Latitude 28 by Ian Grant
Wild Oats XI crew training in the Whitsundays.

Tough Hobart

The storm tormented Tasman Sea again proved it was no place for the faint-hearted when the rolling squalls and nasty foam crested seas provided the Rolex Sydney Hobart fleet with another supreme test of seamanship.
All of nature’s early warning signs that wild weather was looming with a promise of south west gales was clearly evident with a pre-Christmas snow fall on the Victorian Alps while Wilsons Promontory was buffeted by 48 knot west sou’west winds on Christmas Eve.
Day break temperatures in the low nines on the east coast of Tasmania also suggested that a cold blast was on the way from deep in the heart of The Great Southern Ocean.
As expected the course between Green Cape and Flinders Island which defines the crossing of Bass Strait proved to be another rugged challenge which female navigator Adrienne Cahalan, an 18-race veteran, described as the worst she has experienced.
Every wave and squall posed a threat as Adrienne Cahalan braced herself in the navigator’s nook on Wild Oats XI as skipper Mark Richards and crew, headed by the experienced ‘wild wind’ sailor Iain Murray, slogged slowly south under heavily reefed sails.
“All of the Wild Oats XI crew completely understood what to expect but it was a nasty and very noisy experience,” Adrienne Cahalan said.
A measure of the demanding slog was revealed when Wild Oats XI crossed the finish line on a calm River Derwent 13 hours outside her 1 day 18 hour 40 minute 10 second record set in 2005.
The Bob Oatley ownedWild Oats XI officially finished 3 hours 34 minutes 14 seconds ahead of second placed Investec Loyal skippered by specialist Sydney ocean racing helmsman Sean Langman.
Investec Loyal raced under the Loyal Foundation ‘battle flag’ with a crew including Australian sporting heroes Layne Beachley, Geoff Huegill and Matt Hayden. The ‘rookie’ Hobart Race sailors were well looked after, sailing with respected veterans Michael Coxon, Peter Merrington and Gold Coast marine industry identity Joe Akacich.
However, they came face to face with the fear factor when Investec Loyal experienced the rough Bass Strait crossing where the continuous pounding into the seas forced a fuel tank to break away and the bulkhead in the bow to fill with water.
Both drama packed incidents which were skilfully handled allowed the Investec Loyal crew to eventually enjoy the opportunity to step ashore on a stable Constitution Dock after experiencing a physically demanding 2 days 11 hours 11 minutes 34 seconds at sea.

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Talented teenager

Alexander Gough, 17, has proved his personal determination to complete a meteoric rise in the rankings as one of Australia’s most successful teenage sailors.
Surprisingly Alexander who began his career just three years ago at age 14 has become a fast learner in the strict tactical art form of International 420 One Design dinghy racing.
The Queensland Academy of Sport aquatic athlete who crews with Angus Galloway has dedicated his career towards winning selection to represent Australia at the Olympic level.
Their Gold Medal results in the open Queensland championship in 2009 led to further success in the 2009 Sail Sydney and Sail Melbourne titles capped by a deserved Gold Medal at the Australian Youth Championship in Adelaide and a remarkable 5th at the 2010 ISAF Volvo Youth Worlds in Turkey.
Alex Gough will continue to gain further valuable experience following his selection to join the Oceanburo performance sailing team with dual Australian Audi IRC ocean racing champion skipper Rod Jones. His selection along with Sunshine Coast sailor Josh Green and Brisbane based Dutch sailor Jan-Willem Hannik was announced by Rod Jones.
“We are in the process of regenerating the team and the new members will give us more flexibility,” Jones said.
Over the past five months Jones’s exciting B&C 42 class ocean racer Alegria IV has been re-evaluated in preparation for a heavy program of ocean racing, including the four major Australian blue water classics in 2011, starting with the Brisbane to Gladstone race at Easter; followed by the Audi Sydney to Gold Coast in July; the Club Marine Brisbane to Keppel in August and the Rolex Sydney Hobart on Boxing Day.
However, while Alex Gough, Josh Green and Jan-Willem Hannik have proved their individual skill to be worthy of the opportunity to join the high profile Oceanburo team they still face the challenge to race Alegria IV in the fast lane.

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Full of Merit

Master mariner Leo Rodriguez and part owner Ian Bishop proudly expressed their identification as warm water Whitsunday sailors when they lined up for the Rolex Sydney Hobart Race in December.
The loyal crew, racing under the Whitsunday Sailing Club burgee who normally work with charter fleet sailing in the picturesque aquatic wonderland of the Whitsunday Islands, showed the world where they prefer to sail the former Volvo Globe race challenger Merit.
Their brilliant sky blue spinnaker became a draughty ‘billboard’ when it was hoisted to the mast head displaying the message “We’d rather be in the Whitsundays”.
Merit, designed by New Zealander Bruce Farr and initially launched in 1997 to have the speed and structural integrity to deal with the tortuous ‘screeching sixties’ in The Great Southern Ocean, confirmed they were experienced and ready to confront the gale strength Southerly Buster which turned the challenge into a mid-race demolition derby.
A number of big names, including the defending Rolex Sydney Hobart champion the Andrew Saies skippered Two True, succumbed to the tortuous bump and bash of the cold windy and wet elements while Merit with the spinnaker safely stowed below deck plunged into the 45 knot gale.
These conditions suitably described by several Hobart Race veterans to be among the roughest they had encountered reminded the Merit crew who were rugged up in their storm suits that they were in for a ‘slug fest’.
Naturally the new spinnaker had little air time during the course of the race, however, the crew again showed quality of seamanship to finish in the top six in the Performance handicap and second in Division 1 behind the Sydney 46 class sloop the Murray Owen skippered NSC Mahligai.
This was another outstanding result for the Merit crew who are sure to provide their major sponsors Tourism Queensland, Tourism Whitsundays and Stratco with significant exposure on the long return voyage back to her home port in the warmer Whitsunday Islands.

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Not so idle

The design pedigree of the Kevin Fogarty skippered Idle Time has continued to allow the sloop designed by West Australian based Naval Architect Kim Swarbrick to remain as the star performer in Whitsunday Sailing Club events.
Her skipper Kevin Fogarty has a passion for sailing and his crew are similarly addicted which has contributed to the success they have enjoyed during a full on program of events during the year. They have been equally successful in the short course twilight racing and the longer distance passage racing where Idle Time has rarely finished out of a place.
While the crew remain as the pace-setter they are constantly under ‘the pump’ to protect their sailing space against their Space Sailor and match-racing rival Sandpiper skippered by the equally dedicated skipper Colin Pruden.
Both crews possess an equal opportunity to win ‘bragging rights’ as was the case in the recent Island passage race from Airlie Beach via the Double Cone Island to the finish in Dent Passage off Hamilton Island.
A light and tricky northerly breeze which hardly presented the consistent velocity to ruffle the surface of the normally wind-tormented Whitsunday Passage, presented the fleet with an unusual light wind test of tactical strategy.
Colin Pruden’s Sandpiper crew sweated it out on deck to win the first stage of the Space Sailor match race and the progressive lead in the three race series for the Advanced Alarms Trophy.
Race two from Hamilton Island to Bowen presented the fleet with yet another test of light wind sailing which ultimately resulted in an important win for Idle Time to share the series lead with Sandpiper.
Thankfully a ‘brute breeze’ gusting to a recoded 30 knots presented the crews with a spray drenching ride on the weather rail for the trophy deciding race south from Bowen to Airlie Beach.
There were times when the entire fleet were hard pressed. However, it was the Idle Time crew who excelled winning the final by a convincing margin from the Hamilton Island Yacht Club sloop Nikon Spirit of The Maid (Bruce Absolon) who just edged out Sandpiper.
Idle Time’s two wins in the three race series added another trophy to the limited space on the mantelpiece, while Sandpiper and the Jeff Brown skippered Northshore 38 007 filled the minor places.