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Maxi-Boat Match Race
Wild Oats XI's position as the fastest boat in the Rolex Sydney Hobart Yacht Race was being severely tested last night when at the 20:00 sched (local time, 09:00 UTC), Anthony Bell's maxi Investec Loyal overhauled the five time line honours winner.

Overnight the wind the leaders have seen has clocked through 360 degrees.

Crossing the Bass Strait yesterday Investec Loyal's track south was some 20-30 miles east of Wild Oats XI's. But early evening, when the wind backed from the southwest into the southeast, both boats tacked southwest, Loyal getting the better of the shift, aggressively bearing away towards her opponent. Making 14 knots compared to Wild Oats XI's 9 knots, within an hour Investec Loyal had pulled ahead by 6 miles.

Overnight the lead duo in the Rolex Sydney Hobart have continued to round the northwest quadrant of an area of high pressure that, since yesterday, has been shifting east out into the Tasman Sea. With the wind continuing to back into the northeast so the duo at around 01:00 local time this morning on this occasion gybed southwest, allowing them to close on the east coast of Tasmania.

"We've got a yacht race on our hands out here!" came back the succinct report from the Wild Oats XI nav team in the early hours. "We are high speed running - more wind shifts ahead." However at around 07:30 local time this morning, Wild Oats XI nosed her way back into the lead.

With another light patch off the southeast coast of Tasmania, so the boats remain still quite offshore, now with the wind back in the southwest, where it was yesterday afternoon. With 72 miles to go to the finish off Hobart for Wild Oats XI at the latest sched, leading Investec Loyal by just 1.5 miles, ETAs into Hobart remain vague. The forecast is now showing the wind dying in Storm Bay and up the Derwent River leading up to Hobart - conditions which have destroyed many a winning yacht's chances in previous years.

Under IRC handicap, the battle for the Tattersall's Cup continues to rage, with the best hopes now back to the maxis. In particular Peter Millard's maxi Lahana (the former Zana/Konica Minolta), holding third place on the water 62 miles astern of Wild Oats XI, is looking very strong. For at present across the race course conditions are generally light, with the exception of where Lahana, Stephen Ainsworth's Loki and Alex Thomson's IMOCA 60 Hugo Boss, are located off the east coast of Tasmania, where in 15-20 knot northerlies, Hugo Boss is recording the highest speed in the fleet of 17 knots.

The Other Race To Hobart
Penfold Audi Sports is front runner among the smaller boat. Photo by Peter Campbell. Click on image for photo gallery.

Optus Launceston to Hobart Yacht Race Helsal 3 has regained the lead overnight in the Optus Launceston to Hobart Yacht Race as the 31 boat fleets sails down the Tasmanian East Coast with the leading yachts enjoying a light north-easterly breeze.

The fleet sailed through the Banks Strait in light winds during the night, with Helsal 3, Rob Fisher's 60-footer, regaining the early lead she lost to Andrew Hunn's Mr Kite and Andrew Jones' AdvantEdge because of sail damage soon after the start yesterday.

At 0700 hours this morning Helsal 3, the biggest boat in the 285 nautical mile race was sailing close inshore abeam of Bicheno, with 140 nautical miles to the finish at Hobart.

The 60-footer has opened up a lead of 10 nautical miles from Mr Kite which was south-east of Scamander, with another 6 miles to AdvantEdge, which was abeam of Scamander.

While the three leading boats are running under spinnakers close inshore, several yachts have elected to sail further off the coast in search of stronger wind, with Wayne Banks-Smith's War Games and Stephen Keal's Cyclone sailing boat-for-boat almost 30 nautical miles offshore.

They are almost 20 miles astern of Helsal 3 in distance to sail to the finish, but could improve their positions if they pick up first use of the strengthening nor'easter during the morning.

The rest of the fleet stretches back to abeam of Eddystone Point, with the Melbourne yacht Penfold Audi Sport continuing to sail well and ahead of most of her opposition among the smaller boats.

The Archambault 31 is looking well placed to win the race on corrected time, being 12 miles ahead of last year's overall winner Footloose, a yacht of similar size and four miles in front of the 36-footer Pisces.

As the fleet sails down the East Coast they must sail through The Mercury Passage between elongated Maria Island the Tasmanian mainland, adding a tactical dimension to the course to Tasman Island and Storm Bay.

With Helsal 3 now past the halfway mark in the race, the veteran ocean racing yacht is expected to finish after daybreak tomorrow. -- Peter Campbell

Event site:

Seahorse January 2012
What's in the Latest Edition Of Seahorse Magazine

Cam Lewis is enjoying seeing the vision of his Stars&Stripes team of 1988 finally reach modern fruition, Terry Hutchinson is looking to a busy winter, Campbell Field is not getting over-confident and David Raison tells Patrice Carpentier why he is gratified to have at last concluded his Mini Transat quest

World news
‘JP’ survives (and prospers), Bertrand Favre on diplomacy, Italy enters ‘two’ Cups, Andrew Palfrey on Cup coaching, Orma 60s go south and a new rule for the toybox... Ivor Wilkins, Blue Robinson, Patrice Carpentier, Brice Lechevalier, Dobbs Davis, Giuliano Luzzatto

Paul Cayard
And the Artemis Racing CEO bids a cautious welcome to Luna Rossa...

If you haven't subscribed to Seahorse already we're keen to help you attend to that! - Please use the following promotional link and enjoy the hefty Scuttlebutt Europe discount... and it gets even better for 2 and 3 year subscriptions...

Loading Operation Begins After Safe Haven Arrivals
Attention switched to a delicate operation to load the Volvo Ocean Race yachts onto a ship that will transport them to the United Arab Emirates following Abu Dhabi Ocean Racing's arrival at a secret 'safe haven' in the Indian Ocean on Tuesday.

Abu Dhabi arrived in fifth place, the final boat that will be shipped following the arrivals of stage winners Team Telefonica followed by CAMPER with Emirates Team New Zealand, PUMA Ocean Racing powered by BERG and Groupama sailing team.

"I am upset not to have finished with a better result but on the other hand after the disaster of breaking our mast on Leg 1 I feel a strange feeling of relief to have at least completed the first part of the second leg," Abu Dhabi skipper Ian Walker said.

As part of a raft of measures introduced by race organisers to counter piracy in the Indian Ocean, Leg 2 of the Volvo Ocean Race has been split into two parts with the location of the safe haven kept secret.

As soon as Telefonica arrived on Monday, work began to prepare her for the risky loading operation, an unprecedented move in the 38-year history of the Volvo Ocean Race.

The five 15-tonne yachts are being craned 40ft into the air onto a ship with their 100ft masts still in place before being transported to the northern United Arab Emirates. Neither the sailors nor the shore crews will be on board the ship during the transit.

Telefonica and CAMPER were first to be loaded in calm seas followed shortly by PUMA's Mar Mostro.

Groupama 4 and Abu Dhabi's Azzam should be loaded in the next few hours.

The ship's loadmaster said: "Things are going exactly to plan so far. And I'm hopeful that all of the boats will be lifted on safely by this evening."

It is thought the ship will leave for the United Arab Emirates on Wednesday, with the arrival due early in January.

The boats will then be unloaded and the leg will restart to Abu Dhabi, the Volvo Ocean Race's first ever Middle Eastern stopover.

Down To The Wire for the Gor Leg 2 Finish
A tough Christmas Day for the westerly Class40s in the double-handed Global Ocean Race (GOR) was followed by a headwind hammering for the two leading boats to the east on Boxing Day in the Tasman Sea. With the fleet's distance accordion beginning to squeeze in a tune-up to the Wellington arrival overture, boats are closing up as diverse weather effect the fleet after 7,000 miles and 27 days in Leg 2 from Cape Town.

After a very tough and demanding crossing of the Indian Ocean, Cessna Citation in first place and BSL in second face an area of light winds on their final approach to Cook Strait and the finish while Campagne de France in third will carry the breeze longer. Below Tasmania, Financial Crisis in fourth and fifth placed Phesheya-Racing will keep in strong, following winds as they transfer into the Tasman Sea.

By 03:00 GMT on Tuesday, Cessna Citation was sailing parallel to South Island's western coast, 100 miles off Jackson Head: "The wind is now decreasing and the slamming has almost stopped," reported Goodchild late on Boxing Day evening. "We're under 350 miles from Cook Strait where we finally get to turn right for the 100 miles home straight," he confirms. Having worked up the western coast of South Island, Cessna Citation will head east around Cape Farewell, clear Farewell Spit and into the strait, but weather predictions suggest the final days at sea will be absolutely crucial for the leading three boats. "There's the potential of the wind disappearing again which could see our lead cut dramatically like last week," says Goodchild. "We've done everything but relaxed and will keep pushing to the finish as it's definitely not over till we have crossed the finish line."

In the 03:00 GMT position poll, Colman and Goodchild were leading Ross and Campbell Field in second place on BSL by 145 miles as they nosed into an area of light winds that could trap the two leading boats for the next 24 hours. -- Oliver Dewar

GOR leaderboard at 03:00 GMT 27 December:
1. Cessna Citation, 421nm to finish, speed 8.7kts
2. BSL, 145nm to leader, 10.3kts
3. Campagne de France, 421nm to leader,10.3kts
4. Financial Crisis, 811nm to leader, 9.5kts
5. Phesheya-Racing, 1280nm to leader, 10kts

Etchells Worlds 2012
With only 3 days to the official close of entries for the Etchells World Championship 2012, Australian and international entries are rolling in fast.

Competitors have until 1700 hours on the 31st December to lodge their entries. After that date entries may be accepted by the organising committee, but a AUD500 penalty will apply.

Entry numbers to date are 35, just under half-way towards the expect 80-boat fleet to contest the Championship off Sydney heads between the 16th and 25th February 2012.

Leading the overseas entries is 2007 Etchells World Champion Andy Beadsworth from Great Britain, steering the Swiss entry, Anamchara, for James McHugh.  Other British skippers heading down under in February are David Franks with Elvis and Robert Elliott skippering Bedrock.

The first New Zealand entry has come from John Melville who, in his other sailing life, owns and successfully races the Farr 40, Bobby's Girl.

Mark Thornburrow with Racer X is the first Hong Kong entry received. At least another two boats are expected from that fleet.

The strong Australian contingent includes Victorian and dual Etchells World Champion in 1979 and 1988, John Savage, and Jason Muir's 2009 World Championship winning team with Matthew Chew moving to the helm. Also returning to the Worlds arena is Australian skipper Damien King. Placed second at the 2009 Worlds, then third at the 2010 Worlds, King and his team of Simon Cunnington, James Ware and Andy Butler will have their sights set on achieving a previously elusive Worlds first place.

Soling class 1988 Australian Olympic representative, America's Cup sailor and world boardsailing champion, Bob Wilmot, is stepping back into high-level sailing to race in the middle with his friends, Leon and Fiona Christianakis.

The Etchells World Championship 2012 will be conducted by Royal Sydney Yacht Squadron in conjunction with the Sydney Etchells Fleet from February 16th to 25th.

Event website

Dubarry Lahinch - Performance Enhanced
Dubarry Lahinch As we all know, losing weight improves performance. You react faster, move quicker. Dubarry applied the same logic to a sprint deck shoe. Inspired by Ireland's most reliably extreme surf destination, the Lahinch is a new featherweight performance sailing shoe design by Dubarry that fastens quickly and securely, keeps your feet cool, drains and dries fast, and grips like an icepick. Add to that Dubarry's unique D-chassis system of ankle control and support, featuring a footbed design inspired by Formula 1 technology, and you've got something genuinely performance enhancing.

Dubarry Lahinch - performance perfected.

A Perfect Orange Bowl Day
Photo by Tim Wilkes / Click on image to enlarge.

Orange Bowl With the Met Life blimp flying overhead, seventy six degree weather, wind between 9 and 13 with a light rain in the afternoon, the Orange Bowl International Youth Regatta got off to a great start

The racing began on Biscayne Bay today and will continue through Friday. The host yacht club is Coral Reef Yacht Club (CRYC) assisted by Lauderdale Yacht Club (LYC) on the water and Biscayne Bay Yacht Club and the US Sailing Center on land. There were 559 sailors competing in 483  boats.

Optimist Green (56 boats) - 5 races
1. Miami's Julia Johansson (USA) 4-3-2-1-1  (11)
2. Santiago Pacheco (DOM) 1-1-5-6-9 (22)
3. Kevin Merten from Upper Keys  (USA) 5-6-3-2-18 (34)

Optimist Red/Blue/White (206 boats) - 4 races
1. Will Logue (USA) 1-2-2-6 (11)
2. Ian MacDiarmid (USA) 3-5-5-1 (14)
3. Henry Marshall (USA) 2-1-11-1 (15)

420s (76 boats) - 4 races
1. Brendan O'Leary and Jack Schneider (USA) 5-2-1-8 (11)
2. Jack Jorgensen and Savanna Brown (USA) 3-3-2-1 (21)
3. Axel Sly and JP Silvestri (USA) 4-12-3-2 (21)

Laser Full Rig (28 boats) - 4 races
1. Greg Martinez (USA) 1-1-1-1 (4)
2. Eric Lawrence (USA) 2-2-2-2 (8)
3= Luke Muller (USA) 3-3-6-3 (15)
3= Dodge Rees (USA) 4-4-3-4 (15)

Laser Radial (99 boats) - 4 races
1. Mitchell Kiss (USA) 1-4-11-2 (18)
2. Pernelle Michon (FRA) 18-6-2-1 (27)
3.  Nick Valente (USA) 15-5-3-5 (28)

Laser 4.7 (18 boats) - 4 races
1. Liam McCarthy (USA) 1-1-4-3 (9)
2. Howdy Hughes (USA) 9-2-3-1 (15)
3. Arvid Nordquist (SUI) 8-5-2-2- (17)

A Very Experienced Hand
You name it, Sean Clarkson has probably sailed it. Clarkson has been hard at it in some of the toughest yacht racing competition in the world: winning the Whitbread on New Zealand Endeavour; sailing as bowman on New Zealand's Soling entry in the 1996 Olympic Games; TP52 World Champion with Quantum Racing; and five America's Cup challenges from 1992 to 2007, with New Zealand, Tag Heuer, AmericaOne, Luna Rossa, and BMW Oracle Racing.

So Clarkson knows the America's Cup, but this America's Cup?

"Once you get over the fact that it's a multihull, it's just a sailboat," says Clarkson with a smile. "We went out in an Extreme 40 last year and tried to do everything differently because we were in a multihull and got all chicken-winged up. I think we made it harder on ourselves, actually. It's really not that difficult, we just tried to over-analyze everything. As soon as we appreciated that it's just a sailboat -- you go out there, have a good start, get the shifts and have good crew work -- it all goes well. The smoother you sail it, the better shifts you get, the better starts you have, you still win races. There's no mystery to it, so that's the biggest thing.

Full interview at:

Spinnaker Tales
Sunshine Coast Olympic Laser dinghy skippers Ryan Palk, Klade Hauschildt and Mitchell Kennedy are well recognised as good mates however the bond of friendship will be tested when they contest the Australian championship on Brisbane's Waterloo Bay.

Ryan Palk a member of the Australian Olympic squad and coached by Sydney 2000 Bronze Medallist Michael Blackburn is nominated as a championship favourite along with the talented New South Wales helmsman Ashley Brunning.

However Klade Hauschildt and the younger Mitchell Kennedy who also possess a mature tactical knowledge to score top places in big fleet racing on the physically demanding waters of Waterloo Bay are more than capable of racing head to head with Ryan Palk and Ashley Brunning.

Naturally being able to consistently select a clear wind start will be a decided advantage and both Palk and Brunning who raced against big fleets during their extensive regatta tour of Europe will be physically and mentally prepared to contest the front line.

Scoring consistent top places will become difficult for the individual skipper who fails to respect the tricky challenge which is presented when the wind against current creates the notorious 'Waterloo Slop'

This short and nasty seaway which is often made more difficult to master when excess volumes of water is 'dumped' on the deck has been known to sort the best from the rest.

The experience from regularly racing in this tactically demanding environment should provide the Sunshine Coast trio of skippers with a slight advantage but they will also need to be at the 'top of the game' in selecting a mistake free strategy.

Racing at the top end in this strict One-Design class always rewards the smartest skipper with the battle involving the three clever Sunshine Coast skippers surely watched with interest by their separate loyal group of supporters.

The pressure will be on Ryan Palk to answer the challenge from his Sunshine Coast training mates and to finish the series ahead of his Australian high performance team partner Ashley Brunning.

Hopefully this mate against mate match race and the important Australian championship series will not be interrupted by storms similar to the beast of a blow and the associated torrential rain that swept across Moreton Bay on Tuesday.

Thankfully the well trained Royal Queensland Yacht Squadron regatta officials always maintain a weather watch on the cloud formation on the South West horizon and have the collective experience to ensure the fleet race in safe and competitive environment.

While the open championship has attracted another impressive fleet including former Australian champion Brad Taylor the battle for the Women's Radial Rig championship between World championship winning New South Wales skipper Gabriel King and Queensland's Ashley Stoddart promises to become a close match race.

Ashley Stoddart who first started racing nationally as an enthusiastic 11 year old has the proven experience from training and racing on Waterloo Bay and this is expected to favour her to maintain her career ambition of winning selection as a future Olympian. -- Ian Grant

America's Cup Foes Don't Have Much Support
It would have almost been disappointing if the environmental impact report for the America's Cup had sailed through City Hall without dissent. C'mon, this is a city that protests paper shopping bags and Happy Meals.

No worries, San Francisco didn't disappoint. No sooner had the Planning Commission voted unanimously to approve the report - while praising its comprehensive look at environmental concerns - than a small group of activists filed an appeal to stop everything.

That's fine. A certain number of the groups seem genuinely - if a little obsessively - concerned about matters like the health of native plant life and traffic flow. Those concerns will be heard at a Board of Supervisors meeting in January, a few tweaks will be made, and the preparations for this gigantic, global sporting event will continue on schedule.

But there's another group that's more troublesome. They are talking tough, and seem perfectly willing to stretch the debate out until the Cup is on the brink of collapse. Some are the bay swimmers who are threatening to paddle out in the middle of the races because they aren't getting enough swim space.

I would just say one thing to those people. You'd better check your back, because there aren't many people behind you. The America's Cup is wildly popular in San Francisco. A University of San Francisco poll found support at nearly 80 percent.

C. W. Nevius' editorial in full in the San Francisco Chronicle:

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The Last Word
I assume he was descended from apes like all the rest of us, but clearly in his case it had been a fairly gentle slope. -- Bill Bryson

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