Hobart record set to fall as favourite re­tires

Kuwait Times - - SPORTS -

Aus­tralian su­per­maxi Per­pet­ual Loyal is on track to smash the record time for the Syd­ney to Hobart race by sev­eral hours, as dis­as­ter struck eight-time win­ner Wild Oats XI. Lo­cal favourite Wild Oats-the race’s most suc­cess­ful yacht-was forced to re­tire from the gru­elling con­test with keel dam­age, los­ing the chance to cap­i­talise on favourable winds that saw the lead­ers chase record times.

The chance to beat the record of 1 day 18hrs 23mins 12secs, set by Wild Oats in 2012, in­stead fell to Loyal skip­pered by An­thony Bell.

Loyal was last at some 37 nau­ti­cal miles south­east of St He­lens Point off Tas­ma­nia, and could fin­ish the race as early as mid­night (1300 GMT Tues­day), or­gan­is­ers the Cruis­ing Yacht Club of Aus­tralia (CYCA) said. CYCA’s Com­modore John Markos told re­porters yesterday af­ter­noon the favourable con­di­tions “will make it a pretty hard record to break” if a new time is set early to­day. Bell, in a bid to be­come more com­pet­i­tive, brought in half the world-class crew of Amer­ica’s Co­manche, which took out line hon­ours last year. He had pre­dicted his heavy but pow­er­ful ves­sel would strug­gle in the light winds against leaner boats.

But the su­per­maxi shot out of Syd­ney har­bour Mon­day into an early lead, fol­lowed by Hong Kong busi­ness­man Seng Huang Lee’s en­trant Scal­ly­wag.

DIS­AP­POINT­MENT FOR FAVOURITE

It was the sec­ond straight year that Wild Oats had to pull out from the 628-nau­ti­calmile (1,163 kilo­me­tre) event along Aus­tralia’s east coast, with a main­sail rip thwart­ing her am­bi­tions in 2015.

The Wild Oats team said in a Face­book post that the su­per­maxi was forced to with­draw from the blue­wa­ter clas­sic due to the “fail­ure of the hy­draulic keel con­trol mech­a­nism”. The keel helps to coun­ter­act the weight of the wind on the sails and en­ables the yacht to re­main more up­right.

The yacht was lead­ing the field in the mid­dle of the Bass Strait when the fail­ure oc­curred, the team said, adding that none of the 22-man crew were hurt.

Cit­ing the safety of the crew, skipper Mark Richards made the call to re­tire from the race, with the yacht set to reach the town of Eden some 480 kilo­me­tres south of Syd­ney by 11pm.

The set­back oc­curred months af­ter Wild Oats owner, multi-mil­lion­aire Aus­tralian wine­maker Bob Oat­ley, died aged 87.

Chas­ing Loyal was New Zealand’s Gi­a­como, fol­lowed by Scal­ly­wag, Maserati and Beau Geste. Gi­a­como is aim­ing to be crowned the over­all win­ner-which is hand­i­cap hon­ours for the ves­sel that per­forms best ac­cord­ing to size.

“We’re feel­ing real good. We’re pow­er­ing along,” said Gi­a­como’s sail­ing mas­ter Steve Cot­ton Tues­day af­ter­noon. “We’re ap­proach­ing Tas­ma­nia in 20 to 24 knots of east­erly wind, and the boat re­ally likes this an­gle. We’re push­ing re­ally hard.”

Ear­lier David Witt, at the helm of Scal­ly­wag, cor­rectly pre­dicted a record was on. “If I had to write a fore­cast for us, it would be this one,” he said Mon­day. “Light air just for­ward of the beam re­ally suits us.”

The hard­est part of this year’s race could prove to be the fi­nale along the Tas­ma­nian Coast and up the fickle Der­went River lead­ing to Hobart’s Con­sti­tu­tion Dock, where wind­less patches can halt a boat for hours while oth­ers sail through on a breeze. Storms are a reg­u­lar haz­ard in one of the world’s most chal­leng­ing races. Six men died, five boats sank and 55 sailors were res­cued in 1998 when a deep de­pres­sion hit the Tas­man Sea.

Apart from Wild Oats, two other ves­sels have been forced to re­tire this year. Freyja, a 71-year-old tim­ber cruiser, blew out her head­sail just be­yond the Heads and Dare Devil broke a rud­der, leav­ing 86 yachts at sea. — AFP

AUBURN HILLS: Iman Shumpert #4 of the Cleve­land Cava­liers looks to get a shot off around To­bias Har­ris #34 of the Detroit Pis­tons dur­ing the sec­ond half at the Palace of Auburn Hills on Mon­day in Auburn Hills, Michi­gan. Detroit won the game 106-90. — AFP

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