Rolex Sydney Hobart Update
As of this writing, just 10 yachts have completed the 74th running of the Rolex Sydney Hobart Race. But by the time you’re reading this, boats should be finishing in droves as various classes begin to arrive in Hobart, seemingly in lockstep. A result of the conditions being uncharacteristically pleasant and benign, the normal rates of attrition and heavy-weather boat handling missteps have been replaced by close tactical battles all the way down the race course in relatively light winds.
At the head of the fleet, four 100-foot supermaxis raced closer than ever before, with Jim Cooney’s VPLP 100 Comanche leading most of the way to Hobart, only to get ground down in the end by the two skinnier Reichel-Pugh 100-footers Wild Oats XI and Black Jack. For the Oatley family’s R/P 100 Wild Oats XI — the perennial darling of the Australian yachting media — it is her ninth line honors victory, only furthering her status as the most famous and successful yacht in the history of the race. Behind the four 100-footers, it was an R/P 66 match race between local Tasmanian boat Alive and Wild Oats X. The smaller maxi yacht in the Oatley family’s stable of race boats had been loaned to an all-female crew of professional sailors led by Australian Volvo Ocean Race alumna Stacey Jackson. Unfortunately, the women got pipped by the local Tassie boat to the tune of just under 13 minutes over the 628-mile course.
Seventh over the finish line was the Mills 68 Prospector — the overall winner of the 2018 Pacific Cup race — followed by a former Bay Area boat, Voodoo, which used to lay down tracks as Frank Slootman’s old Transpac division-winning R/P 63 Invisible Hand. Ninth over the line was Matt Allen’s Carkeek 60, which is on loan and being raced this year as Winning Appliances, with both John Winning Sr. and Jr. aboard. Also aboard is the Bay Area’s Johnny Goldsberry, who’s been killing it on the Facebook live feeds, and two-time surfing world champion John John Florence who is racing in his first Hobart.
Behind the big boats that finish first and garner most of the glory, the overall winner usually emerges, and this year could be no different. Dominating the record-setting fleet of TP 52s since the start, Matt Allen’s Ichi Ban still has a shot at successfully defending her overall IRC crown from last year, though any light-air slowdown in the Derwent River could instead hand the overall win over to Philip Turner’s Hobart, Tasmania-based R/P 66 Alive. The rest of the fleet, including the slower and smaller boats, should encounter more variable and inconsistent conditions over the next few days, eliminating any chance of a David and Goliath scenario in this year’s race. Ron O’Hanley’s American entry Privateer, a Cookson 50, currently sits well inside the top ten overall on corrected time.
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