifty conditions to pull back into the race. It was anybody's guess as to what was the best track up the beat, INSC2 went out towards the left side with one of the Royal St George 1720s, Merlin, helmed by Ben Cooke and the National Yacht Club entry helmed by Brian Matthews. INSC1 took a route more up the middle of the track availing of the puffs and shifts coming in from the right hand side of the beat. The boats on the left ended up in a hole near the top mark with the other Royal St George entry helmed by Hugh Butler storming in on the starboard lay line in a lovely little bit of pressure. INSC1 tacked out to fall in behind the Royal St. George boat around the top mark, a quick hoist in almost no wind on the top reach allowed INSC1 to roll most boats by the next mark on the trapezoid course. At this stage INSC1 had managed to squeeze through and find some breeze to gain a dominant lead over the rest of the fleet. INSC2 after struggling in the hole on the top left of the beat had managed to work through the fleet in the downwind legs using some smart sailing to get up into the top end of the fleet.

INSC1 continued with its lead massively reduced up the last beat as the breeze died off again towards the top of the course but still managed to claim line honours followed in a very close finish between the NYC's Brian Matthews and the RstGYC's team lead by Ben Cooke with Brian Matthews and team claiming the narrow spot for second over the water.

The INSC race team then returned to the water in a horrendous downpour before the start of the DMYC Frostbite series which was unfortunately abandoned today due to lack of wind.

Published in Turkey Shoot

#middlesearace – Irish interest in class four of tomorrow's Middle Sea Race in Malta centres on three boats inlcuding last year's winner Otra Vez, a J122 with Ireland's top offshore sailing duo Liam Coyne and Brian Flahive, the August winners of the Round Britain and Ireland race, as part of the hot J-boat crew. Aaron and Edward Gatt Floridia's J122 was the outstanding Maltese entry in last year's race and the first Maltese boat after time correction.

Another top Irish offshore ace Barry Hurley together with dinghy champion,Kenneth Rumball of the Irish National Sailing School, is racing onboard Xpact, an Xp44 in class three.

An Irish team, consisting of three ladies and seven gents, have entered a chartered Dufour 45 under Dublin skipper Cathal Drohan.  'DU4' is in class four for the 600–mile route around Malta and Sicily.  Repeat visitor Dermot Cronin's Encore, a First 40.7, is also back for the race in class four.

A Howth Yacht Club team has chartered the Beneteau First 40 'Southern Child', a Bruce Farr-designed cruiser-racer which will race in the IRC 4 class with a rating of 1.083.

HYC team captain Darren Wright and Colm Bermingham will be joined by Howth sailors Kieran Jameson, Frank Dillon, Paul Walsh, Michael & David Wright, Rick De Nieve, Jonny White and Will Murray.

Fellow HYC sailor Laura Dillon will also be competing in the event aboard the Sparkman & Stephens 41 'Winsome'.

This will be the largest fleet ever assembled in the 46 year history of the race. The vast majority of the competing yachts have now registered for the race and about 120 yachts, flying the flags of 24 countries, are set to take on one of the world's most awe-inspiring ocean race courses. Laid end to end, the fleet would form a line of impressive yachts, 1800 metres in length, twice as high as the Burj Khalifa.

Starting and finishing in Malta the 608-mile course around Sicily and its surrounding islands has stunning vistas throughout. The international fleet of yachts will be crewed by an astounding mix of Olympic, America's Cup and round the world sailors, as well as passionate amateur Corinthian sailors. Godwin Zammit. Commodore of the Royal Malta Yacht Club, commented about the success of the Rolex Middle Sea Race.

"The interest in the race has been growing year on year and with entries up over 20% on last year's record entry, the Royal Malta Yacht Club has organised additional berths for competing yachts. In addition to the berths at the Royal Malta Yacht Club, yachts have been accommodated in Grand Harbour and other locations in Malta. Including family and friends of the competing crews, we estimate that well over a thousand people will be visiting Malta for the race. There are many reasons why the race is proving so popular, the Royal Ocean Racing Club has a long association with the race and it is now part of their season's points championship and many of the 18 yachts that have come from Great Britain are doing so for that reason and there is a strong contingent from Italy with 33 yachts visiting from our near neighbour. However, without doubt the most important influence on the success of the race is the prestige and prominence associated with our continued support of Rolex, for which the Royal Malta Yacht Club are extremely grateful."

The hot favourite for Line Honours is Igor Simcic's Maxi, Esimit Europa 2. The European team, led by three-time Olympic Gold medallist Jochen Schumann, will be attempting to take line honours for an unprecedented fourth occasion. Weather permitting, Esimit Europa 2 is capable of beating the course record; 47 hours 55 minutes and 3 seconds. Set by George David's American Maxi, Rambler in 2007.

In IRC 1, there is the mouth-watering prospect of two of the world's best Maxi 72s going head to head. Niklas Zennstrom's Swedish JV72 RAN V and George Sakellaris' American RP72, Shockwave are both crewed by world class professional sailors. Team Ran has won IRC One twice before but Zennstrom's team has never won the race overall. Shockwave will be competing in the race for the first time, George Sakellaris' team was in fine form earlier in the season, winning the RORC Caribbean 600 overall.

In IRC 2 last year's overall winner, Georgio Benussi's TP52, B2 skippered by Michele Galli, returns to defend the title. However, the Italian flyer will first and foremost be focusing on winning a highly competitive class including; Jens Kellinghusen's German Ker 51, Varuna, which won the gruelling Sevenstar Round Britain and Ireland Race and Stefan Jentzsch's brand new hi-tech Carkeek 47, Black Pearl. There are a bevy of yachts in the class which will revel in heavy weather, Vincenzo Onorato's Italian Cookson 50, Mascalzone Latino, German Swan 82, Grey Goose and British Frers 94, Bristolian.

Last year, IRC 3 came to a dramatic conclusion with David Anastasi's J/133, Oiltanking Juno winning the class by under three minutes from Josef Schultheis and Timothy Camilleri's Xp-44, XP-ACT Bank Sails. Both yachts have some of Malta's best sailors on board and will be battling to win again. But IRC 3 is far from a two-horse race. The class of over 25 yachts has strength and depth, including the class winner of the 2014 Cape to Rio Race, Iskareen, co-skippered by Christiane Dittmers and Soenke Bruhns and Class winner of the 2014 RORC Caribbean 600, British Azuree 46 Sleeper, skippered by Jonty Layfield. Rear Commodore of the Royal Malta Yacht Club, Arthur Podesta has competed in every edition of the race and will skipper his First 45 Elusive II BOV.

IRC 4 has over 30 entrants and is arguably the most competitive class. Eric Van Campenhout and Vincent Willemart's MC34, Azawakh has been in outstanding form this year. The Belgian team is currently leading the Royal Ocean Racing Club's Season's Points Championship, in which over 200 yachts have competed, The Rolex Middle Sea Race will be the last race of the series. Azawakh was specially shipped to Malta for the race. GYR Scarlet Oyster is a phenomenally successful yacht, having won class in the Rolex Fastnet Race and RORC Caribbean 600 on numerous occasions. For the Rolex Middle Sea Race, the Oyster 48, GYR Scarlet Oyster will be co-skippered by Ross Applebey and Andy Middleton.

The most successful Maltese yacht of the modern era will be racing in IRC 4. In 2011, Lee Satariano's J/122 Artie, co-skippered by Christian Ripard and with an all-Maltese crew, won the race overall. Artie will be returning to the race course this year with a real chance of winning. 

18 yachts will be competing Double Handed, a record for the race. Teams from Croatia, Great Britain, Italy, Malta, Monaco, Netherlands, and Slovenia will take on the gruelling race with just two crew on board. Mikhail Agafontsev's Open 60, Oz is the largest yacht in the Double Handed Class. Alberto de Rossi's Elan 340, Pokekiakkiere, the smallest.

Published in Offshore

#insc – It's been a busy last few weeks and weekends in the Irish National Sailing School based on the West Pier in Dun Laoghaire Harbour writes centre manager Kenneth Rumball. After wrapping up a successful DBSC Spring Series in the 1720 Sportsboats as part of our winter racing programme, our instructor trainees for 2014 were nearing their pre-entry exam for their Royal Yachting Association Dinghy Instructor Course. Not only were some candidates going forward for their RYA qualification but we also have been running many Irish Sailing Association Instructor Courses. If this wasn't enough for centre connections with ISA racing and also the Irish Fireball class, the Irish Fireball association held their class training programme in the INSS clubhouse. Coaches Simon Potts (and Kenneth Rumball) had the class out practising and fine honing a manner of skills to get themselves around the race track that bit quicker.

We are delighted to announce that for our second year in succession all 18 candidates on our RYA instructor course passed with flying colours. RYA traines, Alan Jones, Chris Gaskin, Nic Wymer and Geoff Stones all couldn't believe the standards of our ever improving junior sailors. With fantastic conditions, the RYA instructor course made the most of the weather with 'dummy' sessions being run every day on the water. After a thorough pre-assessment and 5 long days of making the transition from student to instructor, we are delighted to announce that all 18 candidates are now RYA dinghy instructors. The group will be taking a break after their long week before taking up instructing positions on our junior summer programmes this summer. The picture below shows the happy group just after receiving the news they successfully completed the course.

ryacourse

Running alongside this course was our second ISA instructor course of the year. Under pressure for the course to actually run and be a success, we are hugely grateful to Eddie English of SailCork.com for freeing up his busy schedule to come and run our course up in Dublin. 

Finally if our instructor courses, coaching weekends and racing weren't keeping us busy enough, we have had some fantastic weekends of teaching courses for adults with almost 20 newly qualified sailors already this year... some of these sailors are already sailing in our club system allowing them to keep their new found hobby alive. But don't forget the Junior sailors who with the good weather we have had over the last week had a fantastic Easter sailing course in the warmest conditions so far this year, though some regretted the inevitable jump into the sea once they found out the sea temperatures haven't quite risen yet!

All in all we have had a fantastic start to the year and are looking forward to a fantastic summer ahead.

Published in Dublin Bay

#frostibte – The finale to the 42nd Dun Laoghaire Motor Yacht Club Frostbite Series was embraced by one of the largest turnouts of Fireballs in the series when 13 boats took to the water writes Cormac Bradley. In addition to the regulars there was a late return to racing by Class Chairman Marie Barry (14854) who has been out for the whole of Series 2 with a shoulder problem. Also making an appearance was Andy Boyle (14934), of whom we have seen very little this winter, sailing with Teddy Byrne. Barry McCartin sailing 14820 but registered as 14990 (Don't ask!) also made a cameo appearance with Conor Kinsella on the wire. Stephen Oram (15061) was back in harness with Noel Butler and Alexander Rumball jumped ship and crewed with Luke Malcolm (14790). Conor Clancy (14807) also made a start with Paul Devlin on the trapeze.

The forecast for the day didn't bode well for racing but the wind strength was predicted to drop as the day wore on and this is in fact what happened, the difference being that although it was blustery initially, the base strength was such that racing was possible.......and consequently, very exciting. Our measure of the wind direction in 15007 was 300º - WNW – which gave a weather mark off the West Pier and a No.2 just to the west of the gantry for the HSS ferry.

The start for the Fireballs was clean with 11 boats going one way and two boats going the other. Despite a pre-start plan to the contrary, Smyth and Bradley (15007) found themselves on the left hand side of the beat with Neil Colin and Margaret Casey (14775). Colin and Casey did better than their company on the port hand side of the beat rounding Mk 1 in third place behind Messrs Butler, Oram, Rumball and Moran in 15061 and 15058 respectively who were among the early boats to peel off the line and go up the right hand side of the beat. A combination of breeze and a tight line to Mk 2 persuaded most combinations to two-sail the top reach. Butler/Oram led around the first two marks but dropped to 2nd at Mks 3 & 4 when they went left after Mk 2 while their opponents went right. These two exchanged the lead a couple of times during the race before Butler & Oram took the lead at Mk 4 for the third time and covered Rumball & Moran to finish off the series with their third consecutive win.

For the rest of us there was a long game of snakes and ladders. Colin and Casey were going very well during the first half of the race but a capsize under spinnaker put paid to their charge and saw them end up at the wrong end of the fleet. Smyth and Bradley spent a large period of the race in the company of Alistair Court & Gordon Syme (14706) until the third beat when the latter pair managed to put a boat between them. That boat was Clancy & Devlin who this correspondent had thought were "long gone" until they appeared within striking distance on the third beat. Clancy got his place back again to finish the race in 5th place. McCartin & Kinsella (14820) and Boyle and Byrne (14934) seemed to have a comfortable race – not threatening the front two but not really being threatened from behind either. Frank Miller & Grattan Donnelly (14713) put pressure on Smyth & Bradley as well but faded away with spinnaker halyard trouble – this brought Malcolm and Rumball (14790) onto the horizon, but age ultimately won out over youth!

As the race progressed, and it lasted for approximately 49 minutes, the wind eased and by the time the fleet was safely ashore, the inner reaches of the harbour were becoming glassy. While there were only a couple of capsizes in the Fireball fleet, the other fleets provide plenty of work for the rescue boats.

At a busy prize-giving in the DMYC after racing the curtain was brought down on this 42nd version of the Frostbites. In total eighteen (18) races were sailed between the Sunday after Halloween and 23rd March, with the exception of the Sunday's either side of Christmas. While we lost quite a few Sundays to heavy weather, there were multiple Sundays where we sailed two races to make up for lost time. And even after 18 races there was a candidate for a daily Frostbite Mug in one of the other classes.

DMYC Frostbites 2013/14:Race 13; Sunday 23rd March

1

Noel Butler & Stephen Oram

15061

DMYC

2

Kenny Rumball & David Moran

15058

INSC

3

Barry McCartin & Conor Kinsella

14820

“Various”

4

Andy Boyle & Teddy Byrne

14934

RIYC

5

Conor Clancy & Paul Devlin

14807

RStGYC

    

 

 

DMYC Frostbites 2013/14: Series 2 Overall (13 Races, 3 Discards)

Pts

1

Kenny Rumball, Alexander Rumball

& David Moran

15058

Irish National Sailing School

13

2

Noel Butler, Stephen Oram

& Conor Kinsella

15061

Dun Laoghaire Motor Yacht Club

18

3

Luke Malcolm & Shane Diviney

14790

Howth Yacht Club

46

4

Louis Smyth & Cormac Bradley

15007

Coal Harbour

59

5

Neil Colin & Margaret Casey

14775

Dun Laoghaire Motor Yacht Club

64

 

 

42nd DMYC Frostbite Series: Overall (Series 1 & 2) (18 Races, 5 Discards)

Pts

1

Kenny Rumball, Alexander Rumball

& David Moran

15058

Irish National Sailing School

16

2

Noel Butler, Stephen Oram

& Conor Kinsella

15061

Dun Laoghaire Motor Yacht Club

26

3

Conor Clancy, James Clancy

& Paul Devlin

14807

Royal St. George Yacht Club

53

4

Luke Malcolm & Shane Diviney

14790

Howth Yacht Club

63

5

Louis Smyth & Cormac Bradley

15007

Coal Harbour

79

Due thanks need to be recorded in print to Olivier Prouveur and his substantial team of volunteers – Committee Boat crew, Race Officers and Rescue/Mark/RIB personnel - who give of their time so readily. We should also acknowledge the hospitality of the DMYC and their staff who provide a bar and hot soup after racing every Sunday.

For the Fireball Class there is now a short hiatus before we take to the water again on the weekend of 11/12 April when we have an Irish Sailing Association/Class co-funded training weekend running out of the premises of the INSC with a World Championship winning crew and one of our own providing the tuition.

We have also finalized the regatta schedule for the summer and this will be posted as a separate article imminently.

Published in Fireball

#INSC - Wind, wind and more wind greeted the participants in the Rathfarnham Ford Dublin Bay Spring Series at the weekend, writes Kenneth Rumball.

This is by far the windiest winter I have known so far with lots of sailing cancelled. Nonetheless the wind gods usually shone on Dublin Bay on Sunday mornings and allowed wind speeds to drop under the usual 40+ knots to allow the two INSC race training boats to compete in the Spring Series.

We weren’t always so lucky with two Sundays' racing lost due to the high winds. Chief organiser Fintan Cairns made an excellent decision to extend the series to run an extra race on 23 March to make up for one of the lost days.

The high winds did not allow the two team INSC boats, helmed and skippered by Kenneth Rumball and Alexander Rumball, to get out and do some pre-event training in their 1720 sportsboats prior to the first race of the series.

The team changed the configuration of their boats somewhat for this series by leaving the Dacron teaching sails on the dock and through some clever thinking modified 1720 class ‘Club’ jibs were able to be mounted on the Harken cruising foils usually used for teaching. Kevlar mainsails were also added in the drive to make the boats more competitive than ever. The signature navy antifouling remained in place to keep the boats from going too fast!

Most of the clients on the two boats had already sailed with team INSC in the DBSC Turkey Shoot Series and in the DBSC Winter Series last winter, so the lost training day did not hamper the teams as much as we had thought it would.

Due to the fact the INSC race teams had done some racing with us before meant we could push our boats harder than before, with our crews definitely making the jump from novice racer to seasoned 1720 crew. We had some fantastic races with both boats honing down wind with the 1720 mast head spinnakers and excellent crew work keeping the hull under the mast.

Screaming by other cruiser-racers with mouths ajar as to the speeds the INSC teams were doing downwind, the GPS on one boat saw a max speed of 16kts one day in a big gust.

Both INSC teams were always at the front of fleet, fighting for line honours. In fact in most races the only boats to place ahead of INSC2 were Wow, the Farr 42, and other much larger boats such as J109s.

The final day of Sunday 23 March saw both boats leaving the pontoons with gusts out in the bay of 30-plus knots. Both sets of crews were a little rusty having had a ‘rest weekend’ over the St Patrick's Day break and nerves were a little high on both boats. This, coupled with a long run from the yellow outfall mark off the West Pier down to the Muglins, meant both boats knew they would have to push hard down-wind to pass the fleet.

And push they did! INSC 1, INSC 2 and Déjà vu all rounded the top mark very closely in that order. A tight top reach mean the kites stayed in the ships, however on gybing around the outfall mark, INSC 2 hoisted their yellow afterburner fractional kite and took off. INSC 1 was a little later behind but had the kite up as soon as possible, with the apparent wind shooting forwards, the two boats along with RIYC2 another 1720, blasted to the Muglins.

By the Muglins, INSC 2 had taken the fleet apart from one boat with INSC 1 and RIYC 2 on their heels. Up the final beat home, INSC 1 and RIYC 2 caught close to INSC 2 with a big left shift. However INSC 2 took line honours with RIYC 2 and INSC 1 on their heels!

In the overall results, INSC 1 finished up seventh with INSC 2 in tenth place - both boats claiming a top 10 finish.

Another fantastic race training programme and what is being dubbed the best race training programme in the bay will continue on Tuesday nights into the summer. If you want to learn how to crew a race boat, check out www.insc.ie.

Published in Dublin Bay

#rshyc – Irish offshore sailors are in the leading pack of the Sydney-Hobart race today but lack of breeze is leading to tense decisions as Dun Laoghaire sailors onboard the 'Dun Laoghaire entry' Breakthrough, a Beneteau 40 skipered by Barry Hurley, lie sixth overall on IRC handicap. Howth's Gordon Maguire is eighth on Ichi Ban that is chasing for line honours and Adrienne Cahalan a navigator with strong Irish connections, sailing in her 22nd race is 46th on IRC. The Clipper yacht entry Derry-London Derry skippered by Sean McCarter is 65th on IRC in the 92 boat fleet. Live race tracker here.

Twenty-four hours after the Rolex Sydney Hobart fleet raced out of Sydney Harbour the pace slowed up as the lead boats picked their way down the southeast coast of Australia.

Also on board Breakthrough is Irish Fireball champion Kenny Rumball,  (Watch Leader), Keith Kiernan (Navigator & Radio man), Catherine Halpin (Bow-Woman) all members of the Royal Irish Yacht Club.

Meanwhile, a navigator with strong Irish connections, Adrienne Cahalan is sailing in her 22nd race – but after eight years on the 100-foot Wild Oats XI, the accomplished offshore navigator is shifting gears and stepped onto a boat close to half the size: Bill Wild's 55-footer, Wedgetail.

This morning Cahalan emailed, "It was busy last night – lots of sail changes as we headed south through clouds coming from shore. We were in close contact all night with Ichi Ban, Varuna, Nikata, Victoire and Zefiro.

"The wind is so light out here now that if you did not position your boat last night for today, it is probably too late now. Having said that the fleet is close together today near us and appear to be following the same strategy, unlike last night when some boats when right inshore and some, like us, chose to stay further offshore. The wind won't fill in from the north until later today for us, so we are patiently waiting."

Overnight, Anthony Bell's Perpetual Loyal made the strategic move to head further offshore than her main rival, Bob Oatley's six-time line honours winner, Wild Oats XI. Loyal's strategy worked as they eked out a gain of close to 14 nautical miles, surprising given pre-race the boat was touted as favouring heavier airs.

By midday today (December 27) however, Wild Oats XI reeled in Loyal and took a slight lead. Just ten miles back was Syd Fischer, sailing in his 45th Sydney Hobart, this time on Ragamuffin 100, newly fitted out with water ballast and daggerboards – and as of this afternoon, leading IRC Division Zero on handicap.

The weather forecast will be the game changer for all of the fleet as they sail down the coast. Rachel McInerney, Duty Forecaster for the Bureau of Meteorology in Hobart reported earlier today, "Currently through Bass Strait there are light southwesterly winds, which will weaken as a ridge of high pressure west of Tasmania moves east. Winds will become light and variable overnight and then a north-northeasterly flow will develop through tomorrow morning; this will freshen the further down the east coast they go.
"Expecting northeast winds to become strong Saturday afternoon (Dec 28), 20-30 knots along lower east coast (15-25 upper east coast). A westerly change is expected Saturday evening which could cause some issues with winds turning around west-southwest, quite strong, up to gale-force along the south coast."

Approximately 80 nautical miles behind Wild Oats XI, is Matt Allen's Carkeek 60, Ichi Ban, currently leading IRC Division 1 on handicap. Helmsman on board Ichi Ban is Howth's Gordon Maguire. Will Oxley, navigator onboard, reported earlier, "We're just hanging on the coat tails of some of the big boats. Looks like a tricky day, and we are hoping to hold onto favourable northeast winds as long as possible. All is going to game plan, except for thunderstorms inshore last night, which slowed the fleet a bit."

Adrienne Cahalanis sailing in her 22nd race – but after eight years on the 100-foot Wild Oats XI, the accomplished offshore navigator is shifting gears and stepped onto a boat close to half the size: Bill Wild's 55-footer, Wedgetail.

As of 4:00pm AEDT, the bulk of the fleet was between Eden and Uladulla, almost all boats east of the rhumbline, up to 70 nautical miles offshore.

As the frontrunners entered Bass Strait mid-afternoon today they were sailing in a light southwesterly making less than 10 knots of boat speed, in four knots of wind. With the race record for line honours no longer in threat, the ETA for the big boats at the finish off Hobart is more likely Saturday evening. Nonetheless, with 300+ nautical miles to the go, the battle is far from over. The lack of breeze is frustrating and challenging. Anthony Bell, skipper of Perpetual Loyal said, via Skype this afternoon, "Don't know if you want to be the frontrunner going into Tasman Island; as long as we stay in touch and stay within striking distance...we're staying positive, and the guys are working hard to keep the boat going."
Ninety-two boats are still racing, with two boats retired shortly after the start yesterday; Audi Sunshine Coast with damage to her rig, and Dodo with mainsail damage.

Published in Sydney to Hobart
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W M Nixon - Sailing on Saturday
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