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 a number of boats to withdraw, including the RP 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 taken line honors in the 628-mile classic. The 50-foot Cookson/Farr-designed Victoire won on corrected time.
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 circumnavigations. 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 Clipper fleet continues 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 Clipper Ventures PLC (top);
of Andrea Francolini/Cruising Yacht of Club of Australia