Sydney, Australia (December 27, 2021) – The toll of strong southerly winds and rough seas on the first night of the 2021 Rolex Sydney Hobart Yacht Race continued to mount, with 24 boats of the 88 starters forced to retire by this morning.
By 6:30pm (AEDT) today, the attrition increased to 34 teams that had withdrawn for various reasons, leaving 54 in the race, including 11 of the 17 two-handed boats which started yesterday.
For the three 100-footers vying for line honors, Peter Harburg’s Black Jack was well into the crossing of Bass Strait as of 5pm today, and leading the race by 18 nautical miles over the David Witt-skippered SHK Scallywag 100.
Christian Beck’s LawConnect was in third place another 13 nautical miles behind. Meanwhile, the 80-footer, Stefan Racing, was in fourth, six nautical miles further back.
The big boats in the 628 nautical mile race should get through the southerly soon and find themselves in favorable winds for a nail-biting finish off Constitution Dock mid-or-late afternoon tomorrow.
While the leading boats are pretty much through this system now, the same cannot be said for the medium size and smaller boats in the fleet which possibly must endure the harsh southerly conditions until tomorrow morning before they move into easier times.
“This is a race that’s going to be pretty tricky because by the time they get further down into the Tasmanian coast, these medium-sized boats and smaller boats will be into a ridge,” reports Cruising Yacht Club of Australia Commodore Noel Cornish.
“There will be a big high system down there and they’ll be much lighter winds and there will unfortunately be times when there’s no wind. It’s going to be a race of very varying conditions.”
Stefan Racing continues to apply pressure on Black Jack, SHK Scallywag 100, and LawConnect, and skipper Grant Wharington is determined to keep them within reach.
“It was a bit uncomfortable last night,” Wharington said. “We haven’t gone through too many dramas. The boat is going pretty well, we keep up with the 100-footers except when close reaching.
“When the breeze drops down, it will be interesting to see who makes it across and who doesn’t. We have to hang in with the front guys and get the pressure with them.
Meanwhile, spirits were high on the fifth-placed JV62 Whisper, owned by David Griffith, as she sailed south of Gabo Island into a 15 to 20 knot south-easterly breeze at 12 to 13 knots.
“It’s still moderate, we still have reasonable conditions, but it’s not as bad as last night. The sea we had last night was very rough,” said navigator Michael Bellingham. “The first 24 hours are time to look after your boat and certainly that was paramount for us.
“We had a few little issues but we’re ok. We’ve got the three 100-footers and an 80-footer ahead. We have a bunch of TP52s behind us. We’re pretty happy with how we’re going.”
For smaller boats, the race has been tough, as reported Grant Chipperfield, owner of the two-handed Victorian entry Joker on Tourer. He is sailing with Peter Dowdney.
Chipperfield reported “a bumpy night last night, storm activity where we saw 45 knots 30 miles off the coast. It was a very uncomfortable night – one reef in the main. Not much sleep…”
While the conditions have distributed plenty of pain, retirement is the least pleasurable, with the latest victim being the Jeanneau Sun Fast 3600 Maverick as the 34th boat to withdraw.
The two-handed boat sailed Rod Smallman and Leeton Hulley sustained starboard rudder damage after hitting something in the ocean. “We hit something heavy,” said Smallman. “Part of the deck was also shattered.
“We were taking a bit of water, but there was not a safety issue. We are gutted. We were the furthest east, in the current and thought we were in good shape.”
Retirements: Alive (hull damage), Ariel (damaged mainsail), Blink (torn main), Chancellor (sail damage), Crystal Cutter III (rig damage), Denali (hull damage), Enchantress (broken forestay), Eora (TH) (broken backstay), Extasea (engine issues), Gweilo (damaged forestay), Hells Bells (engine issues), Hip-Nautic (TH) (damaged main), Huntress (torn main), Inukshuk (autopilot issues), Kayimai (TH) (electrical issues), Khaleesi (forestay damage), Kialoa II (rig damage), Mako (damaged main), Maverick (TH) (rudder damage), Mille Sabords (damaged mainsail), Minerva (damaged mainsail), Moneypenny (broken forestay), Nautical Circle (rigging issues), No Limit (crew injury – broken humerus), Oskana (broken forestay), OzDesign Patrice Six (engine issue), Patriot (rudder bearing issues), Philosopher (internal damage), TSA Management (damaged mainsail), URM (damaged main), Wax Lyrical (equipment damage), White Noise (window damage), Zara (unspecified damage), Zen (minor injury).
The 628 nm Rolex Sydney Hobart Yacht Race will be the 76th edition in 2021 with a fleet of 91 boats that include three international entries. One hundred fifty seven teams set off in 2019 for the 75th edition, but since then the 2020 race was cancelled due to the pandemic and uncertainty has hovered this year.
From the start in Sydney Harbour, the fleet sails out into the Tasman Sea, down the south-east coast of mainland Australia, across Bass Strait (which divides the mainland from the island State of Tasmania), then down the east coast of Tasmania. At Tasman Island the fleet turns right into Storm Bay for the final sail up the Derwent River to the historic port city of Hobart.