Grand Prix Sailor's Monday Digest

Skandia Takes Rolex Sydney Hobart Line Honors

ROLEX SYDNEY HOBAR After a teeth-clenching duel with the freshly minted Kiwi supermaxi Zana, Grant Wharington's Skandia (Wild Thing) crossed the finish line of the 2003 Rolex Sydney Hobart race 14 minutes ahead of its new arch rival. Skandia, the first canting keel boat to score line honors in the history of the race, sailed an elapsed time of 2d:15h:14m:6s, well shy of the race record of 1d:19h:48m:2s, set in 1999 by the Volvo 60 Nokia. "We could see them (Zana) the whole way, except for 30 minutes this morning," said Wharington in an interview posted on the event website "Off Cape Raoul [30 miles from the finish line] we were just four boat lengths in front, but luckily for us the wind stayed in." Another canting keel supermaxi that should have been in the running, Ludde Ingvall's Nicorette, was heavily damaged before reaching Bass Strait, wiping out its forward canard on an unidentified underwater object. Initially the crew attempted to soldier on but after a few punishing upwind hours in 30 knots of breeze, cracks were discovered in the mechanism that cants Nicorette's keel, as well as some damaged carbon in the hull, so they retired and headed for Eden, a port on the southeast coast of Australia. Nicorette had changed its configuration for the race, installing a swinging keel, a retractable canard rudder forward of the keel, and trim tabs on the aft rudder. Nicorette was in fourth place in the line honors race when the plug was pulled. Sean Langman's savagely modified Open 60 Grundig, a 66-footer that's constantly being re-configured to set records, also suffered bad luck, a recurring theme for Langman and his crew when it comes to Sydney Hobart races. While the two supermaxis fooled with each other down the east coast of Australia, Langman and his 8-man crew (reduced to save weight) sailed their own race, appearing at several points to be ahead of the match racing 98-footers. But light air 40 miles shy of the finish line spelled the end of Grundig's challenge and it crossed the line in third. Skip Sheldon and the crew of the American entry Zaraffa finished 2d:23h:56m:36s, well out of the running for line honors, and currently 7th overall in IMS, 6th in IRC. The Sydney Hobart is just one of many races Sheldon has sailed in the past few years with his Reichel/Pugh-designed 66-footer. Since 2000 Zaraffa has won its class or been first across the line in races including the Block Island Race, the Vineyard Race, the Bermuda Race, and the DaimlerChrysler North Atlantic Challenge. This year she won the Big Boat Class at the Rolex Middle Sea Race, placing second in the IMS Overall and third IRC Overall. One of the more interesting interviews on the www.rolexsydneyhobart website is with Sheldon. An excerpt: "This is the 51st year I've been offshore in my own boat," says Sheldon, "and I have also crewed for a lot of people. You have to do your apprenticeship." 2003 ROLEX AWARDS NOMINEES US SAILING has announced the final list of nominees-five women and six men-who will be considered for the 2003 Rolex Yachtsman and Yachtswoman of the Year awards. Snipe world champion Augie Diaz (Miami); Pan Am Games gold medalist Tim Healy (Newport, R.I.); ISAF match racing world champion Andy Horton (Shelburne, Vt.); J/80 world and Lightning world champion Jay Lutz (Houston); Laser Master and Snipe North American champion Andrew Pimental (Newport, R.I.); Around Alone Class 2 champion Brad Van Liew (Mt. Pleasant, S.C.); and Etchells 22 world champion Ken Read (Newport, R.I.), who has previously won this award in 1985 and 1994. Nominees for the 2003 Rolex Yachtswoman of the Year are Rolex International Women�s Keelboat champion Sally Barkow (Nashotah, Wis.); U.S. Women�s Match Racing champion Liz Baylis (San Francisco), who won the award in 2002; US SAILING�s Women�s champion Joni Palmer (Annapolis, Md.); ISAF Youth Worlds gold medallist Paige Railey (Clearwater, Fla.); and Yngling world champion Hannah Swett (Jamestown, R.I./New York). MACARTHUR'S TRIMARAN LAUNCHED Ellen MacArthur's new 75-foot B&Q trimaran was wheeled out of the assembly shed at the Sydney Port Authority and P&O base at Glebe on Dec. 18 and lowered into the water. Once afloat the 100-foot mast was then fitted to the main hull. "The entire operation took 12 hours and it was quite an emotional day to see her finally in the water where she belongs," said MacArthur. There will be little respite for the shore team, who have their work cut out for them between now and the official launch day on January 8, 2004. "We will all have Christmas Day off-Aussie-style," said Ellen. "A BBQ and visit to the beach, which will be very different to what all our families back home are doing! But we can only afford one day off as we are pulling out the stops to get the boat ready for the launch. It is the nature of this sport that the winter period is often the busiest time, so the team is pretty used to having little downtime at this time of year. Last year we had finished the solo Route du Rhum before jumping straight into the training program for the Jules Verne record attempt. But, hopefully, it will all be worth the effort and everyone is pretty excited about the launch and the prospect of sailing her soon." VAN DEN HEEDE Around the world sailor Jean Luc Van den Heede, who is presently in his 52nd day at sea on a round-the world west-east attempt, was probably the last person on Earth to celebrate Christmas this year. "I'll have to look at the question, but, in theory, apart from a few isolated inhabitants on some Pacific islands, I should be one of the last people to celebrate Christmas," said VDH in his latest report. "I'm going to give myself the pleasure of a little foie gras, followed by duck a l'orange, some camembert out of a box and a chocolate hazelnut dessert, all swallowed down with some fine claret or a Burgundy from between 95 and 98, that I haven't yet chosen from my cellar. I'm going to wrap the bottle up in my duvet, because it's getting a bit cold down here. As for the presents, there are obviously some books and music, and if I've guessed right from the shape of the packets and the labels, some food." Van Den Heede is currently 13 days ahead of the west-east record holder-Philippe Monet, who sailed the course in 151d:19h:54m-and has just under 14,000 miles to sail. Follow VDH's progress at Grand Prix Sailor is compiled by the editors of Sailing World magazine. 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