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Two Miles Between Leaders
Armel Le Cleac'h (Banque Populaire) leads Francois Gabart (MACIF) by just two miles as they prepare for their morning in the southern hemisphere and continue their ocean match racing. They will catch sight of each soon at this rate as begin to converge, with Gabart, to the north, winning back four miles in the last four hours.

But the mystery is why Jean-Pierre Dick (Virbac-Paprec 3) has slowed so much. Dick, in third, 391 miles behind, has a 25-knot westerly wind but was averaging just 9.7 knots in the last four hours - and 7.7 knots in the last hour - as he heads towards the East Australia gate.

Meanwhile, Bernard Stamm (Cheminees Poujoulat) continued to average the fastest in the fleet - 18.4 knots in the last four hours - and closed to within 17-miles of fourth-placed Alex Thomson (Hugo Boss).

Further west, Mike Golding (Gamesa) is still the unlucky one, slowed by a windless ridge and averaging just 10.8 knots, as Jean Le Cam (SynerCiel), 225 miles ahead and Dominique Wavre (Mirabaud) Javier Sanso (Acciona 100% EcoPowered), close on him. Sanso, averaging the second fastest in the fleet in the last four hours, with 17.4 knots, has also closed to within 96 miles of Wavre.

www.vendeeglobe.org

Whitsundays Turn On The Wind at the UON SB20 World Championships
Photo by Hamilton Island Photography. Click on image to enlarge.

UON SB20 World Championships Nine sequences, six competitors black flagged and disqualified, two general recalls, two postponements, two course changes, an abandonment and a partridge in a pear tree. A mini-series could be made on the highs and lows of day four of the UON SB20 World Championships at Hamilton Island.

The 42 international crews contesting their world title in the 20-foot sportsboats set off from the marina at 9.30am this morning, most towed to the course area in the light winds. Nearly five frustrating hours later after the race committee twice moved the racetrack further east chasing steady wind, the first race of the day got underway in a building NNE breeze.

Principal Race Officer Denis Thompson finally settled on Chance Bay off Whitsunday Island and that's where the magic began. After three days of light air the adrenaline was pumping and the spray was flying as the Whitsundays turned put on its best face for the visitors, up to 18 knots of breeze, white caps and sunshine galore.

Team Russia's grip on the pointscore top spot is tightening, their eighth and fourth enough to keep the wolves at bay for another day. After tomorrow's scheduled race 8 a discard will come into play.

Glenn Bourke, Andrew York and Greg Macallansmith's Club Marine has moved into second on the overall pointscore after seven races, eight points from the Russian masters and just one ahead of Carveth, a previous SB20 world champion.

Tomorrow's forecast is for NNE winds 5-10 knots tending ENE 10-15 knots in the afternoon. -- Katie Ashworth

Results at worlds2012.sb20class.com and www.hamiltonisland.com.au/sb20-worlds-2012/

Rolex Sydney Hobart Fleet Update
The fleet for the 68th Rolex Sydney Hobart Yacht Race now stands at 77 following the withdrawal of Dodo, the Andrews 52 skippered by Adrian Dunphy.

Ragamuffin-Loyal's mast is ready to be re-stepped today and Syd Fischer plans full crew training for Thursday and Friday, as his renowned navigator, Andrew 'Capey' Cape arrives from Europe in time to jump on board. The team, naturally, is heartened at the yacht's progress and looking forward to at least two days of long hours on the 100ft super maxi.

Seven Network will be providing race updates from 26-29 December

CYCA TV is a dedicated You Tube TV station where you will find the films of past Sydney Hobart Yacht Races including a silent film of the very first race in 1945. www.youtube.com/user/CYCATV/videos

Finistere, Robert Thomas' Davidson 50 from Western Australia, has arrived in Sydney late last night, after sailing the boat all the way from Perth over the past week.

The crew experienced gales and huge seas below Western Australia's Cape Leeuwin on the south-westerly tip of Australia.

rolexsydneyhobart.com

Key West Is Calling!
Key West Race Week Northern hemisphere temperatures are dropping and warm and sunny Key West is beckoning sailors from around the world. Don't miss out on the great competition and shoreside fun! The first entry deadline of December 21 is just a week away.

Enter now and save late fees and last minute scrambles. Quantum Key West 2013 is sure to be a great week for all.

Entries and details: www.premiere-racing.com

510 Places In One Year
New Zealand's Chris Steele has quickly worked his way up the Open Match Race Rankings throughout 2012 after he started the year at World #570 to swiftly move to World #60.

November was a busy month for the 19-year-old after he took gold at the New Caledonia Match Race and the Musto International Youth Match Racing Championships. Sandwiched in between both of the ISAF Grade 3 victories was a sixth place at the New Zealand Match Racing Championships.

Steele has brought a winning mentality to his match racing career after he picked up gold at the 2007 Optimist World Championships in Sardinia, Italy and then the 2010 Splash Worlds in Auckland, New Zealand.

Runner-up to Steele at the 2007 Optimist Worlds Benjamin Grez (CHI) went on the Olympic pathway through to London 2012 where he represented Chile in the Men's 470. However unlike many of his foes at the 2007 Opti Worlds, Steele focused on match racing.

ISAF: www.sailing.org/news/33675.php

Musikhin Takes Kingdom Regatta Match Race Title
Zallaq, Bahrain: Russia's Sergey Musikhin skippered his team to victory at the Kingdom Regatta Match Race in an event which came down to an exciting finish at the Bahrain Sailing Club near Al Jazayer Beach in Zallaq.

Facing former champion Mati Sepp (EST) in the final, the Musikhin pulled off one of his best performances in the championship to capture a well-earned 3-2 win in a best-of-five title decider.

Competing in J24 boats, World #26 Musikhim faced a tough challenge in Sepp, who is ranked two places higher than the Russian.

Musikhin made it to the final beating Ebrahim Abdulla sailing on home waters, while Sepp edged last year's champion Andrea Arbozov (RUS)

The championship, organised for the 10th consecutive year, got underway with 12 teams from eight countries taking part.

Other teams in the fray were Oman (2) who introduced an all-women's crew, as well as the Tunisia, UAE, Qatar and Kuwait.

ISAF: www.sailing.org/news/33731.php

Wight Vodka Favourite Yachting Bar
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French Mini 6.50 "Classiques" Tour Championship
The award ceremony of the French Championship took place saturday at the Paris Boat Show.

The French Sailing Federation, represented by its Vice President Henry Bacchini, has decorated the six skippers of the podiums of the first French Mini Championship.

Prototypes podium:
Gold Medal: Milan Kolacek - Mini 759 Friends Follow Me
Silver Medal: Nicolas Boidevezi - Mini 719 Terrevent.org Foundation
Bronze Medal: Aymeric Chappellier - Mini 788 La Tortue de l'Aquarium - La Rochelle

Series (production boats) podium:
Gold Medal: Aymeric Belloir - Mini 810 Tout le Monde Chante Contre le Cancer
Silver Medal: Jonas Gerckens - Mini 590 ELECT-Ra
Bronze Medal: Arnaud Chaigne - Mini 529 Black Mamba

In 2013, the championship will named "Championnat de France Promotion Course au Large en Solitaire - Mini 6.50".

2013 qualifying races for the Championship:

- Pornichet Select 6.50 starting April 20, from Pornichet.
- Trophy Marie-Agnes Peron, starting June 13, from Douarnenez
- Mini Transat, starting October 13, from Douarnenez.

www.classemini.com

San Fernando Race
Photo of Mandrake by Koko Mueller. Click on image to enlarge.

Mandrake Entries are now open for the 18th San Fernando Race, which will start in Hong Kong's Victoria Harbour on 27 March 2013. Since 1977 this 480nm race has been organised as a biennial event by Royal Hong Kong Yacht Club and is currently run under the auspices of RORC. A true Category 1 offshore classic, the route takes competitors from a grey and chilly Hong Kong, across the South China Sea to sunny San Fernando in the northern Philippines.

Around 30 boats will compete under IRC or performance handicaps, with the Racing fleet doing their upmost to smash the record of 49h 55m 12s set by Hong Kong sailor Sam Chan in 2001.

The race not only gives sailors and opportunity to enjoy a highly tactical race over the Easter break, but has a serious purpose, supporting a local children's home through the San Fernando Foundation. Fundraising events including a Dinner and Charity Auction will take place in the lead up to the race start, with the Foundation hoping to exceed the record of HK$525,000 raised in parallel with the 2011 San Fernando Race.

The Notice of Race and Entry Form are now available on the event website

www.sanfernadorace.com

Funding Boost
Britain's Olympic and Paralympic sailing teams were planning a return to the top of the medal table at Rio 2016 after their funding for the next four year cycle was increased to £24.5 million.

Britain's sailors won more medals than any other nation at London 2012 but Ben Ainslie's fourth gold medal represented their only gold success, compared to four at Beijing in 2008, two in Athens and three in Sydney.

The Weymouth haul was eclipsed by the success of both Australia who won three golds and Spain with two and for the first time since Sydney 2001, Britain was knocked off its perch as the leading nation in Olympic sailing.

But this funding boost will give Britain the chance to get back on top. -- Kate Laven in The Telegraph

www.telegraph.co.uk/sport/

RYA Response to UK Sport Funding Announcement for Sailing
RYA Performance Director John Derbyshire gives his reaction to today's UK Sport funding announcement for Sailing for 2013-2017:

"Sailing's Olympic award of £24,515,072, as announced by UK Sport today, is broadly welcomed and will enable us to start implementing our plans for the Rio cycle, off the back of having successfully delivered another five medals at the Olympic Games this summer to remain one of Great Britain's most consistently high-performing Olympic sports.

"Especially pleasing is the substantial increase in funding to our Paralympic programme for this cycle. After coming home from Beijing empty-handed for the third successive Games, the whole team worked tremendously hard to put that right for London, resulting in a gold and a bronze from two out of the three competing classes. We're delighted that these efforts have been recognised by UK Sport, and will allow us to build and develop our talent pathway to hopefully continue that success towards Rio and beyond.

"We're grateful to UK Sport for their continued confidence in the RYA's World Class Programme, and look forward to the clarity and opportunity that these awards now provide us with in our planning for Rio 2016 and 2020."

Spinnaker Tales
Photo by Ian Grant. Click on image to enlarge.

Wild Oats X1 Understandably Bob Oatley's super maxi Wild Oats X1 has become a feature in conversations among every sport loving Australian as the countdown begins for the start to the 2012 Rolex Sydney Hobart Race on Boxing Day.

They recall her triple triumph of seven years ago when the Mark Richards helmed Wild Oats X1 power sailed over the 628 nautical mile course with an average speed of 14.72 knots to win the race overall while also setting the present 1 day 18 hour 40 minute 20 second record.

Some have been caught up in the hype which claims Wild Oats X1 now has the potential to re-write the record following the alterations to her underwater appendages and new additions to her sail wardrobe.

But for this to fall into place her crew will be forced to live on the critical edge between distinction and disaster for Wild Oats X1 to have the opportunity to race over every nautical mile of the storm tormented Tasman Sea with a super fast time to eclipse the 2005 record. Talk around the Sydney waterfront earlier this week has focused on Wild Oats X1, both her skipper and crew of experienced ocean racing sailors including female navigator Adrienne Calahan are well prepared but they will need a favourable spinnaker sailing and wave surfing forecast to be locked in place to hand her major rivals Wild Thing (Grant Wharington), and last year's line honours champion Ragamuffin Loyal (Syd Fischer) a lesson in super fast ocean racing.

An ideal Northerly wind forecast prevailed at Green Cape (entrance to Bass Strait) earlier this week but a question remains with this breeze blowing with increased velocity when the fleet leaders set their course for Green Cape and the other important Tasmanian coastal points of Eddystone Pt, Bicheno and Tasman Island following what promises to be another spectacular start on Boxing Day.

Before this recent upgrade the high performance Wild Oats X1 crew expressed their heavy wind ocean racing skills to smash the Sydney to Gold Coast record.

They completed the 384 nautical mile course with a remarkable 17.4 knot average, 2.7knots faster than their record smashing run over the Rolex Sydney Hobart 'torture track' which indicates she has the potential to be a short priced line honours favourite.

However they will not need a head wind to sneak out from The Great Southern Ocean which will thwart any chance for Wild Oats X1 to remain on track to beat her 2005 record.

While intense interest remains with her maxi class match race for line honours with rivals Wild Thing, Ragamuffin Loyal, Lahana and the smaller maxi chasers Ichi Ban and Queensland's Black Jack the Wild Oats X1 believe they are better prepared to make a clean sweep of the Line and corrected handicap trophies.

But that will be determined on what nature provides with the angle and wind velocity combined with a wave surfing seaway which no one can accurately predict to blow this year. -- Ian Grant

Big Fleets for International Cadet Championship
Photo by Peter Campbell. Click on image to enlarge.

International Cadet Championship The program on Hobart's River Derwent starts next Friday, 21 December, with the International Cadet Class Australian Championship. This Australian championship is the selection event for the following World Championship, with 75 two-crew dinghies entered, representing South Australia, Victoria, New South Wales and Tasmania.

Entries for the World Championship have reached 49 boats for the main event while an additional 36 are entered for the promotional event, exceeding entries for any recent Southern Hemisphere World championships. Entries have been received from Great Britain (9 boats), 7 Germany (7), Belgium (6), The Netherlands (5), The Argentine (5), Poland (1), The Ukraine (1) and Australia (14).

The nationals is classed as an "open" event and has entries from Great Britain and Ukraine, although international entries are not eligible to win the Australian title.

The top 14 Australian boats will make up the team to represent their country in the Cadet Class World Championship, commencing on 28 December 2012 and running through to the 4 January 2013.

The world championship has only been held in Hobart twice since the class was established in 1948 but SBSC past Commodore Paul Burnell twice the title sailing overseas. -- Jill Abel / Peter Campbell

www.cadet2012.yachting.org.au
www.sbsc.yachting.org.au

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The Last Word
Christmas is a necessity. There has to be at least one day of the year to remind us that we're here for something else besides ourselves. -- Eric Sevareid

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