Su­per­maxis eye race record as Syd­ney to Hobart speeds off

Kuwait Times - - SPORTS -

The favourite su­per­maxis led the fleet out of Syd­ney Har­bour head­ing for Hobart yes­ter­day as a fine weather fore­cast brought a new record back into sight at the start of one of the tough­est yacht races in the world.

Un­der a blaz­ing azure sky, hun­dreds of leisure boats lined the course to the Heads watched by masses of spec­ta­tors on the shore­line as a fresh north-east­erly sped the fastest yachts-all 100-foot­ers-ahead of the 80-odd smaller ves­sels en­tered for Aus­tralia’s blue­wa­ter clas­sic. Skipper An­thony Bell’s Per­pet­ual LOYAL was the first into open ocean fol­lowed by Hong Kong-owned Scal­ly­wag, and lo­cal race favourite Wild Oats XI trailed by the untested CQS of Finn Ludde Ing­vall, who took line honours in 2000 and 2004.

As they flew south down the coast un­der spin­naker touch­ing 26 knots in fresh­en­ing northerly winds Wild Oats edged into an early lead, head­ing into a weak southerly change due to move through late on Box­ing Day.

The Bureau of Me­te­o­rol­ogy said the southerly will be lighter than pre­vi­ously fore­cast at around 10 to 15 knots and on Tues­day winds will back around to the north again, far ear­lier than ex­pected.

In the race for line honours, con­di­tions favour the slim Wild Oats, which set the record of 1 day 18hrs 23mins 12secs for the gru­elling 628-nau­ti­cal-mile (1,163 kilo­me­tre) event in 2012. Skipp­per Mark Richards said he’s not think­ing about records, but ri­val David Witt, at the helm of Hong Kong busi­ness­man Seng Huang Lee’s en­trant, Scal­ly­wag, cer­tainly is.

“If I had to write a fore­cast for us, it would be this one,” he said. “Light air just for­ward of the beam re­ally suits us.” Witt said Scal­ly­wag could break Wild Oats’ race record. “Our rout­ing puts us at the Iron Pot (mouth of Tas­ma­nia’s Der­went River) in 1 day 11 hours. That gives us 7 hours to do 14 miles and beat the record.”

Ri­val Bell on Per­pet­ual LOYAL, the lead­ing chal­lenger to Wild Oats, was less pleased with Mon­day’s fore­cast not­ing that his heav­ier and pow­er­ful su­per maxi needs as much time to wind­ward as it can get rather than the light southerly now pre­dicted.

“We’ll have to be a lot more tac­ti­cal and bear more risk to use the bet­ter points of our boat. We’ll have to sail away from the fleet to find more power reach­ing that will give us bet­ter boat speed,” Bell said.

‘STILL EARLY STAGES’

In a bid to be more com­pet­i­tive, Per­pet­ual has brought in half the world-class crew of last year’s win­ner, the US su­per boat Co­manche, which is not en­tered for 2016.

Aboard the hi-tech CQS, which slipped back to eighth, Ing­vall re­ported: “We are some­what un­der­pow­ered at the mo­ment, all the others have spin­nakers and we do not, but it is still early stages.” Or­gan­is­ers at the Cruis­ing Yacht Club of Aus­tralia said the hardest part of this year’s race would likely be the Tas­ma­nian Coast and the fickle Der­went River lead­ing to Hobart’s Con­sti­tu­tion Dock where wind­less holes can halt a boat for hours, while others sail through on a breeze. Line honours for the fastest ves­sel and the over­all hand­i­cap win­ner could both be de­cided on a be­calmed Der­went. Last year’s over­all hand­i­cap win­ner, Aus­tralia’s 52-footer Bal­ance, is hop­ing for a sec­ond suc­ces­sive crown for the TP52. The fore­cast stood in stark con­trast to 2015 when sav­age souther­lies forced dozens of boats to pull, in­clud­ing Wild Oats. Storms are a reg­u­lar hazard, with six men dy­ing, five boats sink­ing and 55 sailors res­cued on a fa­tal night in 1998 when a deep de­pres­sion ex­ploded over the Tas­man Sea.

Within the first hours, the or­gan­is­ers re­ported that two ves­sels had been forced to re­tire with Freyja, a 71-year-old tim­ber cruiser blow­ing out her head­sail just be­yond the Heads and Dare Devil break­ing a rud­der leav­ing 86 yachts at sea. — AFP

SYD­NEY: Hong Kong su­per­maxi yacht Scal­ly­wag sails through Syd­ney Har­bour at the start of the Syd­ney to Hobart yacht race yes­ter­day. —AFP

SYD­NEY: Aus­tralian su­per­maxi yacht Per­pet­ual Loyal sails through Syd­ney Har­bour at the start of the Syd­ney to Hobart yacht race in Syd­ney yes­ter­day. — AFP

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