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#Sydney-Hobart - Irish-Australian sailor Jim Cooney is expected to defend his line honours in the 2018 Rolex Sydney Hobart Yacht Race, the Notice of Race for which has been released by the Cruising Yacht Club of Australia.

Entries are open till 5pm on 26 October for the annual post-Christmas offshore challenge that will see more than 90 yachts set sale along the east coast of Australia.

Among them super-maxis like Cooney’s Comanche as well as smaller, more nimble contenders — perhaps including a return for Howth’s Gordon Maguire and crew on last year’s overall winners Ichi Ban?

Published in Sydney to Hobart
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The runaway success of Irish-Australian sailors in the Rolex Sydney-Hobart Race 2017 ended the year on an unprecedented high. Gordon Maguire of Howth may already have had two overall wins under his very experienced belt, but his third with the TP 52 Ichi Ban was perhaps the toughest and best of all. And Jim Cooney – whose people hail from County Meath – saw his sportsmanship rewarded with line honours for his super-maxi LDV Comanche, providing Ireland with a unique double

Published in Sailor of the Month
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They say that winning a sailing race is a matter of making fewer mistakes than anyone else, and then knowing when to go for it writes W M Nixon. Fourteen hours into the contest, and the annual 628 mile Rolex Sydney-Hobart Race 2017 - the 73rd to be staged - has been giving us object lessons in knowing when to avoid trouble even if it means short term loss, and then putting the foot to the floor when the road is clear and straight.

When you’ve the biggest boat in the race, a mighty machine which only needs clear seas and a bit of real bite to the breeze to do a horizon job on everyone else, then you stay conservative when a messy start is shaping up in a crowded harbour.

Jim Cooney and his team on their magnificent monster LDV Comanche knew that once they got clear beyond Sydney Heads and into the freshening east to northeast breeze, then their powerful extra-beamy hundred foot machine would be in business. But the in-harbour starboard-tack start – admittedly in a lightish breeze – offered all sorts of opportunities to get into a tangle.

rshr course2The Rolex Sydney-Hobart Race may mostly be open water sailing, but the tricky bits at start and finish get much of the attention

So they elected to play it safe and use the less favoured pin end. Then, even though helmsman James Spithill was beginning to get the big boat up to speed, the acknowledged light air flyer of the hundred footers, Peter Harburg’s Black Jack (ex Alfa Romeo), simply rolled over them, and took the lead in the tacking procession towards open water.

That brief upwind tacking session was in lumpy seas and still
lightish breezes, which LDV Comanche doesn’t like at all, so although Mark Richards in command of the Oatley Family’s legendary hundred footer Wild Oats XI had made a hames of the start, he was sailing like a man possessed in conditions his boat enjoys.

As they approached the exit from Sydney Harbour, he looked to be about to cross LDV Comanche on port, although it would be nip and tuck. But in the end it was something which rhymes with nip and tuck, but isn’t, Richards had to throw a tack, and as the photo shows, there’s now a protest riding on it, as so far Wild Oats has admitted no intention of taking a 720.

wild oats comanche3One for the sea lawyers? Wild Oats on port tacking ahead of LDV Comanche on starboard

Getting clear of the harbour, Black Jack was first up with the big Code 0, and zoomed straight south down the coast, while Wild Oats XI favoured the time-honoured tactic of getting further offshore, meanwhile piling on the knots. But for a few horrible moments which seemed like hours, LDV Comanche was going nowhere with a sail ballooning in the water. But after that has been sorted, they were in business and then some.

Once she’d got ahead of the other two, with every mile sailed LDV Comanche lengthened even further away, as the very favourable winds were fresher to the south, and she was first to reach them. Hour after hour, she was logging 24, 25 knots and sometimes even better, while the others were around 22 to 23. After a while, that begins to show significant gaps, and as of writing time, she was all of 17 miles ahead of Wild Oats XI, while Black Jack had gone back to fourth as Christian Beck’s Infotrack (ex Perpetual Loyal, the course record holder), has found her speed to move into third.

Race tracker here

With speeds like this for the hundred footers, any talk of “settling into the race” scarcely makes sense – LDV Comanche is at Bass Strait, and they’ll soon be at the halfway stage while working out how those pesky Derwent night breezes are going to affect their finish.

But among the “real” boats in the middle of the fleet, there’s a genuine distance race contest shaping up, and the pace is being set by the TP 52s, where Gordon Maguire doesn’t seem to have put a foot wrong with the new Ichi Ban (Matt Allen). They’re leading overall on both IRC and ORC, and are six miles ahead of Quest, the next TP, and eight miles ahead of the third, Christopher Opielok’s Rockall.

A bit of a wild card in all this is the American former Volvo 70 Wizard (David & Peter Askew), which last year as the New Zealand Giocomo was overall winner, and at times has been on top of the leaderboard this year. Dublin-born Noel Drennan is in her crew, so we have another favoured boat.

Another option is Vincenzo Onorato’s Cookson 50 Mascalzone Latino 32, currently lying 12th overall, and with Ian Moore as navigator, never out of the equation. As ever, the Rolex Sydney-Hobart race is just the job to shake us out of the post-Christmas torpor.

Published in Sydney to Hobart
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Former Howth sailor Gordon Maguire, who began a long and successful relationship with Australian sailing in 1991 when the Irish team won the Southern Cross series, is currently leading overall on IRC in the Rolex Sydney-Hobart Race 2016, playing the key role aboard Matt Allen’s JV52 Ichi Ban writes W M Nixon

If Maguire can hold onto his current placing in a fast-moving race, it will be the third time he has taken overall honours in the Australian classic, as he won at the first attempt teamed up with Harold Cudmore on the Farr 43 Atara in 1991, and subsequently won with Stephen Ainsworth’s Loki in 2011.

But in a hugely competitive field with the final stages up the Derwent River to Hobart almost inevitably flukey, the Rolex Sydney-Hobart is notorious for frustrating even the best campaigns at the last hurdle. However, in open water Ichi Ban has been setting a blistering pace, significantly out-pacing similarly-sized boats such as defending champion Paul Clitheroe’s TP 52 Balance, and racing neck-and-neck with much larger craft as the fleet leaders close in on the finish today in sight of a new course record.

Published in Sydney to Hobart
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The 2016 Rolex Sydney Hobart Yacht Race, featuring an international fleet of 88 yachts – with several key Irish crew involved – commenced at 13:00 local time on a perfect Sydney summer’s day. The combination of excellent weather conditions, the sight of the competing yachts sailing full force under spinnaker on the passage through Sydney Heads, and shorelines packed with spectators, set the scene for one of the more memorable race starts in recent times.

Race Start

The fleet comprises four 100-ft Maxis – CQS, Perpetual LOYAL, Scallywag and Wild Oats XI – all harbouring the ambition of arriving first in Hobart and claiming line honours as fastest finisher. Their hopes have been boosted by the promise of strong conditions. “We are excited by the forecast and that records may be challenged,” revealed John Markos, Commodore of organisers the Cruising Yacht Club of Australia (CYCA).

Fourth to pass the Heads was eight-time line honours winner Wild Oats XI who recovered impressively after an uncharacteristically sluggish start. Given the heavy conditions forecast and need for extra weight on board, Wild Oats XI is carrying a record crew of 22 sailors. “All four Maxis are going to have their moments,” explained Wild Oats XI skipper Mark Richards. “We don’t know the history of CQS as she is new with a radical design. The Scallywag team have done a lot of yachting this year, their teamwork is good, and they are a different animal to what we have raced against in the last few editions. Perpetual LOYAL are a great team with more talent onboard this year.”

While the focus during the early hours of the race is on line honours, the contest for the race’s most significant prize, overall victory on race handicap, is the principle target for the competing yachts. Andrew Saies, owner of the 40-ft Two True, won the Rolex Sydney Hobart in 2009 and is returning this year after following the last few editions from the comfort of dry land. “The weather forecast points to a great sail, but perhaps not ideal for our size of boat. To win this race you need a set of particular conditions to come together for your boat to win. It’s extremely hard to win this race.”

The fleet is rich and diverse, featuring yachts as small as 30-ft, seasoned campaigners setting personal records and those like the predominantly Swedish-crewed Matador, taking part for the first time. “It has taken a year of preparation and a great challenge getting everything sorted,” revealed owner Jonas Grander. “This is a legendary race and one we’ve read about so many times. It’s my dream to take part.”

The final number of starters was confirmed as 88 following the late withdrawal of Jason Bond’s Beneteau 47.7, Enigma.

Published in Sydney to Hobart
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Eight days out from the start of the Rolex Sydney Hobart race, a race in which a number of Irish sailors are participating, and there is no solid indication as to what weather pattern the 91–yacht fleet will experience.  The race begins in six day's time on Boxing Day from Sydney Harbour.

Barry Hurley and Kenneth Rumball from Dun Laoghaire will sail again on the Beneteau First 40 Breakthrough, a fourth time for Hurley.  The pair will join an Australian crew  and were 11th overall in the 2014 race, the best result yet for Hurley.

This morning, Australia's internationally acclaimed yachting meteorologist, Roger Badham, had one message for all crews in the 628-nautical mile classic: "In the past two days the two main long range weather models have swapped their outlooks. That's come about because of the complexity of the developing weather. All I can say is, don't read too much into it yet because things are certain to change again."

However, Badham added that the one likely scenario at this time was that race record holder, Wild Oats XI, or one to the three other supermaxis in the fleet, could set a record for the course. "Today the indications are that there will be a solid north-easterly wind at start time, so the yachts should enjoy fast sailing south from Sydney. However there is the chance for an explosive frontal low to develop in the Tasman Sea the first afternoon. But it would only be short-lived; the big boats would be back on record pace very quickly."

The Oatley family's Wild Oat's XI will this year be going for her ninth line honours in 12 starts in the Hobart race. The 30-metre long "Silver Bullet" has broken the course record on two occasions, her latest mark being 1 day 18 hours 23 minutes and 12 seconds, which was set in 2012.

Badham's current projections indicate the first of the big boats will reach the finish line on Hobart's Derwent River in about one day 15 hours

Published in Sydney to Hobart
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As anticipated here a week ago, the annual 629-mile Rolex Sydney Hobart Race kept offshore racing and nautical entertainment addicts all around the world enthralled through the Christmas period. And it has produced a story to suit almost all tastes. The crowded windward start in Sydney Harbour was exciting – too exciting for some. Then out in the Tasman Sea there was an on-the-nose gale, as expected. There were calms towards the end, as seems inevitable. And the big beamy 100ft American girl Comanche (Jim & Kristy Hinze Clark skippered by Kenny Read) finally got her coveted line honours win.

The hotly-sailed TP 52 Balance, owned and skippered by Australian financial guru Paul Clitheroe, took the Holy Grail (aka the Tattersall’s Cup) for the overall IRC win. And second place went to Fastnet Race 2015 overall winner Gery Trentesaux with one of the all-conquering JPK 10.80s. But the Trentesaux silver medal was only won by a whisker ahead of the restored veteran S&S 34 Quikpoint Azzurro (Shane Kearns).

In all, it has been quite a story, though admittedly Irish hopes were disappointed in that Gordon Maguire, reckoned to be among the Tattersall’s contenders at mid race aboard Matt Allen’s Carkeek 60 Ichi Ban, had to be content with eighth overall on IRC at the finish. But he was second in IRC Div 0, and sixth in line honours. As for the new Mark Mills-designed 45ft Concubine (Jason Ward), she was right in the middle of the rating range which did least well, but still managed a sixth in Division 1. W M Nixon casts an eye over a vintage staging of a great race.

We’re tempted to introduce a new acronym in reporting – IANMTU. But as such a word probably couldn’t exist in any language, we’ll make it IANTU so long as everyone understands that it means: I Am Not Making This Up. And it will have to do, as there was IANTU rampant before the Hobart fleet had even got out past Sydney Heads.

Things were potentially sticky as the forecast north to northeast breeze for the first day of the race actually had much less east in it than expected, making it a tight-packed beat out of an already crowded harbour.

But it’s one very major highly-publicised event. So instead of using their trusty old workhorse of a regular committee boat, the organising Cruising Yacht Club of Australia planned to fire the starting signal cannons from a class of a superyacht appropriate to the presence of celebrities and sponsors aboard to honour this premier sailing event of the Australian yachting calendar. And IANTU, but didn’t the superyacht start taking on water as the countdown began? And she took on water with such superyacht-style speed that the great and the good on board had to be hastily landed two miles up the harbour at a pier called (IANTU) Zoo Wharf.

Fortunately the club’s trusty workhorse committee boat was out and ready to take over starting duties. But there wasn’t time to transfer the official starting cannons from the immersing superyacht which was looking sleeker by the minute up at Zoo Wharf. However, the regular boat did have a horn of sorts, so the 71st Rolex Sydney-Hobart Race started not with a bang, but a toot, which we’ll suppose was a sort of nautical whimper.

It very soon became a proper start to a great race nevertheless, but getting out of the harbour was a bit of a melee, and of course with a fleet which included an unprecedented visiting 26 nations, wasn’t it one of the highest profile visitors – the Chinese TP 52 Ark323 whose tyro crew has already sailed thousands of often rugged miles just to be there – which came out on the wrong side of some shunting among the group of TP 52s and similarly-sized craft, and was so damaged that she had to retire before getting to the open sea?

Later in Hobart, it was adjudged that another TP 52 was at fault. This was the famous Syd Fischer’s Ragamuffin 52, which was being raced by his grandson Brenton, as Syd himself – now aged 88 – was racing aboard his super maxi Ragamaffin 100. That gives you some insight into the depth of involvement the great Australian sailing families have with the annual Hobart thrash. But the fact that the grandson and his crew were penalized, after an otherwise quite good race, was scant consolation for the Chinese crew, who saw more than a year of effort and intense training go straight down the tubes in one short sharp incident.

There was nothing at all amusing in it. But before the fleet had cleared the harbour with one or two other less damaging scrapes, there was entertainment on the sidelines among the spectator fleet. There, a little old motorboat – definitely not a superyacht – decided to emulate the official start boat by leaking so much that her doughty skipper with his motley crew headed pronto for the nearest beach which (IANTU) happened to be a popular nudist bathing venue. The resulting much-photographed scenes of some rescuers in the nip led to the 71st Rolex Sydney-Hobart Race getting more publicity in the worldwide popular press than it has done since the tragic events of the ultra-stormy race of 1998.

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It could only be Sydney Harbour. One of the spectator boats found she was sinking off a nudist beach.

But meanwhile there was a proper serious race taking shape. In the short sharp beat to the harbour mouth, amongst the maxis Anthony Bell in command of his hundred foot Perpetual Loyal (ex Rambler 100) found himself in a minority of one by holding to the starboard side in the rising breeze, but he’d made the right call. Perpetual was at the harbour-exiting turning mark clear ahead - but only just. Comanche and the much-altered Wild Oats XI were right behind her, and out in open water with plenty of breeze and freed sheets, Comanche simply became a different sort of animal altogether. She roared away into the lead, while among those trying to hang onto her coat-tails, it was notable that George David’s smaller Rambler 88 was punching way above her weight - she was dealing with the Tasman Sea’s rough and irregular waves as though she was sailing in smooth water.

ho3Clear the way…..having reached open water, Comanche is seen here streaking away from Perpetual Loyal, Wild Oats XI, Ragamuffin 100, and Rambler 88. Photo: Rolex

Wild Oats XIWhen the going was good……the new-look extra-skinny Wild Oats XI making knots on Day 1 when the wind was fair. But that night’s Southerly Buster shredded her mainsail, and she retired. Photo: Rolex

This was all splendid mile-eating stuff while it lasted, tearing along on port with every stitch set and water flying all over the place. But everyone knew only too well that the first night would bring a classic Southerly Buster, gusting to 45 knots bang on the nose.

The underlying south-going stream was in fine form, so this would inevitably create horrendous wind-over-tide conditions when the new wind arrived. Except that a regular tidal cycle changes every six hours. The worst of normal wind-over-tide conditions will last only 4 to 5 hours. But this south-going stream continues regardless of the local state of the tide. Thus everyone prayed that the front at the heart of the Southerly Buster would go through in a reasonable time. It didn’t. The ferocious slugging match lasted around 18 hours. It was boat-breaking, gear-wrecking, crew-bashing stuff.

The litany of damage was comprehensive. The remarkable thing is that only 30 boats felt they’d no option but to pull out. The highest profile exit was by Wild Oats XI. The sudden nature of the change in conditions is indicated by the fact that as night drew on, one of the most experienced crews in the race were so suddenly hit by a squall of 40 knots-plus, and from the opposite direction to the day’s wind, that by the time they’d got things back under some sort of control, their mainsail was torn beyond all use and repair, and Wild Oats XI soon retired.

sydney hobart course 2015By heading south the Sydney-Hobart course takes the fleet into ever more rugged waters

Ragamuffin 100 was likewise taken totally aback, but though she lay completely on her ear over to port with the canting keel deployed in the totally wrong direction for fifteen minutes, somehow they got it all back together again with the mainsail still intact and nobody lost over the side, though some of them had spent rather longer in the Tasman Sea than they might have wished. Their troubles weren’t over, as they soon broke off a daggerboard. But they managed to get it clear and drilled a hole in the foot of the other daggerboard to take a line so that they could haul it up again when it was needed to move it to the other side.

Meanwhile Perpetual Loyal “sailed fast straight off a cliff”, and landed with such a bang that she sustained sufficient hull damage to make urgent retirement a necessity while she could still look after herself. Rambler 88 also had damage to both daggerboard and rudder, yet reckoned she still had enough bits hanging on to get to the finish with a bit of nursing. However, up ahead Comanche had sustained so much damage to a daggerboard and rudder she was for a while officially recorded as being retired. But then Kenny Read and his crew took another look at it and decided that as they’d come so far to do the race, and as it wasn’t that far to Hobart, they’d limp along to the finish somehow or other, though any chance of a record was out of the question.

With the fleet order taking shape, special interest focused on the Carkeek 60 Ichi Ban and Rupert Henry’s Judel Vrolik 62 Chinese Whisper, as the pundits reckoned this was the boat size best suited to the forecast pattern of wind conditions. Indeed, so firmly had this prediction become that Matt Allen – having kept his options open by also having an entry in for his TP52 Ichi Ban I – chose between his two boats by going for the Carkeek, with the TP 52 staying behind in dock.

ho5A long way to go, and a lot of southerly wind to get through – Ichi Ban slugs it out in open water. Photo: Rolex

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The low-freeboard JV 62 Chinese Whisper was originally the successful day racer Spirit of Jethou, but she seemed to cope more than reasonably well with rugged offshore stuff. Photo: Rolex

The irony of this decision in light of the final overall result cannot be denied. But it should be pointed out that though the TP 52 Balance won overall, of seven TP 52s starting, only three finished, the other being the penalized Ragamuffin 52, with the third one Damien Parkes’ Duende aboard which Tony Cable was doing his 50th Sydney-Hobart Race. So who knows whether Ichi Ban I would have made it, whereas the hefty Carkeek 60 came through with style.

But as has been remarked before, maybe the 60ft Ichi Ban is just a bit too hefty. Certainly she is markedly different from Chinese Whisper, which in the end beat the Allen-Maguire team by an hour and nine minutes. The Whisper is one interesting boat. Originally she was Spirit of Jethou, designed in 2009 by Judel Vrolik and built by Green Marine to be a 60ft day racer – hence her low freeboard - for Peter Ogden. In 2012, with input from Brad Butterworth, she was lengthened by two feet and optimised for the Mediterranean circuit, in which she swept all before her.

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The TP 52 Duende (Damian Parkes) placed 7th in the PHS Division, while it was the 50th Sydney-Hobart Race for crewman Tony Cable. Photo: Rolex

That this “inshore racer” has now won her class in the toughest Sydney-Hobart race since 2004 speaks volumes for her basic qualities. And though she has become 2ft longer than Ichi Ban, somehow she manages to rate 1.489 to Ichi Ban’s 1.501. That tiny margin makes for a huge difference when the two boats are racing neck-and-neck for much of the course, and particularly when, in the latter half of the race, Chinese Whisper tended to be always around a mile nearer the finish.

As for the eventual overall winner Balance, while she may have started with the prospect of boat-for-boat racing against other TP 52s, by the finish she was very much alone, but fortune was with her, and she’d a splendid sail in a private breeze making 16 knots and better for the final approaches to the Derwent and the tricky last few miles to the Hobart waterfront.

Even once she was in, so many other boats were still out racing with a good chance to beat her on corrected time that crew members who hadn’t signed up to sail the boat back to Sydney flew back home to spend the last of Christmas with their families. But within a couple of days, their skipper was on the phone to get them to fly south again for the prize-giving, as they’d won the Tattersall’s Cup.

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Overall winner Balance with her much-repaired mansail finds smoother water in under the Tasmanian coast. Photo:Rolex

It had seemed a long wait for a boat which, as Quest, had been overall winner of the 2008 race. At first Skipper Clitheroe could only give out about the sheer roughness of the sail, and wonder why he did this sort of thing at all, and how his crew had miraculously kept his very damaged mainsail in one piece “using every last bit of stickyback on board”.

But then as each challenger failed to make the necessary finishing time, Balance’s position looked firmer than ever. The Reichel Pugh 51 Primitive Cool (John Newbold) was a contender, but missed. For a long time, Eric de Turckheim’s Archambault 13 Teasing Machine from France looked very good indeed, but she too missed the slot. Then for some giddy hours the great Gery Trentesaux, overall winner of the Rolex Fastnet Race 2015, looked as though he might complete an astonishing double, but he too fell short.

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Good in all conditions – Gery Trentesaux, overall winner of the Rolex Fastnet Race in August, on his way to second place overall in the Rolex Sydney-Hobart Race in Courrier Leon. Photo: Rolex

So then as the clock ticked on, the only boat left to push Balance off her perch was the veteran S&S 34 Quikpoint Azzurro (Shaun Kearns), by which time the story was writing itself. Paul Clitheroe is, among other things, a financial guru with a TV programme on money management, while Shane Kearns broke all the rules on prudent money management by buying an old semi-derelict S&S 34 with his credit card, and then splashing out further with the plastic by optimising the boat such that with her Australian coachroof and bowsprit, you’d be hard put at first to guess this was an S&S 34 whose design dates from 1969.

Quikpoint Azzurro (Shaun Kearns)Little old boat that nearly made the top title. The beautifully-restored veteran S&S 34 Quikpoint Azzura (Shane Kearns) for some hours looked like being the overall winer but the flukey winds of the Derwent saw her slipping and she placed third, just six minutes behind second-placed Courrier Leon. Photo: Rolex

Yet even Quikpoint Azzurra, rating way down at 0.926, failed to make it. Indeed, so excruciatingly slow were her final miles that she finally lodged in third overall behind Gery Trentesaux, who was sailing a sister-ship of the boat with which he won the Fastnet, This was a JPK 10.80 which happened to be cruising the Pacific, but was re-routed to Sydney for the Trentesaux team to turn up with a new suit of sails, including a specially reinforced mainsail.

That special mainsail proved to be one of the veteran skipper’s best decisions - and he has made many good ones. And we now also know that all the questions after the 2015 Fastnet win, wondering just how good the incredibly successful JPK 10.80 design would be in a real breeze of wind, have been very satisfactorily answered out in the rough Tasman Sea.

The corrected times of the top ten boats in the Rolex Sydney-Hobart Race 2015 say everything about the remarkable diversity of the fleet. And the IRC has given a reasonably good account of itself, with just 52 minutes covering the seven boats between 2nd and 7th in a difficult race.

Rolex Sydney-Hobart Race 2015 IRC Overall:

1st Balance (2008 TP 52, Paul Clitheroe, NSW) CT 04:07:27:13;
2nd Courrier Leon (2013 JPK 10.80, Gery Trentesaux, France) 04:10:02:53;
3rd Quikpoint Aazzura (1973 S&S 34, Shane Kearns, NSW) 04:10:09:01;
4th Primitive Cool (2010 Reichel Pugh 51, John Newbold, Victoria) 04:10:36:19;
5th Chinese Whisper (2009/2012 Judel Vrolik 62, Rupert Henry NSW) 04:11:39:18;
6th Wild Rose (1987 Farr 43, Roger Hickman, NSW) 04:11:41:53;
7th Teasing Machine (Archambault 13, Eric de Turckheim, France) 04:11:54:47;
8th Ichi Ban (2014 Carkeek 60, Matt Allen NSW) 04:12:48:46;
9th Mayfair (2010 Beneteau First 40, James Irvine, Queensland) 04:14:29:56;
10th Imagination (2004 Beneteau First 47.7, Robin Hawthorne, NSW) 04:14:58:17.

Published in W M Nixon

Overnight, light winds brought a steady stream of competitors up the Derwent River to the finish line, filling the Rolex Sydney Hobart race village in time for the New Year’s Eve celebration.

An Irish chance of an overall victory fizzled out when Ichi Ban with Howth's Yacht Club's Gordon Maguire on board was second in IRC class zero.

All eyes were on Quikpoint Azzurro, the dark horse and smallest boat in the fleet, and for most of Wednesday afternoon Shane Kearn’s Sparkman & Stephens 34 raced towards the finish on pace to potentially claim the overall win on handicap. The 34-footer needed to reach the finish line by 0443 AEDT Thursday.

Paul Clitheroe, owner of TP52 Balance, was on tender hooks, checking the race tracker constantly to chart their progress.

Commenting on the impressive achievements of his closest competitor, Clitheroe said that after such a long and challenging race it would be unfair for Quikpoint Azzurro to sit just metres from the finish line should the wind die. Yet at the mouth of the river, the hopes of Quikpoint Azzurro were dashed.

Clitheroe realised that he and his team had clinched the title upon calculating that Quikpoint Azzurro had half an hour left to finish, yet several miles to cover.

“We knew it was a great little boat, but we just couldn’t see them doing 22 nautical miles, with just four knots of wind, in half an hour,” so Clitheroe asked his crew to hop back on a plane to Hobart to help claim their prize.

The 60-year-old financial consultant and TV presenter known as the ‘Money Man’, Paul Clitheroe has been advising Australians for decades on sound, long-term investment strategies. Not unlike his approach to yacht racing, where planning and thorough preparation are key. Yet when it comes to winning, he adds passion, teamwork and pure dedication to make the difference.

Elated about his win, Clitheroe commented: “They kept me up all night! In what sport are you going to get a modern, carbon 52-footer up against an old 34-footer bought on a credit card. Either of us could have won it within five minutes. It’s crackerjack!”

Paul Clitheroe and his crew were presented with the Tattersall’s Cup and engraved Rolex Yacht Master timepiece onboard Balance and following at a public prizegiving on Constitution Wharf.

At time of press, 75 yachts have finished, 31 retired and two yachts are still racing but expected to arrive in time for the official Rolex Sydney Hobart Yacht Race prizegiving will take place Friday, 1 January 2016 at 1000 AEDT at the Grand Chancellor Hotel in Hobart.

Published in Sydney to Hobart
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Jim Clark and Kristy Hinze-Clark’s maxi Comanche (USA) pulled off an incredible feat last night taking line honours in the 71st edition of the Rolex Sydney Hobart Yacht Race and winning the Illingworth trophy.

As dawn broke, Syd Fisher’s Ragamuffin 100 trailed the American speedster Rambler 88, with both less than ten nautical miles to race up the Derwent River to the finish line in Hobart.

The boats traded gybes in extremely light air conditions, each tactical call critical as the navigators and tacticians sought to eek out the advantage they needed to claim second place in the 71st Rolex Sydney Hobart Yacht Race.

Just four hundred metres from the finish, Rambler 88 tactician Brad Butterworth made the call to gybe in towards shore and Ragamuffin 100 elected not to follow, continuing on starboard gybe.

The Australian maxi then sailed into a hole slowing considerably, and Rambler 88’s inshore call seemed promising. But shortly after a light northerly breeze filled in and reached Ragamuffin100 first, allowing it to pull ahead of George David’s silver maxi, and cross the line just over four minutes ahead. Providing an exciting turn of events for the Australian home crowd who were out in the thousands to watch the yachts finish.

It was a great end for Ragamuffin 100’s owner, iconic sailing legend Syd Fisher, competing in his 47th Rolex Sydney Hobart Race and who, at 88 years, is the oldest person to ever compete in the race.

For Rambler 88 the severe conditions weren’t the real challenge, it was the light stuff that ultimately tripped them up. Dockside, owner/skipper George David recalled, “Yesterday morning we were in the hunt to win the race. We got through all the bad stuff, with effectively no damage, though we did damage both dagger boards. The boat held together extremely well in harsh conditions, and we were pleased with that.

“Everything’s great, then all of a sudden the blower shuts off…no wind. At one point we were 60 miles ahead of Ragamuffin and we watched them kind of compress and we sat there with no wind for a long time.” That said, David seemed to revel in the boat and his crew’s performance and was quick to concur that Rambler 88 might make a return appearance in Sydney.

One of the world’s classic ocean races, the Rolex Sydney Hobart attracts amateurs and world-class professionals alike. As America’s Cup and Volvo Ocean Race veteran, and Rambler 88 bowman Jerry Kirby put it: “It’s a very Australian event. You get here and everybody’s into it. The first night out it was wild, but we transitioned really well. We saw upwards of 40 knots…with two reefs and a staysail, we were flying!”

Best known for his single-handed sailing prowess, Italian Giovanni Soldini on the 70-footer Maserati, seemed to easily adapt to racing with a full crew onboard, one of whom included Pierre Casiraghi from the royal family of Monaco. Another close finish brought Rupert Henry’s Chinese Whisper, and Matt Allen’s Ichi Ban, across the line within eleven minutes of each other.

For the remaining 70 boats yet to finish, it will require both tactics and a bit of luck, with the forecast calling for the wind to lighten considerably overnight – which should give an advantage to any boats that can get to Hobart tonight. Meanwhile, the suspense continues as friends and fans await the next arrivals.

Published in Sydney to Hobart
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Saturday night proved a harrowing one for the crews competing in the 71st edition of the Rolex Sydney Hobart Yacht Race. Exactly 24 hours after the majestic start in Sydney Harbour, a quarter of the fleet has retired due to damage that included broken rudders, a dismasting and numerous shredded sails, inflicted by gale force winds and heavy seas during the night.

The retiring yachts included two of the Australian maxis, Wild Oats XI and Perpetual Loyal, both of which were considered strong contenders for line honours. Also among the disappointed teams returning to Sydney with damage were KOA (steering) and Patrice (mainsail), thus dashing their hopes of a good finish.

The 628 nautical mile Rolex Sydney Hobart is a true test of determination and perseverance, evident across the fleet as they display outstanding seamanship in tough conditions heading south towards Tasman Island and the finish in Hobart.

Testament to this is Comanche which, despite having hit an unidentified submerged object during the night, breaking one of the twin rudders and a daggerboard, is driving forward determined to stay in the race for line honours.

Comanche is closely trailed by Rambler 88 and Ragamuffin 100, both of which are expected to improve their chances of a line honours win as the winds decrease over the next 24 hours. That said, navigator Andrew Cape on Rambler 88 raccounted their recent status, which will impair their progress: “We’ve had a bit of a disaster. We hit a submerged object with our starboard daggerboard, so our efficiency on port tack is severely limited.”

The battle for the overall win also includes Swiss entry Teasing Machine, owned and skippered by Eric De Turckheim, reveling in the severe conditions and leading Giovanni Soldini’s Volvo 70 Maserati by merely a few miles on handicap.

The frontrunners are fast approaching the halfway mark and expected to cross the finish line up the Derwent River in Hobart on Monday afternoon (28 December).

Published in Sydney to Hobart
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