Saturday, 29 December 2012

Magnificent Wild Oats X1 Speedboat Triple Crown Sydney Hobart 2012 Classic

Once again the Bob Oatley owned 'Wild Oats X1' super maxi ocean racer stamped her massive authority on this years Sydney Hobart ocean racing classic.

From the start gun at 1pm on Boxing Day, she literally leapt across the start line a fraction behind 'Ragamuffin Loyal' her main rival for this race, but shot past and raced away down Sydney Harbour and was first out of the Heads by quite a margin, thereby winning the first of the three trophies for this race. 

Wild Oats X1 2012 Sydney Hobart
There was quite a large SE swell running up the coast, but she just ploughed through it looking increasingly capable of breaking all kinds of records as she went. And that is just what she did. Her dominance only increased as the race progressed and with the rest of the fleet  of 76 battling it out behind her, it was difficult to take the focus away from Wild Oats X1 because she just kept on extending her lead.

Sometime during the night the wind shifted around to the North East and later NW, gusting at times to 25 - 30 knots plus so the big boat was often surfing along at 23-24 knots or more.

Downwind surfing in a big wind makes for some really exciting sailing and here is what Geoff Cropley, a crewmember on 'Lahana' has to say about their great day doing just that across Bass Strait and beyond:
'Certain days remind you why you love ocean racing so much. And Thursday, day two of the Sydney to Hobart, was right up there as one of them.

On Lahana, by midday, we were absolutely flying across Bass Strait behind Wild Oats XI and Ragamuffin Loyal as the north westerlies blew at up to 35 knots. It was unbelievable … there we were, about a quarter of the way across Bass Strait and on a hard downhill run with everyone on deck behind the helm trying to get the bow out of the water. At the time, this was the fastest that I had ever been in a yacht racing across Bass Strait.

The sense of speed, exhilaration and the cohesion of a crew working together for that common goal of maximising the boat speed was superb.

It's why you do ocean racing. It's for those moments - however brief they may be (and fortunately they were not on Thursday) - which also suddenly make distant the memory of all the misery you can otherwise feel in the sport when the wind, rain and high seas can be at their worst.

As an added bonus, we also spotted a big sunfish that passed us on our port side. That was then the only wildlife we had seen since the race started on Boxing Day, but it was enough on a day that saw us spend most of it sailing under blue skies and with a honking northerly wind.

Not that the day was trouble free. In the morning, we blew up a sail - an A4 spinnaker. Incredibly, the pressure from the wind blew it out. Then, just as we were putting up another sail, we snapped a halyard. It wasn't drastic, but it was disappointing to have two things go wrong, one after the other.

We were still left sailing into Thursday afternoon cruising at more than 20 knots - even as I wrote this column, we were clocking at 23 to 24 knots.

As for when we expect to arrive in Hobart? Like with the other race leaders, we knew that would depend on when the next changes would arrive.

But on board Lahana it was all smiles, even with Wild Oats XI and Ragamuffin Loyal ahead of us and out of sight by the time we had lunch.

Everyone was in good health and spirits. We had no injuries and had just had a hearty lunch. And the speciality of the day? Chicken kebabs!'

Click on this link for update video:

Wild Oats X1 led the 628 nautical mile race from start to finish and opened up a lead of fifty odd miles on the second boat 'Ragamuffin Loyal', with 'Lahana' a further thirty to forty miles.

It has been confirmed this morning that she has taken the triple by winning First out of the Harbour, Line Honours and on corrected time - quite a performance. 

With all the glamour and focus on the super maxis, the rest of the fleet tends to be overlooked - but with three quarters of the fleet still at sea, there is a lot more racing yet. Many more stories will emerge, with the boats at the end of the fleet still having 250nm yet to sail to the finish line.

With only four retirements for broken rudders, steering and mainsail problems, the damage this year is light - a nod to good preparation of their boats by the crews.

Our best wishes and good luck go to all the crews out there sailing toward the New Year and the Hobart finish line.

Extract article courtesy Geoff Cropley and SMH, video courtesy YouTube

You can read much more about sailing downwind and sailboat racing at a very casual cruising level in my book 'Sailing Adventures in Paradise' downloadable from my website

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