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Closest Finish in 29 Years
The closest finish in the last 29 years of the Rolex Sydney Hobart Yacht Race took place this evening when Anthony Bell's maxi Investec Loyal fended off repeated challenges from Bob Oatley's perennial line honours victor Wild Oats XI to win by just 3 minutes and 8 seconds, after 2 days 6 hours 14 minutes and 8 seconds of racing on this classic 628 mile course. The competition for line honours in this race was one of the closest in its 67 year history with the two Australian maxis gunning for each other from the moment the canon was fired on Sydney Harbour on Monday afternoon. Wild Oats XI led until 20:00 local time (09:00 UTC) on Tuesday when they were becalmed.

"They [Investec Loyal's crew] were keeping track of how we were doing and the moment we stopped under a cloud with no wind under it, they basically sailed right around the outside of this large hole we were stuck in and came back above us. It was good work on their part," described Wild Oats XI's co-navigator, Ian Burns.

Fortunately the wind filled in soon after for Wild Oats XI and they were able to resume the fight and, from this point on, the event became truly a gloves-off match race between the two 100 footers.

Finally this morning at 07:30 local time, Wild Oats XI regained the lead. With rarely more than two miles separating the two boats, it was not until Wild Oats XI was becalmed again just short of Tasman Island and the entrance to Storm Bay, that Investec Loyal managed once more to skirt around the wind hole. This time they took up residence directly ahead of their opponent and from that point, despite the best efforts of the Wild Oats XI crew led by Mark Richards, Investec Loyal was not going to be passed.

Much to the delight of spectators thickly lining Hobart's Constitution Dock, the two ocean racing giants came into sight up the Derwent River, but it was Investec Loyal and her crew, including sports stars, such as Australian rugby union internationals Phil Kearns and Phil Waugh, which was first home. They arrived at 19:14:18 local time, their elapsed time for the course being 2 days 6 hours 14 minutes and 18 seconds.

However at present Investec Loyal's line honours victory in the 2011 Rolex Sydney Hobart is provisional. The event's Race Committee, led by Tim Cox, is protesting Anthony Bell's boat over a believed infringement of Racing Rule of Sailing 41 entitled 'Outside Help'. This involved the audio recording of a conversation that took place at 06:30 local time on 27th December between the pilot of an ABC TV station helicopter and an Investec Loyal crewman seeking information on the sail plan in use on Wild Oats XI - in particular whether she was flying a trisail. "This is assessed to breach Rule 41 by soliciting help from an outside source," explained Garry Linacre, Commodore of the Cruising Yacht Club of Australia, organiser of the Rolex Sydney Hobart.

The case is to be heard by the race's international jury at 10:00 local time tomorrow, 29th December.

rolexsydneyhobart.com

Optus Launceston to Hobart Yacht Race
Rob Fisher brings Helsal 3 alongside the dock at Hobart. Photo by Peter Campbell. Click on image for photo gallery.

Launceston to Hobart Yacht Race Rob Fisher's 28-year-old ocean racer Helsal 3 sailed out of a cloudy sunrise and up the River Derwent this morning to take line honours in the Optus Launceston to Hobart Yacht Race, beating two-times past winner Mr Kite by more than 40 minutes.

Helsal 3, an Adams 60 optimised by Tasmanian naval architect Fred Barrett, crossed the finish line at 05:52:18, Mr Kite finishing at 06:32:08. Third to finish was Wayne Banks-Smith's Farr 40 at 07:44:43.

Helsal 3's elapsed time of 1 day 16 hours 22 minutes and 18 seconds is about 22 minutes faster than the time set by Mr Kite in the 2010 race and is thus a record for the race, lengthened to 285 nautical miles with the up-river start at Beauty Point.

All three had led the 31-boat fleet at one stage of the 285 nautical race from the Tamar River in the north of Tasmania to the River Derwent in the south, with the race starting at the down-river port of Beauty Point, but finishing off Hobart's Castray Esplanade.

Fisher had initially entered Helsal 3 for this year's Rolex Sydney Hobart Race under charter to an English crew, but it did not eventuate and he decided instead to race the 60-footer in the L2H because of the less time away from home and a new business. However, he plans to return to the Sydney Hobart.

"I have seven more Hobarts to go to reach my 25th and my son Brandon, who is 11, says he wants to sail with me on Helsal 3 when I do my 25th," Fisher added. "He is already into dinghy sailing with the Royal Yacht Club of Tasmania and can't wait until he is 18 and can race in the Sydney Hobart."

Rob Fisher's father, Tony, originally raced Helsal III with success in the late 1980s and early 1990s, including breaking the record he had set with his famous Helsal II in the Gosford to Lord Howe Island Race, before selling the 60-footer to a Melbourne yachtsman.

Father and son bought back the boat in 2007 in a totally rundown condition and have completed a major refurbishment in Hobart under the direction of naval architect Fred Barrett, including a fixed bulb keel, a new rudder and larger rig. -- Peter Campbell

Event site: l2h.com.au

2012 ORC Rules Now Available
The Offshore Racing Congress (ORC) announces its 2012 rules are now available for download online at www.orc.org/rules.htm . These rules include the International Measurement System (IMS), the ORC Rating Rules (ORC International and ORC Club), the "Green Book" of ORC Championship Rules, GP Class Rules, the ORC Speed Guide, and ORC Stability and Hydrostatic Datasheet.

The ORC VPP Documentation will be updated in early 2012 once the final version of the 2012 VPP is beta-tested fully and ready for release by the International Technical Committee (ITC), and the Offshore Special Regulations for safety are also revised and available from the International Sailing Federation at www.sailing.org/37605.php

Except for some areas of the Southern Hemisphere such as Australia, Argentina and Brazil, these rules go into effect after 1 January 2012.

The accumulated effect of the rule changes is minor - less than 0.5% on the ratings of most of the 2000 boats in the ORC test fleet - but they seek to further refine the accuracy of the rating system's use worldwide. In 2011 nearly 8000 ORC International and ORC Club certificates were issued by rating authorities in 35 countries.

New and revised rules are indicated by margin bars in each rules documents, and a complete summary of the changes can be found at (PDF) www.orc.org/minutes/AGM

Dubarry Storm - Sailing Style In On The Street
Dubarry Storm There's something cool about sailing, taking on the elements from the Solent to St Tropez, but how do you carry that cool onto the streets? Try wearing offshore oilies to your favourite restaurant and you're likely to end up hungry and sectioned. Dubarry Storm gives you all the cache of the crew in a way that doesn't mark you out as a madman. With polarfleece for warmth, a durable waterproof shell, inner storm flap and chin guard, Storm keeps you warm and dry in six snazzy colourways.

Dubarry Storm - the calm within the Storm.

www.dubarry.com

Around the Horn and Climbing Up the Atlantic
Click on image to enlarge.

Maxi Banque Populaire V It was 7:50:30am on 23rd December (Paris time), after 30 days 22 hours 18 minutes and 48 seconds at sea, when the Maxi Banque Populaire V crossed the southern tip of the Americas and with it the last of the three capes of the course of the Jules Verne Trophy: the famous Horn. By posting a time of 10 days 15 hours 7 minutes and 15 seconds on the Pacific, Loick Peyron and his men leave to Bruno, the elder brother of the skipper, the absolute record for the distance.

From the beginning, a month ago off Ushant, the interval time between Cape Leeuwin and the way out of the Pacific is the first one not to fall into the hands of Loick Peyron and his crew, the crew of Orange II Bruno Peyron remain holders with 8 days 18 hours and 8 minutes, it is to say 1 day 20 hours 59 minutes and 15 seconds better.

The record in numbers

Record to beat :
To become the new record holder, the Maxi Banque Populaire V has to be back no later than Monday, January 9, 2012 at 5pm 15min and 34s (Paris time).

Reference time :
Groupama 3 (Franck Cammas) - 48 days 7 hours 44 minutes 52 seconds

Cape Horn crossing time:

23rd December 2011 - 7pm 50 minutes 30 seconds
Average seabed speed since the start : 26.7 knots
Lead on the Cape Horn crossing record : 535 milles

Sailing time since the start: 30 days 22 hours 18 minutes 48 seconds or 1 day 6 hours 16 minutes less than Groupama 3 in 2010.

Pacific crossing Time: 10 days 15 hours 7 minutes 15 seconds or 1 day 20 hours 59 minutes 15 seconds longer than Orange II, which holds the record of this stretch in 8 days 18 hours 8 minutes.

www.voile.banquepopulaire.fr

* We are getting up the South Atlantic even faster than we hoped. We are past the first High Pressure to the West, and we went through a stationary front off Rio last night, and are now sailing around the final giant weather system until the doldrums - the St Helena high, placed to our East. This feeds the tradewinds that blow past both the Africa and Brasilean coasts..Currently we are receiving NE winds from the High, so we are sailing upwind on starboard tack, hoping to squeeze past the bulge of Brasil..

And recently, we have had encounters with humans, cetaceans and possibly aliens....

There was the most bizarre light in the sky the night before last, Christmas Day night, it was like one of those searchlights outside a nightclub, shining up into the sky from the South..it went from the horizon vertically up to about 25/30 degrees, so not as high as those searchlights, but that same kind of narrow, white beam.

It was really odd, and it stayed there all night, so everyone saw it, and had a different opinion on what it might be. It did not spin round like the stars, it stayed vertical..The only thing that could be agreed upon, is that nobody, in all their miles at sea, had seen anything like it before.. Yvon, in his usual humorous way, suggested it was an alien landing staircase. Fred thought it might be a solar reflection effect off Antarctica, it looked something like a giant comet to me, but not spinning in the sky might put paid to my theory..

Part of the great charm of being at sea, is to view unusual things. -- Brian Thompson

brianthompsonsailing.blogspot.com

Optimists Flock To New Zealand
Some 220 young sailors from 50 countries are gathering in Napier, New Zealand ahead of the Optimist world championship, which is due to kick off on December 30.

Harken invitational
The Harken Invitational Regatta, which started on December 28, provides an ideal warm-up for the worlds. Some 214 sailors from 33 different countries headed out to sea for the first day of the regatta, which offered challenging racing due to the varied wind and wave conditions. .

The provisional results at the end of the first day left Chilean male Francisco Ducasse leading overall after the first four races, with the first female sailor, Justina Pacheco from the Dominican Republic, also lying second overall, and Rodrigo Luz from Brazil third.

After a slight delay due the last minute sign up from a large number of sailors, the weather was perfect for a good day sailing, with 8-10 knots of sea breeze to start. After race two the wind picked up as predicted to 15-18 knots, making for some rough sailing with a nasty chop at times. As a result, many on the race committee boats suffered from seasickness delaying the processing of results and testing the race processes in the lead up to the OptiWorlds.

From boats.com:
uk.boats.com/boat-content/

Event site: www.optiworldsnz.org.nz

Cocaine Gets Top Bulgarian Yachtsman 20 Years in Prison
A prominent Bulgarian yachtsman has been sentenced to 20 years in prison for attempting to smuggle nearly half a ton of cocaine. He was arrested in April this year in Martinique.

Dimitar Topalov, who vied last year for the most prestigious yachtsmen award in Bulgaria "Golden globe", and his partner Plamen Vassilev were detained after their vessel was followed closely by the French authorities with special surveillance devices and video cameras.

The operation was conducted jointly with the Bulgarian and Spanish services.

The Class 40 yacht called "The White Swallow " was monitored as it set out from Slovenia, headed for the Azores and the Canary Islands, Cape Verde and Trinidad and Tobago. There, the two Bulgarians stayed at a hotel where they are believed to have been recruited to serve as mules.

Topalov and Vassilev were to pocket EUR 30 000 for smuggling 480 kilograms of cocaine from Trinidad and Tobago to Spain, according to the French authorities.

The two men are believed to have pulled aboard their yacht 10 bags of white powder, 200 miles south of Guadeloupe, where the bags tied to buoys were thrown into the ocean from a Venezuelan container.

Officially, the two Bulgarians were taking part in the La Route du Rhum-La Banque Postale regatta.

www.novinite.com

Ben Ainslie Facing Royal Yachting Association Investigation
The official report of his angry brush with a television boat at the World Championships in Perth earlier this month has been lodged with the legal team at the Royal Yachting Association in Hamble.

The International Jury found Ainslie guilty of infringing Rule 69 relating to gross misconduct and disqualified him from two Finn races which put an end to his world title hopes, though they said at the time the repeated nature of the media boats interference had been a "mitigating circumstance".

The RYA, which has received the report from the jury, will now conduct its own investigations before deciding whether to convene a tribunal for another hearing, but a spokesman said any disciplinary procedures were unlikely to be advanced this side of Christmas.

Furthermore, the next announcement will not be made until as late as February 2012, the RYA added, raising doubts over whether the national sailing body has further action in mind. -- Kate Laven in the Telegraph

www.telegraph.co.uk/sport/

Grinders To The Fore When AC72's Come Online
With all of the thrills and spills that have been provided by the AC45, what's going to happen when the AC72 comes on line?

That's a question that many have wondered and continue to contemplate until next July, when the 72-footers are set to hit the water. But ORACLE Racing design teamer Dirk Kramers has a bit of insight.

"There'll be two hulls and a wing, and a lot of sailors out of breath," says Kramers.

He's not kidding. Consider how winded the AC45 crews become after a 20-minute race on a one-design platform with a simplified wingsail standing 20 meters tall.

The AC72 will measure in length a bit more than 1.5 times the AC45, but the wingsail will be twice as tall with a max height of 40 meters and max area of 280 square meters, more than three times the area of the AC45 wingsail (85 square meters).

"The AC45 wing is a very basic one with only two controls, camber and twist, and just two elements. There are also many compromises and simplifications to make this feasible for the World Series travelling road show," says Kramers. "The AC72 wing will be much more sophisticated. It will be very interesting to see what solutions the different teams come up with."

Given the vast amount of added power the crew sizes will jump to 11 on the AC72 from five on the AC45. Many of the additional crew will be grinders because the AC72 Rule does not allow for hydraulic winches.

www.americascup.com

Injury Keeps 'Woody' Off Water
Click on image for photo gallery.

Skiffs John 'Woody' Winning has been racing 18ft Skiffs since 1976 (with a short break in the 1990s) and has rarely missed a race, but a recent injury looks like keeping him off the water until the Giltinan Championship in February.

Obviously, it has to be serious to cause him to miss racing his 'Yandoo' skiff for such a lengthy period.

It is.

'Woody' was competing in Race 3 of the NSW 18ft Skiff Championship in December when 'Yandoo' capsized on the bear away just after rounding the Shark Island mark in a 25-knot-plus Southerly wind.

He was thrown onto the mast with crewman David Gibson also falling on top in the violent capsize.

'Woody' was knocked unconscious (although he denies he was) and broke four ribs, plus "a couple of small ones" in his back, then was hospitalized for four days.

The race also took a toll on the fleet with several teams forced to retire while others showed how difficult conditions were as they tried to keep all hands on board. -- Frank Quealey, Australian 18 Footers League

www.18footers.com.au
www.flying18s.com

Featured Brokerage
Featured Brokerage Boat 2005 JBoats J-100. US$ 115,000. Located In South Eastern, Massachusetts, USA.

The sweet sailing J-100 offers an attractive and versatile platform for daysailing, club racing and occasional overnight.

"Remedy" is well equiped with tack-tick electronics, Autohelm Smart Pilot, and many sails for both daysailing and racing. She has never been in salt water until 5/11 and appears to be in excellent condition.

Brokerage through Kingman Yacht Brokerage: www.yachtworld.com/kingmanmarine/

Complete listing details and seller contact information at
uk.yachtworld.com

The Last Word
Time you enjoy wasting, was not wasted. -- John Lennon

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