Rarely have such experienced sailors, most of whom know and are at home in the extremes of the world’s oceans described so dramatically the conditions the leading Vendée Globe skippers went through on Friday and during the night.
That reveals a lot about the hellish sea state with ten-metre high waves and breakers turning the surface into what looks like a ski-piste of spume and spray. The five frontrunners eased off, wishing to preserve their boats as they slalom through the liquid mountains in winds gusting to sixty knots.
Rain, hail and snow squalls, an apocalyptic vision of a furious ocean, whipped up by winds that would take the horns off a bullock, as the French say.
Seb Josse (BT) has borne the brunt of such anger, now limping north to see what repairs he can make to the British built IMOCA Open 60 owned and built by Ellen MacArthur and Mark Turner’s Cowes based Offshore Challenges. Josse was knocked flat by a huge wave and has reported damage to the deck of BT. He has picked up speed from the 3.5 knots he was making last night but has the prospect of sailing for many hours to find quieter waters to make repairs.
Josse has already acceded his coveted fourth place to Vincent Riou (PRB) and his shadow Armel Le Cléac’h who is up to fifth now on Brit Air. These two are bonded by only four miles this morning, with Riou – if anything – marginally quicker.
Michel Desjoyeaux (Foncia) has extended his lead by 12 miles over Roland Jourdain (Veolia Environnement), effectively 1.5 knots quicker over the nine hours between the overnight poll. The leading pair are running parallel tracks, Jourdain about 50 miles to the north. Desjoyeaux, into his 11th successive day in the lead, noted this morning that he had seen squalls to 53 knots and enormous seas. He is now less than 200 miles SWW from the next security gate.
Jean-Pierre Dick (Paprec-Virbac 2) has slowed and was heading nearly due north at just five knots early this morning, and may be trying to improve on the repairs to his rudders.
Sam Davies has been racking up the miles on Roxy, making high average speeds in very favourable conditions, even reporting her own private oasis of sunshine. Meantime Marc Guillemot nears Port Ross, on the north east corner of Auckland Island where today he will stop to repair his mainsail luff track on his mast, a procedure he anticipates should cost him 6.5 hours with Safran stopped.
Steve White, GBR (Toe in the Water), has kept the foot hard down over the last 24 hours on the evergreen 10 year old Finot Conq design which already completed two circumnavigations, and sailing a creditable 367 miles, the highest average in the fleet over the last day, despite a broken goose-neck.
American Rich Wilson (Great American) sustained a cut head when he was thrown from his bunk yesterday in the violent conditions, while Raphael Dinelli (Fondation Océan Vital) has now doubled back in a course which was taking him north east. He was suffering with numerous power-related issues, as well as broken battens yesterday morning.
11th hour battle for the Tattersall’s Cup glory
An 11th hour battle among Australia’s top 50-foot yachts for the ultimate prize in the Rolex Sydney Hobart Yacht Race, the Tattersall’s Cup for the winner on corrected time, has been taking place in Storm Bay at the entrance to Hobart’s Derwent River.
Three TP52s are in the top six places, with Bob Steel’s Quest in first place, the indomitable Syd Fischer sailing his 40th Hobart race with his latest Ragamuffin snapping at Quest’s transom in second and Alan Whiteley’s Victorian sister to those two boats, Cougar II, in sixth place.
Between them are Ray Roberts’ Quantum Racing and Geoff Ross’s Reichel/Pugh 55Yendys.
Ragamuffin, behind Quest on the water, is within seven minutes of Quest’s corrected time.
Quest is 11 hours inside her required finishing time to win the race on corrected time as she enters the Derwent for the final leg of the race.
Fischer on Ragamuffin is also well inside his required finishing time but with an hour less to spare.
Quantum Racing, Yendys and Cougar II are a further hour behind in their zone of comfort.
At 9.52am this morning Bryan Northcote, navigator of Quantum Racing, reported damage to the Sydney-based canting keeled Cookson 50.
“Everything was rosy until around 10pm last night we hit something doing 27 knots and broke our rudder at the post leaving about 1 metre below the hull. This reduced our boat speed down to 60% making it a very difficult trip down the Tassie coast.
sample of the new rules:
18.2 Giving Mark-Room
(a) When boats are overlapped the outside boat shall give the inside boat mark-room, unless rule 18.2(b) applies.
(b) If boats are overlapped when the first of them reaches the zone, the outside boat at that moment shall thereafter give the inside boat mark-room. If a boat is clear ahead when she reaches the zone, the boat clear astern at that moment shall thereafter give her mark-room.
(c) When a boat is required to give mark-room by rule 18.2(b), she shall continue to do so even if later an overlap is broken or anew overlap begins. However, if either boat passes head to wind or if the boat entitled to mark-room leaves the zone, rule 18.2(b) ceases to apply.
(d) If there is reasonable doubt that a boat obtained or broke an overlap in time, it shall be presumed that she did not.
(e) If a boat obtained an inside overlap from clear astern and, from the time the overlap began, the outside boat has been unable to give mark-room, she is not required to give it.
lots more here
2 yachtyakkaees enjoy a settling rum before a summer sail
Seal basher and a random friend.
Second beacon dropped
“Dominique Wavre on Temenos II dropped a beacon called «Atlantic Girl» on his route towards Australia. We are very grateful for his continued involvement in this project, considering his situation. the beacon was dropped at 1h30 (GMT) this morning at 37° 34 south and 96° 56 east. «Joséphine» dropped on 9th December by Jean Pierre Dick on Virbac Paprec 2, is continuing to drift around the polar flow very quickly; yesterday it covered more than 50 km in one day. The third beacon will be dropped by Arnaud Boissières off the Falklands, as he begins his climb back up the Atlantic.”
E-mail from the Argonautica project, aimed at studying maritime currents using Argos beacons dropped on the Vendée Globe race course.
Steinlager 2 – The Sailing Legend!
The Legendary Whitbread Maxi-Ketch of Sir Peter Blake.
Winner of the Whitbread Round the World Race 1989-90
Big Red is already a sailing legend: no other maxi yacht has this palmares of victories – no other maxi is already a piece of sailing story – and still sailing strong!
Almost 10 million usd were invested in the conception and construction of Steinlager 2. This was the first maxi ketch built of composite materials and the first with a fractional rig.
Steinlager 2 is offered exclusively by Farr Yacht Sales at a price of €650,000 euro.
Contact Bill O’Malley for more information.
Start of the Rolex Sydney Hobart Yacht Race to be Webcast Live Around the World via Yahoo!7
24 December, 2008 1:59:00 PM AEDT
A fast friendly race to Hobart
The Bureau of Meteorology has confirmed early predictions of fresh northerly winds over the first two days of the Rolex Sydney Hobart 2008, ensuring the sailors a fast, thoroughly enjoyable ride to Tasmania.
At the traditional Christmas Eve skipper’s briefing Michael Logan, the BOM’s manager, Severe Weather Services told the competing skippers they can expect to start in a 15 knot north easterly breeze, which will freshen to 20 to 25 knots during the afternoon as they speed down the New South Wales coast under spinnaker.
The fresh northerlies are forecast to hold throughout Saturday and into much of Sunday off the NSW coast, though a soft change on Saturday could see the lead boats encounter lighter winds in Bass Strait.
By Sunday night a major front will move through Bass Strait, producing strong, and possibly gale force westerly winds before they shift to towards the south on Monday.
It will be a tougher race for the smaller boats than the fast frontrunners, which are due into Hobart before Sunday night’s big blow.
“This is my fifth Hobart and this looks like one of the best forecasts I’ve seen,” said Andy Beadsworth, tactician on the week old Reichel/Pugh 63 Loki, one of the handicap favorites.
“The forecast certainly looks friendly for Loki. She was fresh out of the wrapper a few weeks ago so a slightly softer downwind forecast is definitely welcome. We don’t want to break the boat on its very first outing but we also want to push the boat hard and see what it will do.”
The forecast also looks tailor made for Ray Roberts’ Cookson 50 Quantum Racing, which looks increasingly like the yacht to beat for the Tattersall’s Cup.
“It’s a particularly good forecast for us,” Roberts said today, “Quantum Racing has a canting keel and as long as we have over 15 knots of breeze we can get her up and planing very quickly.”
In the dash for line honours there seems little in the forecast to dampen spirits aboard the 98 foot maxi Wild Oats XI, already a Rolex Sydney Hobart legend for her three consecutive first across.
The biggest threat to her taking out a record four-in-a-row is gear failure rather than her race rivals, and there are no back-breaking bashes to windward or overly strong winds to threaten her in the forecast.
She will be well and truly in Constitution Dock before Sunday night’s big change. Yet skipper Mark Richards shows no sign of overconfidence.
“You’ve got some fairly fresh running conditions and especially at night things can go wrong. You can blow a chute or muck up a sail change. Everyone will be going quite quickly and if you loose a guy over the side at night doing 25 knots of boat speed you’ll not find him for quite some time.
“It’s not going to be an easy race.”
2008 Rolex Sydney Hobart Entrant
There is only one American entry in the Rolex Sydney Hobart this year, Chris Welsh’ Spencer 65 Ragtime, but it really is a case of quality before quantity. This is one of the most accomplished racing yachts of all time. She is drop dead gorgeous, too.
The history first. Ragtime has covered 150,000 miles of the earth’s watery surface since she was launched in 1964, half of those on the race course. Originally built in New Zealand under the name Infidel, the radically thin skinned plywood lightweight, with her long narrow hull and hard chines was eventually deemed too fragile for the southern hemisphere, and banished to the United States.
In 1974 the renamed Ragtime launched herself into the realms of ocean racing legend. In a nail biting finish to the 2,225 nautical mile TransPacific race from Los Angeles to Hawaii Ragtime sliced across the finish line 4 minutes and 31 seconds ahead of the most famous maxi of her era, the much bigger and more powerful Windward Passage, setting a new record. The following year she finished first again. Ragtime would go on to complete 14 Transpacs, more than any other yacht.
Yet in 2004 Chris Welsh found her at a sheriff’s auction.
“You literally had to go through barbed wire fences, guard dogs, rickety gates,” he recalls. “The boat was chained to a dock surrounded by fishing boats that had been impounded, like she was in goal.”
Welsh has reconfigured Ragtime’s rig and put on a new rudder and keel, and says the boat is even faster now. He raced the boat in another Transpac and he was knocked out by how well Ragtime performed.
“When the boat gets going, surfing big waves on the way to Hawaii it just lights up – water shooting out the sides, going really fast – it gets really nice to drive.”
So Welsh decided it was time for Ragtime to venture back into the southern hemisphere, entering her in the 2008 San Pedro to Tahiti race. To his surprise Ragtime completely dominated the race, winning 1st overall.
Discovering that it would cost no more to ship Ragtime back to the States from New Zealand than from Tahiti, Welsh thought he might as well do some sailing there, too, so Ragtime continued on to Auckland. Again Welsh found himself pleasantly surprised at the results. Ragtime won the Coastal Classic Bay of Islands race in conditions that saw just 140 of the 250 starting yachts finish, followed by a second placing in the White Island Race.
Now Ragtime is bound for Hobart.
“Initially I hadn’t planned to go to New Zealand, let alone Australia. It’s a big hike. But after we did so well in Tahiti and New Zealand it started to gel that we should go to Sydney and do the Rolex Sydney Hobart.”
So that is why, skimming amongst the big, wide bodied, muscley carbon fibre modern racers this year there is a sleek, pencil thin black hull that is so low down to the water it looks more like a submarine or a stealth boat than one of the competitors.
PUMA LEG THREE DAY 10 QFB: received 22.10.08 1817 GMT
We just finished the leg to Singapore. I have to be simple with my thoughts because I am too tired to get really in-depth. We finished second on this leg and hats off to the Telefónica Blue team for their leg win.
And I can officially say that it was one of the most stressful seconds in my sailing career.
Let’s just take the last 24 hours:
The lead changed hands amongst the top four boats more times than I can imagine. We anchored twice. We were solidly fourth several times. We were winning several times. We were picked off by a tug and barge at the most critical time of the leg (about 15 miles from the finish trying to keep both Ericsson boats from rolling us). We saw more fishing boats and ships than any of us had ever seen before. We just missed massive logs and hunks of rope and other debris on many occasions. We had to dive on the keel to get a tree off it. No one on the boat really remembers the last time they slept or ate. Let’s see – anything else I have forgotten? Sounds glamorous eh?
We are powering in from the finish now and our entire team is relieved as well as anxious when we think about what was and what could have been. The team effort on this boat was nothing short of spectacular. The intensity that has to take place 24 hours a day is like nothing that I have ever experienced. A good group of guys, who I believe are proud of what they did over the past 10 days. Even if we did get nipped out by one other boat in the end. That battle amongst the top four was ridiculous.
So, time soon to see the families and friends on the dock. Always an emotional experience. Many of the guys are flying home soon to be with their families over the holidays and I know that all look forward too that.
PUMA Ocean Racing wishes all a wonderful holiday. And please let me know how it goes because I think I may be sleeping all of Christmas day!
Kenny Read – skipper