Sydney Hobart, Oatley’s hand in overall too?


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Dec. 29 –
Open warfare for the handicap time victory of the 70th Sydney Hobart. And rest assured that the laurels will not go to the giants. After the triumph in real (the eighth, an all-time record) for the Reichel Pugh 100 Wild Oats XI, “Wild” is also the leader in corrected time for now: it is Roger Hickman’s Wild Rose, which came in 58th place in real and leading in IRC Overall. A good lesson to all superbolids, since this is a 1983 hull. The boat was commissioned by Bob Oatley (the current owner of Wild Oats XI) in 1983 in preparation for the 1987 Admiral’s Cup: this is a Farr 43 that, in 1993 (then still called Wild Oats) won the Sydney Hobart in its last IOR edition (skippered by its own future owner Hickman). In 2011, Wild Rose came close to winning the Australian classic, but at the last the wind dropped suddenly killing Hickman’s dreams of glory. We shall see.

James_VO70_dismastedMeanwhile, the “misfortune” of the Italians continues: after the dismasting of Brindabella, the Jutson 80′ aboard which Giancarlo Simeoli was embarked, the same fate befell the VOR70 Giacomo (former Groupama winner of the Volvo Ocean Race 2011-12) of New Zealander Jim Delegat, on which Francesco Mongelli was navigating. This is the account of the Roman sailor:

Of course I imagined it differently the approach to Tasmania…. was a pity, because we had passed very well through the first night upwind in 25/30 knot winds. Then the second day of light, unstable winds had put us in a difficult position by making us close to the smaller, lighter boats coming in with the new tailwind. When the wind came to us as well, we began to grind miles again, regaining much of what we had lost. After a few hours and some major waves caused by a very cross sea at the entrance to Bass Strait, our poor gennaker gives out exhausted leaving us to face the next 200 miles without the ideal stern configuration in 12 to 15 knots, a real shame! On the approach to Tasmania the wind as expected mounts from 15 to 35 knots in less than 20 minutes. At last these are our best conditions to sail the last 100 miles, we give a hand of reefing and the FRO (a fractional stern sail for fast boats in strong winds).

The boat starts to be as fast as it should be, the speed is maintained over 20 knots fixed the sea grows just as fast and so a glide at more than 25 knots makes us tuck the bow into the next wave, which for these boats is to be considered normal, but the mast gets loaded to the limit and something gives way. Within moments we find ourselves with the whisk in hand to fix the broken mast before it destroys the boat with the crashing of the waves…. We now sail “quietly” to Hobart by motor and with a makeshift rig. Everyone is fine and you can even see a few smiles … we plan to arrive safely before the next cold front passes …”

imageDec. 28-Two days, two hours, three minutes and 26 seconds to make history. Wine magnate Bob Oatley’s Reichel Pugh 100 Wild Oats XI wins the 70th running of the Sydney Hobart, the legendary 630-mile “long” from the Australian capital and Hobart, Tasmania. This victory makes eight, an all-time record, for the Australian boat skippered by Mark Richards: in fact, the record for number of triumphs at the regatta belonged to Morna-Kurrewa IV, which in the 1950s (and the last time in 1960) had won 7 editions of this regatta.

This year it was shaping up to be a battle of two: between Wild Oats, precisely, and Comanche, Jim Clark’s new Hodgdon 100, a hyper-technological fireball built specifically to try to undermine Oatley and co. and win the Sydney Hobart. But there was nothing to be done. Skipper Ken Read (Jim Spithill also aboard) had to settle for second place with a delay of just 49 minutes. Read stated that he tried everything to beat Wild Oats, but to no avail. It is only a losing battle, however; Comanche will be on the water again next year to try to snatch victory.

Wild Oats has a secret weapon: it is equipped with DSS (short for Dynamic Stability System), a system of two retractable “wings” placed in the center of the hull. Depending on the walls, one of these wings is opened downwind to provide greater resistance to heeling. The carbon fiber wing, which was made in New Zealand, is 55 centimeters wide, and when in use extends 2.75 meters out from the hull on the leeward side. The wing-shaped wing, when at rest slips inside the hull, housed in a horizontal box that extends through the boat near the waterline, between the mast and keel. The wing opens and closes controlled by hydraulic motors.

Bad news, however, regarding the Italians in the race. Giancarlo Simeoli, aboard Brindabella, a historic Jutson 80, one of the race’s veteran hulls, was forced to retire due to dismasting. Simeoli and crew had a really bad time of it, so much so that at first there was talk of a sinking risk. Fortunately, all members were rescued without consequence.



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