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Multiple retirements as strong winds, heavy seas batter Sydney to Hobart fleet

LawConnect was among the early leaders as the Sydney to Hobart yacht race fleet hit heavy seas and strong winds.

Mark Evans/Getty Images

LawConnect was among the early leaders as the Sydney to Hobart yacht race fleet hit heavy seas and strong winds.

Strong winds and high seas handed the Sydney Hobart Yacht Race fleet a battering on the first night, with 18 entries forced to withdraw as Queensland maxi Black Jack snatched the lead.

The forecasted strong southerly arrived, reaching up to 30 knots, and along with big seas, had reduced the fleet from 88 at the start of the race on Sunday to 76 boats.

Amongst the first retirements was the Reichel/Pugh 69 Moneypenny, owned and skippered by Sean Langman. It was forced to turn around and return to Sydney due to a broken forestay.

On approach to Sydney Heads, Langman said: “It wasn’t ideal breaking the forestay. We were doing quite a bit of short tacking and there was a bit of current and the seas were up.

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“Let’s say it was pretty fruity. We were using new technology with foils. We had faith in the new system, I suppose you learn from this.”

Hull, sail, and rigging damage were common themes to the withdrawals.

Two crew injuries also forced retirements though neither were life-threatening.

In the chase for line honours, Black Jack had overtaken SHK Scallywag 100 and Christian Beck’s LawConnect (NSW), with less than 20 miles separating the trio by daybreak on Monday.

The Botin 80 Stefan Racing was clinging on, four miles astern of LawConnect.

Even the conditions at the mouth of the Sydney Harbour were testing for boats like Rogue Wave.

Andy Cheung/Getty Images

Even the conditions at the mouth of the Sydney Harbour were testing for boats like Rogue Wave.

The fleet was reduced to 88 boats just before the race when the 49-foot Vamp withdrew because a crew member had close contact with someone who tested positive for COVID-19. Vamp was among five boats to withdraw in the 24 hours before the start.

Last year’s race was canceled the week before it was due to start because of coronavirus-related quarantine issues, but the 2021 edition is proceeding with mass virus-testing protocols in place. Skippers have been told boats must immediately retire from the race if a crew member receives a message from health authorities saying they have tested positive for COVID-19.

“With the co-operation of the Tasmanian government, we’ve been able to get these boats away and we are very appreciative of that,” said Cruising Yacht Club of Australia commodore Noel Cornish.

“So people can go as long as they’ve had their test. They can get sailing and get their result on the way down.

“We need to manage if a boat gets a positive test on board. The idea is they would retire, and we would then let the normal processes occur.”

LawConnect is the favourite for line honours in the 628 nautical-mile race that sails from Sydney down the south coast of New South Wales state and across Bass Strait to Hobart.

In 2017, Comanche set the race record after finishing in 1 day, 9 hours, 15 minutes and 24 seconds, beating Perpetual Loyal’s record of 1 day, 13 hours, 31 minutes and 20 seconds, set the previous year.

The record is not expected to be challenged this year, with the first boats expected to take at least two days to get to Hobart.

The withdrawn boats were: Moneypenny (broken forestay), Blink (torn main), Mako (damaged main), URM (damaged main), Hip-Nautic (damaged main), TSA Management (damaged main), No Limit (crew with dislocated shoulder), Minerva (damaged main), Mille Sabords (damaged main), Nautical Circle (rigging issues), White Noise (window damage), and Zen (minor injury), Ariel (mainsail damage), Denali (hull damage), Enchantress (broken forestay), Eora (broken backstay), Gweilo (damaged forestay), Oskana (broken forestay).

– With AP



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