Yendys wins battle of the 50 footers

The battle of the 50 footers in the Rolex Sydney Hobart reached its conclusion in Hobart today with a resounding on the water as well as handicap win for Geoff Ross' brand-new 55 footer Yendys, crossing the line at 12:45pm local time.

Like line honor winner Wild Oats XI and her arch-rival Loki, Yendys is a Reichel/Pugh design and the first grand-prix boat to have been built in China. "I am incredibly happy with the boat. It is magnificent, the best boat I've ever sailed on," enthused Ross of his new steed. "It is almost a boat you would build if there was no handicap, so that's the test. It is really simple, but it goes."
YENDYS, Geoff Ross sailing off Tasman Island. Photo by: Carlo Borlenghi/ Rolex.

Over the fateful first night of this Rolex Sydney Hobart, Yendys had stayed inshore and hadn't seen wind stronger than 27 knots. Ross was amazed that these conditions had taken such a toll on others in the fleet. "We didn't have any really bad conditions. It was just very lumpy in the current. It was rough, but seriously if you complain about that you should come by plane. I personally don't like it, but I can hardly say it was unexpected," he said.

What was novel for Ross was that they never experienced winds greater than 30 knots. "It was rough and bumpy, but if you don't see 30 knots coming to Hobart - that is pretty extraordinary in my experience. I've never had that before."

Over the course of the race, Yendys used better boat speed and good tactics to slowly ease ahead of her rivals and up until the approach to Tasman Island was looking in good shape on handicap. However as he was approaching the corner, the wind dropped to single digits and they were unable to lay Cape Pillar, the southeastern tip of Tasman Island. "We ended up coming in somewhere around Maria (island - to the north of Tasman Island) and it took us a long time to get around that. We thought we would get around Tasman Island at 4am and we got around at 7.30am - that was the difference."

At present Yendys is lying seventh overall under IRC handicap and is leading Division B.

The fifth boat into Hobart, 2 hours and 49 minutes after Yendys, was Graeme Wood's Nelson Marek-designed TP 52 Wot Yot, with designer Bruce Nelson sailing in the crew. Wood's company is fielding two yachts in the Rolex Sydney Hobart, with Wood skippering his TP 52, newly acquired from the US. Wood said he'd been surprised by how well the TP 52, a boat designed to sail downwind from Los Angeles to Hawaii, went upwind. "We were sailing alongside Loki a lot of the time and holding her all the time upwind. We were pretty chuffed because Loki is a 60 footer and a heavier boat should go well in those conditions."
Geoff Ross, YENDYS arriving in Hobart. Photo by: Carlo Borlenghi/ Rolex.

While they did well calling tactics, during the race they concentrated mostly on the basics: boat speed, keeping the boat level, trimming, etc. They would have done better had they predicted the southeasterly this morning. "The southwester never came and we were a bit to the east of the rhumb line down there which didn't hurt us too much, but then coming across Tasman Island this morning we hit some headwinds which probably did us a fair bit of damage overall," said Wood.

Wot Yot is currently ninth overall under IRC and second in Division B.

Highly rated prior to the start as the boat to challenge Yendys, Loki had a less than ideal Rolex Sydney Hobart. Fast out of the blocks, they managed to blow up the hydraulic pump mounted in the foredeck and used to alter the up-down control for the genoa fairlead. To repair the hydraulic ram pipe they had to access it from below and in the process this caused a deluge of water to get in through the foredeck whenever they buried the bow - in the conditions experienced, this was often.

"We had a bow full of water," recounted despondent owner Stephen Ainsworth. "We had the electric bilge pump running to stem the flow. So we had probably a ton of water up there for several hours while we fixed the problem and ran a new lead. And people just sailed past us and that happened right after the start, so we were always playing catch up. It was just one of those races for us."

Ainsworth echoed the sentiments of all the other skippers in being surprised just how upwind this Rolex Sydney Hobart has been. "This is my 10th Hobart race and I have never done a race which has been upwind the whole way. It wasn't rough and it wasn't cold, so it was quite pleasant. We ate lots of food, but it was a bit boring. We finally got a chute up coming round the corner into Storm Bay and even that wasn't that exciting in 8 knots!"

After struggling to remove a piece of kelp from his rudder while crossing Storm Bay, Ainsworth's race was made only slightly more bearable by just beating Ray Roberts' Quantum Racing to the finish line by one and half minutes. But then this was a 50 footer.

Like Ainsworth, Ray Roberts' Rolex Sydney Hobart would have benefited greatly from less upwind conditions, Quantum Racing being a Cookson 50 with a canting keel like Wild Oats and the Volvo Open 70s. "It worked really well, but from a rating point of view, it being an all upwind race, it was probably a disadvantage," said Roberts of his yacht's movable appendage. "With a canting keel boat you can't out-sail your rating penalty in an all-upwind race. This boat is primarily an off the wind boat and if we'd had more of that I think it would have been a different result. In 25 years of doing the Hobart race it was really unusual to be on the wind 90% of the way. That made it hard for us, but that is what this race is: You have to have the right boat, the right strategy, the right crew and there's that luck element."

They suffered no problems with their boat and aside from less upwind work, Roberts reckons that in the given conditions they had suffered being later to the southeasterly shift in the latter stages of the race than bigger boats like Matt Allen's Ichi Ban, the current IRC leader among the boats that have finished. While Ichi Ban were able to lay the corner at Tasman Island in one tack, in contrast Quantum Racing had to tack perhaps 100 times. "But that is the ball game and the luck element of the Hobart race. Those guys sailed very well, but they had their good break as well, so good luck to them."

Tactician on board, American Dee Smith, said that both the current and the wind had failed to behave as forecast, but this came as no great surprise. "We missed a couple of things, but I think we sailed the boat well and safe and I think it is pretty good to be in here when we did."

The next boat expected into Hobart is the Volvo Ocean 60 DHL, skippered by Olympic Tornado veteran Mitch Booth. At present Lindsay May's Love & War is leading overall under IRC handicap from John Williams' Bacardi. Both boats must finish by mid-morning tomorrow if they are to win the coveted Tattersalls Cup.

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