Sunday, December 27, 2009

40 footer leads...

Photo Noel Cornish's Sydney 47 St Jude, IRC Overall leader 2030hrs on 27 December 2009
ROLEX/Kurt Arrigo. High Res versions for media use can be downloaded at

2030hrs, 27 December 2009

A little known yacht named St Jude is leading the Rolex Sydney Hobart Yacht Race on handicap late this afternoon; the Sydney 47 owned by Noel Cornish contested the race for the first time last year and was not expected to be at the front end of the star studded fleet.

While last year’s overall winner Quest, a TP 52 owned and skippered by Bob Steel, who was recently awarded the Cruising Yacht Club of Australia’s Ocean Racer of the Year title, is struggling in 57th place and famous names such as Syd Fischer and his Ragamuffin (NSW) are in 53rd overall. The smaller and lesser known yachts are making the best of the light and fickle conditions the weather gods have dished up – and they are basking in the glory.

The two year-old Sydney 47, owned by CYCA member Noel Cornish, first contested the 628 nautical mile race last year finishing 60th overall from 69 boats in the IRC class. This evening Cornish and his yacht have found themselves in the limelight.

The Bureau of Meteorology told crews to expect mixed weather throughout the 65th edition of Australia’s summer ocean classic. Owners, tacticians and navigators agreed on Boxing Day it was one of the most confusing weather reports they had ever received. It was welcome news for many though, as it meant every yacht in the fleet would have the opportunity of shining, as is being witnessed tonight.

Kingsley Piesse, a 26 Rolex Sydney Hobart race veteran, is sailing aboard Bruce Taylor’s Melbourne entry Chutzpah, which is only seven miles behind St Jude. Both are east of Green Cape on the NSW south coast, Piesse describing the conditions they were in late this afternoon: It’s light and fluky; we’ve got five knots from 080 (just north of east).

“We are a bit sticky in the light,” said Piesse, the newly crowned Ocean Racing Crew Person of the Year. “Hope tomorrow's expected reaching conditions will suit us more,” said Piesse from Chutzpah which is currently 13th overall on progressive IRC standings.

Tony Kirby’s Patrice Six is presently holding down second place overall. Kirby, who has sailed the race 27 times, knows the intricacies of the race well. The light and fluky conditions will be water off a duck’s back for the CYCA yachtsman, whose Jeppesen X41 was designed for all-round conditions.

A Rolex Sydney Hobart novice is in third place overall. Mike Welsh’s Wicked, a Beneteau First 40, was only launched this year, so her offshore form is unknown, but Welsh is an experienced ocean racer whose previous yacht Alien was well known in Victorian offshore events with divisional wins in various series.

The big 100 footers in the race were expected to flourish in the mixed conditions, but that has not been the case today. The BOM’s Rob Webb expected the 100 footers would get away from the rest of the fleet in moderate downwind conditions, but north-easterly winds have been too light for Alfa Romeo, ICAP Leopard and Wild Oats XI to take any real advantage of so far.

As is often the case in this race, all could change tomorrow and once again, the fleet will be in different conditions depending where they are on the course. While the leaders can expect fluky 5-15 knot winds, those still in Victorian waters can look forward to west to north-west winds at 15-25 knots which will mean fast downwind sailing.

Positions for each of the 95-strong fleet are now available via Yacht Tracker at:

By Di Pearson, Rolex Sydney Hobart media team