A perfect sunny summer day, and lovely 10-12 knot north easterly breeze made for one of the most exciting starts to the Cruising Yacht Club of Australia’s Rolex Sydney Hobart Yacht Race with all five super maxis vying for the lead at one stage before leaving Sydney Heads.
After clean starts on all three lines, the Oatley family’s Wild Oats XI and Peter Harburg’s Black Jack were neck-and neck, while InfoTrack and Sun Hung Kai Scallywag gave chase and Comanche made a swooping tack to the east of the Harbour. Black Jack’s skipper, Mark Bradford, then put the foot to the accelerator to see the Queensland boat leave her rivals behind for the right hand turn at South Head for Hobart.
Wild Oats XI was next, Seng Hung Lee’s Sun Hung Kai Scallywag and Christian Beck’s InfoTrack followed. But it wasn’t long before the powerful Comanche made a comeback to hold a slight lead at 2.45pm, with the other supers in hot pursuit; no more than a mile between the five. By 3pm, all were ahead of Comanche’s record of last year, as were Alive and Wild Oats X.
Winning Appliances, the Carkeek 60 best known as Ichi Ban, also got off the front line with pace, leading her 60 to 70 foot contemporaries. It wasn’t long before the two RP66’s, Phillip Turner’s Alive and the Stacey Jackson skippered, all-female crew on Wild Oats X had overhauled her, but the other ‘60’s’ were not far behind.
A clean start saw great racing to the turning marks and onward to the open ocean. ROLEX/Studio Borlenghi
Those on the two start lines behind did not fare as well as the front line, as the breeze kept dropping out and became patchy, making it particularly difficult for the third line boats to lay their turning mark at Sydney Heads.
But all 85 boats eventually cleared the Heads, the smallest boat in the fleet, Army Sailing Club's 30 foot Gun Runner, skippered by Reece Young, having the distinction of last boat to clear the Harbour. However, she had four or five boats for company, only slightly ahead of her.
Of the 11 internationals, Ron O’Hanley’s canting-keel Cookson 50, Privateer, was looking good - as was the first Hungarian entry in the race - the Roni Ormandlaki skippered TP52, M3 Team Hungary.
The move leads many to reconsider their predictions as to the overall victory in this year’s 628 nautical mile race. Matt Allen’s defending champion, Ichi Ban, a TP52, still rates No. 1 with most, and was up challenging the 60-plus footers of the race. However, little boats like Bruce Taylor’s Caprice 40, Chutzpah (Vic) sailing well in her favoured off the wind conditions. A second Victorian, John Newbold’s RP51 Primitive Cool was also up amongst it.
At the other end of the fleet, Gun Runner and LeeAnn Lynch’s Elan 43 Relish IV, with 49 Sydney Hobart race veteran Bill Ratcliff on board, were almost level pegging.
Medium north easterly winds continue along the NSW Coast, meaning the super maxis are unable to put a lot of distance on the bulk of the fleet at this early stage of the race.
At 3.25pm Gordon Ketelbey reported his yacht Zen had rig damage and that they were retiring to Wollongong. at 4:20pm Sun Hung Kai Scallywag reported a broken bowsprit and have also retired from the race, the fleet is now at 83.
For all information and to follow the race on tracker: http://rolexsydneyhobart.com/