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Rio Report: Rolex Sydney Hobart Race

Rio 100 navigator Peter Isler checks in from the pounding 600 mile ocean racing classic that is the Rolex Sydney Hobart Race.

December 26, 2014
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Cruising along a glassy sea on the Rio 100. This is the Bass Strait?!! I haven’t even pulled out my fleece layers yet, and as the sun set, I was just on deck in bare feet!

Well our move to the beach couldn’t have worked better and we enjoyed (for a time) being the third boat in the fleet. As feared, the ridge was ahead of us, so the sea breezes on Australia’s southeast coast were our ticket out of the pack, but now that same ridge is causing havoc, especially for my friends on the Comanche. They must be dead in the middle of it. Wild Oats just squeaked ahead of the ridge, and continues to open miles on Comanche, but the race isn’t over.

We are alongside Syd Fisher’s new Rags and we are running into the north (back) edge of the ridge. We are on a port tack reach. In about 7 knots of wind, but we won’t be able to push through. We’ll have to wait until the ridge gets pushed out by the northeast fill tomorrow.

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The boys on Rio are looking forward to a little heavy air running that is forecast on the approach to Tasman light. Until then, it’s champagne sailing. As the guys on board said… “This feels like a ‘Mexican race’ (e.g. San Diego to Puerto Vallarta).”

Rio at dusk, near the Victoria coast.

Nick Vindin (SBS TV)

12.26.14 Last night we were launching off “condos” sailing upwind in 25+ knots, now we are drifting toward the coast … still upwind – but the boots are off and the sunscreen is on.

We are making a foray towards the shore… and feeling very lonely in this tactic… for now. Everyone else we see seems to be content to stay on starboard tack… but with this ridge passing over us – things are not so straight forward

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Nice pod of dolphins came swimming by heading toward shore… so I’ll take that as a sign!

Rio 100, Rolex Sydney Hobart

Nick Vindin (SBS TV)

12.25.14

We’re into the first night on the Rio and all is going well. The rough ride continues even as the wind speed has dropped. Even now, I go weightless in my nav seat every minute or so as the boat launches off of the big waves that built up with the 25 knots winds this afternoon. We gave up a lot of distance to the big canters this afternoon.

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On the tracker it looks like Wild Oats and Comanche have a great race going on some 25 miles ahead of us, but with the wind dropping we are adding sail area. The big jib replaced the smaller J4 an hour ago and now we are thinking about shaking that final reef. The forecast is for a very tricky evening.

12.25.14

On the Rio 100 we are definitely learning our boat in these conditions. It’s very rough, sailing upwind in 25 to 27 knots of wind pounding hard into short steep waves. The fleet is all on port tack, staying on the much favored board in this SE wind, but given our current angles, everyone will have to be thinking about taking a short starboard tack as we close on the beach as we are not quite laying the Australian coastline. It’s like riding a bucking bronco, and I’m sure if you asked anyone in the fleet – they’d say the same. These are boat breaking conditions, but we expect the wind to ease by mignight. Until then, we hang on and keep pushing

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12.25.14

Happy Boxing Day from Rio 100. The team is all fired up for a good race on what is essentially a brand new boat. We just checked in with the R with our storm trysail and storm jib set as required by the rules and how we’ll get the mainsail up and mosey out to the Sydney heads for a look see.

The short 3 mile leg from our start line (with 20-odd other boats including the 4 other super maxis) is not where you win this race, and we want to have a good idea what to expect on the other side.

The weather forecast has solidified and it’ll be no surprise to see 20 to 30 knots upwind on port tack for the first few hours. No one knows which super maxi goes best in that condition. We’ve never gone upwind in more than 20 knots and big waves, and talking to the guys on Comanche, neither have they.

But tactically it’s a rush to get southbound as a ridge of high pressure threatens to block our way. Right now the models show the maxi’s just make it through into nice reaching westerlies (10 to 20 knots) in The Bass Strait, but if we are an hour or so slower than predicted (or the high forms farther south), we’ll park up and the race will look very different. Welcome to the challenges of figuring out where to go on this tricky Coastline.

Start time T-minus 1 h 30 min.

Rio 100’s Gavin Brady and owner/skipper Manouch Moshayedi, enjoying pre-start sun and fleet watching. Peter Isler

Rio 100

Manouch Moshayedi’s RIO 100 in the 2014 Rolex Sydney Hobart Race. Rolex/Carlo Borlenghi
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