Gale Force winds slash Channel Race fleet
Gale force northerly winds gusting to 50 knots on the River Derwent and in the D’Entrecasteaux Channel yesterday played havoc with Hobart yachts in their first long race of the season, forcing half the fleet to retire from the Channel Race.
Out of 39 starters only 19 boats completed the course, most of the retirees being forced out with sail and rigging damage.
The 19 finishers battled their way up the river into 30-40 knot headwinds with heavily reefed sails, some reduced to red storm sails more often seen in ocean races.
The strength of the wind was not predicted. There was no gale warning issued for either the Derwent Estuary or the Channel. The forecast was for 20-30 knots from the north, decreasing to 15-25 knots late in the afternoon, The 50+ knots was not forecast either in the Bureau of Meteorology’s area forecasts or the marine forecast charts.
The Royal Yacht Club of Tasmania, nor other clubs, would not send yachts out to race if there is a gale warning for the race area.
The 30 nautical mile Channel Race is the first of eight races in this summer’s Combined Clubs Long Distance Series.
After a fast spinnaker run down the Derwent and into the Channel to round a mark off Bligh Point, the fleet was hit by 40-50 knots before having to battle to windward up the river against winds averaging 26-32 knots, with gusts in excess of 40 knots and steep short seas.
The river was a mass of white caps, the wind whipping spume off the waves, as the last boats neared the finish. At 4.00pm a 50 knots gust was recorded at Hobart. An hour after the last boat finished the wind was gusting to 70 knots with waves breaking over Sandy Bay Road.
“We did a bit of damage…blew the leech our of the mainsail…pulled a ring out of the only small No 3 headsail we had on board, “ reported Michelle Denney, co-owner with husband Mike Denney of Wild West.
“But in 35 to 45, up to 50 knots we only needed our storm sails,” she added. “Expensive day on the water!”
Gary Smith’s 45-footer The Fork in the Road recovered from a spectacular broach just after 10.10am start of Castray Esplanade to take line honours shortly after 2.00pm with Ian Johnston’s powerful Zephyr crossing the line 20 minutes later.
The impressive heavy weather performance by Zephyr, a powerful Farr MX42 and her crew was rewarded with first place on corrected time under both AMS and PHS categories of Group A.
In the AMS category, Zephyr won from Shaun Tiedemann’s Sydney 36, third place going to the Mumm 36 Tas Paints, skippered by Ian Stewart.
Under PHS scoring, Zephyr took first place from Tony Harman’s Masquerade and Tas Paints.
Only six boats competed under an IRC rating, with Philosopher winning from Masquerade and Don Calvert’s Intrigue.
Only two boats finished the race in Groups B and C. In Group B the 12 boat fleet was cut to two finishers, Footloose (Stewart Geeves) winning from AMS and PHS from Silicon Ship (C Wyatt).
In Division C, Camlet Way (Steve Mannering) won under PHS scoring from Kindred Spirit (Peter Alcock).
Words: Peter Campbell
Photos: Peter Campbell and Peter Watson