It was a textbook Rolex Sydney Hobart Race this past Boxing Day: sunshine for the start in Sydney, followed by a nice snotty gale in the Bass Strait by Day 4, which forced number of boats to withdraw, including the Reichel Pugh 55 Wedgetail, dismasted off Tasman Island as she neared the home stretch.
“We had waves break over us a couple of times, but it wasn’t inordinately rough,” said Bob Buchanan, navigator for the Ker 50 Kerumba, which saw peak winds of 57 knots. “We were probably slightly over pressed, [with] a number four jib and a main with two reefs. We took the view that we needed the power in the troughs to get through it.”
First to finish—no surprise—was Bob Oatley’s super-maxi Wild Oats XI, which boasted a number of new features, including “the ironing board,” a horizontal hydrofoil forward to help keep the bow from submarining in heavy air downwind. This marks the seventh time Oatley’s 99-footer has been first to finish the 628-mile classic. Winning the 69th running of the race on corrected time was the 50-foot Cookson/Farr-designed Victoire.
Also competing for the first time this year was Sir Robin Knox-Johnston’s 12-boat one-design pay-to-play Clipper Round the World fleet, as well as Knox-Johnston himself aboard the Clipper 68 CV10, a veteran of two previous Clipper circumnavs.
In all, the Clipper Ventures contingent constituted about an eighth of the 94-boat fleet. Winning the section, which represented the sixth leg of the fleet’s ongoing series around the globe, was the Irish entry Derry-Londonderry-Doire, which was also 29th to finish overall.
“It was very intense and definitely lived up to its reputation as one of the toughest races. It had a bit of everything. At first there was not enough wind, then there was almost too much wind at the end,” said Derry-Londonderry-Doire skipper Sean McCarter.
“It was quite unpleasant out there at times,” the 74-year-old Knox-Johnston agreed, “but I thoroughly enjoyed it.”
From Australia, the fleet planned to continue across the Pacific, eventually arriving in San Francisco April 6-18, before transiting the Panama Canal and continuing on to the Atlantic. The fleet makes a second U.S. stop in New York City in May, on its way to London, where the regatta concludes in July.
Photos courtesy of Rolex/ Carlo Borlenghi