Fleet trickles in to Hobart

Sean Langman and Anthony Bell’s 100-foot super maxi Investec Loyal was the second yacht across the finish line of the Rolex Sydney Hobart Yacht Race, arriving last night just after midnight, three and a half hours behind the provisional line honours winner and race favourite Wild Oats XI.

Investec Loyal’s sailing time to Hobart was two days, eleven hours and eleven minutes.

The yacht was on track to finish sooner; however as is often the case when arriving at the mouth of the Derwent River after dark, the breeze typically drops right off.

This was Langman’s 20th Rolex Sydney Hobart race. Once across the line he congratulated the Wild Oats XI crew on being first to Hobart, only a few hours before. Asked whether he can challenge Bob Oatley’s super maxi Wild Oats XI again and win, he responded, “definitely, there is more in this boat, more in the team.”

“The first afternoon we were the faster boat, they were a slicker team. We’ll change [that] though,” Langman warned. “We sailed a seamanship race.”

Later Wednesday morning, four more contenders crossed the finish line in Hobart: Lahana, Ichi Ban, Wild Thing and Rán.

The 30-meter fixed keel water ballasted Lahana, skippered by Peter Millard, completed the gruelling race in two days, fourteen hours, and nine minutes. Lahana arrived at the finish line at 3:09am 29 December. Like Investec Loyal crossing the finish line was frustrating as the winds on the Derwent River were all but gone.

The story was similar for Matt Allen’s Jones 70 Ichi Ban. Allen and his crew sailed an inspiring race. The whole way they had been in the breakaway pack of four leading yachts, snapping at the sterns of their much bigger rivals and ahead of the remaining super maxi Wild Thing and the 72-foot mini-maxi Rán.

« Up to 2300 last night we had great running conditions. Our approach to Tasman Island was in a good northerly breeze,” Allen said when he finally stepped onto Hobart’s Constitution Dock after finishing at 0552 Wednesday morning.

“The breeze was still reasonable to Tasman Light, but then it got light at Cape Raoul. It picked up a bit later, but when we got to the Iron Pot it fell apart. There was no wind anywhere on the Derwent River. It didn’t matter where you were on the River, there was nothing. » Ichi Ban, veteran of five previous Rolex Sydney Hobarts, completed the race in a respectable two days, 16 hours and 52 minutes.

Grant Wharington’s Wild Thing finished 23 minutes behind Ichi Ban at 0615 Wednesday morning while Zennstrom’s Rán arrived seven minutes later at 0622.

Like Wild Oats XI, Rán also faces the same protest about the use of its radio from the event Race Committee. The International Jury will hear the protest at 1300 today at the Royal Yacht Club Tasmania.

This was Zennstrom’s second Rolex Sydney Hobart Race. Commenting on the race conditions they encountered this year Zennstrom said, « I think I have now definitely seen what the race is all about. It was tough crossing Bass Strait; 35 knots of wind and big seas. The whole experience has been fantastic. »

At 1030 Wednesday, saw the arrival of Alan Brierty’s Reichel/Pugh Limit and less than three minutes later, Stephen Ainsworth’s Loki. Both boats were locked in a dead heat for most of the race. According to Limit’s owner Alan Brierty, “First Loki got in front, then we got in front. It was back and forth. We finally got in front and stayed in front at Tasman Light. Speaking of the neck-and-neck battle with Loki, Brierty said, “It was a race within the race. For us, it was the race.”

Stephen Ainsworth reflected about coming in behind Limit, “We had done everything right. Limit just got away and we couldn’t catch them. He then jokingly said, “After a while we thought, we hate this race.”

Asked how this Rolex Sydney Hobart race compared with others, tactician and former America’s Cup competitor Chris Dickson, tactician onboard Limit reflected, “This race wasn’t any better or worst than any other Hobart. We still saw 45 knots of breeze, big breaking waves—it’s just the Bass Strait.”

Most of the race fleet is across the Bass Strait and is spread out along the eastern Tasmanian coast. Their race is far from over as tacticians will be working hard to navigate through a very large area of light and variable breeze along the coast, in the shadow of the island.

Race organisers announced the 17th retirement, Matthew Prentice’s Archambault 40 Nautical Circle, which dropped out with engine problems and was headed to Eden.

Nine yachts have finished, with 61 yachts still racing. Still up for grabs is the Tattersall’s Cup for the overall handicap win. Currently leading is Darryl Hodgkinson’s Beneteau 45, Victoire, which would need to finish by 0736 tomorrow (Dec 30).

The entries for this the 66th edition of the Rolex Sydney Hobart Yacht Race included six international entries from the USA, UK, Italy, France, as well as two partly crewed Russian boats, and entries from seven of the eight Australian states and territories.

Race Tracker: Race enthusiasts can go to http://rolexsydneyhobart.com/yacht_tracker.asp for a real time tracker of yachts and their position.

Official race website: www.rolexsydneyhobart.com