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Conversations from the rail

by Di Pearson/RSHYR Media 29 Dec 2022 05:20 GMT 26-31 December 2022
Yeah Baby at sunrise - Rolex Sydney Hobart Yacht Race © Andrea Francolini

We spoke to and messaged yachts still racing in the Rolex Sydney Hobart Yacht Race this morning to get their various views on the race.

From Shane Kearns, owner/skipper of the S&S 34, White Bay 6 Azzurro: "The wind has gone a bit soft, so we're tacking a lot. Annoying. The wind is dead south, 7-8 knots and it's 4 knots at Tasman Island, but we're a fair way away from there yet.

"There's wind expected around lunchtime - 10-15 knots from the south-east and going back to the east."

Kearns sounded tired but bright on this, his last Rolex Sydney Hobart. "There was a lot of exhilaration on the first day followed by terrifying last two days (laughing). It's now light conditions. What a race of contrasts, ups and downs. We started in temperatures of 30 degrees - so hot - then the last two we are in wet weather gear. It's been very cold."

Kearns said he and his crew of five had eaten quite well. "We've been eating fresh quiche, sandwiches, cereals. We're on the freeze dried now with a bit of fresh food left."

Surprisingly, there have been no whales or dolphins spotted from the S&S 34 from Sydney: "Just several sunfish - just lying there in the water - they're huge."

Of their race, Kearns said: "We're happy with our progress. We've been competitive. At this stage hoping to win our divisions."

Mako: Navigator, Simon Macks

"It was a pretty tough night. Wet and cold with a confused seaway. Currently we are in smooth waters in a light 9 knot breeze from the west/south-west.

"We're expecting light winds to Tasman Island and to the finish later this evening around 8pm."

Quantock: Navigator, Jonathan Turner

"Last night we had strong winds - 25 gusting to 35 knots, 2 half metre waves, very messy and confused. It was so nice to see the sun come out this morning."

Z7 - Navigator, Stuart Milne

"We've had a nice cruise down the coast and a great run down Bass Strait in 21 knots - and we blew a couple of kites.

"It's been a rather frustrating trip down the coast of Tasmania. We're 14nm from Tasman Island, sailing in 10 knots from the west. We're expecting it to die as we get around the corner and then for it to pick up from the west again for the trip home.

"We've been having a great time though. A fun race. Everyone has sailed well.

"We've had a pretty uneventful race. We blew one of the juicers, so had water in bilge. It's fixed now."

These guys have been dining out, little of the crap freeze dried food for them!

"No way," Milne said. "We had green chicken curry on the first night, followed by bacon, egg and mushroom muffins the next morning, frittatas for lunch, spaghetti bolognaise for dinner. Next morning it was scrambled egg, bacon, and sausage breakfast. Last night we resorted to freeze dried curry and had cereal for brekkie. We've eaten well - thanks to the wives and partners."

They were fortunate to have sighted sea life: "We've seen a couple of whales and only a couple of pods of dolphins."

"Laurie (owner McAllister) is having an absolute ball. We should be home (Hobart) in time for dinner tonight."

On board Coopers, owner Craig Watson, was supervising and helping with a sail change. When he called after, Watsons said, "We got through the first night in good shape. It was good to get our kite up. We still had the kite up the next day.

"This morning we've got 6-7 knots from the west, but it's due to pick up and we're in good shape. We changed From no. 2 headsail to no. 1 and will change back to the 2 in a couple of hours when the breeze picks up again."

Watson added, "We're well hydrated and well fed. We had a lot of wraps, chicken, turkey, beef, left over from Christmas lunch. For dinners, we've had cryovac (vacuum sealed in bags) meals, nice stews, curries etc."

On the two-handed entry, Crux, an S&S 34 from NSW, Carlos Aydos and Peter Grayson are doing it tough, their words reflecting what most of the two-handers will be going through compared to the fully crewed boats.

"It's been a very tiring 36 hours. We've not really been able to get much sleep. Lots of things happening. Lots of helming and sail changes so I'm pretty exhausted and then had seasickness on top of it," the normally affable Grayson confessed.

What is he most looking forward to in Hobart?

"Definitely looking forward to getting a few decent sleeps in. Carlos is downstairs now trying to get some sleep. He's the same - he's been working hard, he's quite sore.

"We got the new speed record for the boat, though, which was cool - Carlos got 16.8 knots, I got 16."

These numbers are extraordinary for the S&S boats which, although sea kindly (used by at least three people to break round the world single handed records), they are not usually the fastest boats on the track.

Grayson continued, "We had a lot of fun crossing Bass Strait, 3-4 metre swells went up to 4-5 metres when I hit some interesting eddies and currents.

"Right now I've got about 8 knots and we're just slowly making our way towards Tasmania where the wind's supposed to shift.

"Last night it was cold, wet and it was just miserable. Right now the sun is out so things have heated up a bit and it's dry," Grayson ended.

On a final note, as has been documented, Huntress, the modified Sydney 39 C/R, lost her rudder at 7am on Wednesday 28th December, while racing. Tasmanian owner, Brett Dowton, skipper Victoria Logan and the crew, subsequently boarded a police vessel.

"The CYCA race control coordinated assistance for us. With conditions deteriorating, it was advised a tow would be too dangerous and at 1700 hours we were safely transferred to a Tas Police vessel near Cape Wickam and taken to Lady Barron," she said.

"It was an extremely difficult and heart-wrenching decision to leave Huntress floundering 80 nautical miles offshore. We can confirm a salvage operation is already being planned for her safe transfer to mainland Tasmania."

Logan finished with, "A massive thank you to all involved and the messages of concern and support we have received. We are obviously very disappointed that this has happened, but the main thing is we are safe, with no major injuries and the boat is recoverable."

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