This unpredictable “Sydney to Hobart”

Tomorrow, December 26, early in the morning Moscow time in Sydney starts the Rolex Sydney Hobart Yacht Race. This time in the famous race will serve only one yacht under the Russian flag – SeaVentus Mahligai (Sydney 46).

Organizer of participation of the Russian team and its captain is the head of the Club offshore racing SeaVentus Alexander Vodovatov. We asked him before starting to answer some questions Yacht Russia. But could not imagine that the answers that were sent by Alexander to be so detailed and interesting.

– You, as far as we know, the third time will participate in the Rolex Sydney Hobart Yacht Race.

– I’m not alone. Third time out at the start in Sydney three out of twelve – except me, it is Vladimir Chirkov Anton Titorenko. Another participant, Gazarov Artyom, for the second time.

The rest of the crew also took part in the 600-mile race and the Rolex series, and other series. We all over the shoulders (although, more to the point – astern) “Fastnet” and “Middle sea” race in the South China sea from Hong Kong to the Philippines and from Hong Kong to Vietnam, “Newport – Bermuda and Caribbean-600”, some of us crossed the Atlantic.

So the crew got quite experienced. Anyway, we were with each other at different races in different combinations. We hope this “battle” familiarity will only help.

Everyone, of course, their reasons why he signed up for the Sydney Hobart Race. But I think for most of us the main motive is to challenge myself. There are going to people who don’t think, “can I?”. Here everyone is thinking, “I can!” This is the main motive. Here if to think “out – will”, it is better not to meddle. Should be full of confidence in their abilities. Everyone understands that his efforts, his concentration all the way to the race, from its focus on the result depends on the entire team.

And, of course, attracted by the beauty of Australia and Tasmania, nothing on a similar nature. Attracted by the unimaginable power of the ocean. Attracted to fellowship with like-minded friends with whom took more than a dozen of thousands of miles around the world. And, perhaps, attract the adrenaline at the start and in the race. And the endorphins at the finish.

– What is the specificity of the Sydney Hobart? What has made it so prestigious among sailors? What are the challenges faced by the crews? What has been the most memorable in your previous races?

– Race “Sydney-Hobart” has its own special characteristics. First, it is one of the oldest sailing 600-mile race. Over the last 73 years, the Rolex Sydney Hobart Yacht Race has become an icon of summer sport not only in Australia, but one of the most popular and anticipated events in the sailing world. Probably no other yacht race is the ultimate dream of so many sailors around the world. This race is a must do for those who want to acquire experience extreme sailing and get the deserved respect of colleagues on the sail.

Secondly, this race is one of the most prestigious among sailors all over the world. A distance of 628 nautical miles (which make up the path from Sydney to Hobart) is often rightly called the most grueling long ocean race in the world and a challenge for all who take part in it. Considered one of the most dangerous and unpredictable offshore sailing races.

It is the unpredictability, danger, and complexity that require constant voltage throughout the race – from the starting line of the famous Sydney Harbor bridge Harbor Bridge and the Opera house to the finish line in Storm Bay of Hobart attracts yachtsmen from all over the world. For people keen on sailing, this race like Everest to climbers.

In the Sydney Hobart Race, as on Everest, one of the main difficulties for the crews is the weather. It can change almost instantly and unpredictable. The warm waters of the East Australian current (the largest ocean currents on the Australian coast, reaching a maximum velocity of 7 knots), contact with cold air masses coming from the Indian or southern oceans, creating almost perfect conditions for high winds and sudden squalls. But the vast open ocean space with powerful winds, in turn, is the ideal place for the formation of does not small waves.

No wonder the organizing Committee of the race one of the most important items security considers mandatory regular radio. Each crew twice a day should report via the HF radio your coordinates at the moment. And this year added the requirement of compulsory third communication session with the security team via satellite phone. Rule in very strict: one missed session – hours of penalty time, the second pass – a penalty in the form of a 20% Supplement to the time shown by the boat at the finish line, the third pass – disqualification.

Here and in previous races I remember the wind, which for a dozen of seconds easily enhanced node 20 from the current values. That’s, like, just been quite comfortable 15-20 knots, but didn’t get to know it and all 35! Not afraid of themselves of 35 knots, the dreadful speed at which the wind increases. Not in vain in training before the start, most teams work out dozens of times taking reefs. The ability to quickly and competently take reefs – one of the most important in this race.

In 2014, we even pretty work-out before the race, at the time of arrival of the squall hesitated for some few seconds. The result is broken off, as from a catapult, Lata in the grotto. And, of course, remember the “final push” in one of the previous races. When it seemed that the finish line is in sight – 30 miles to Hobart for the Tasmanian coastal cliffs literally popped up a powerful storm front and 43-45 under-nodal the wind covered us with heavy hail, at the same time regularly “treating” gusts to 62 knots.

The wind was such that one of the planes of the press fell into the water, unable to cope with the gusts! However, the true strength of the wind, we learned only on the finish line from the organizers. We had no time to escape from the control boat.

– How would you characterize the individual segments of the upcoming race? What weather this year weather forecasters promise? How many teams showed up?

– Race can be divided into three sections. Each of them has its specifics.

The first section – from the start in Sydney to the Cape Verde (Green Cape) – South-Eastern tip of Australia. Here the route of the race takes place mainly in the East Australian current. And it is this that largely determines the tactics of the crews. Each guided by their knowledge and experience builds the route not only taking into account the wind situation, but also focusing on the data on the speed and direction of flow in numerous sleeves, meanders and eddies. Not taking into account something or prochitavshih, you can easily be in the counter flow force 2-3 node. This means that every hour you to keep up with the more prudent rivals for 2-3 miles. And such hours may be few.

The second section of Bass Strait. The Strait between mainland Australia and the island Tasmania. About 120 miles. This site is “glorious” because of its unpredictability. Between the mountains of Australia and Tasmania, in this narrow (compared to ocean) 100-mile pipe directs the wind from the Indian ocean, being compressed and accelerated, in full accordance with the law of Bernoulli. Plus the cold waters of the Indian ocean meet here with warm Pacific brought by the East Australian current.

Anyone at least in school studying geography, you will understand that it is in this place – Bassoon Strait – combined almost all possible conditions for the formation of severe storms. Race organizers and the coast guard of Australia, who studied meteorology and Oceanography, not only within school geography course, you know that better than many others. And that’s why a session of HF-communication with the coast guard in the area of Green Cape (the point of “separation” from the mainland and Strait) to confirm that the Board is OK and the team continues the race, is critically required. Absence from a test connection at this point – a definite disqualification. No wonder the organizers of the “Sydney-Hobart” argue that nearly all accidents and serious emergencies that occurred in all previous years, took place in Bassoon Strait.

The third section – along of Tasmania to finish at Hobart. This segment can also prepare a lot of surprises. Seeing Tasmania, starting to think that the finish is very close. At this point it is important not to lose concentration and fighting spirit. Because Tasmania for its treacherous weather. Mountains “hide” behind the wind, which can come quite unexpectedly. And thus be very weak. However, in the South-Eastern corner of Tasmania, (just where Hobart and the finish line), there are three vast and stormy oceans: Pacific, Indian and southern. For many, many thousands of kilometers around this corner of Tasmania is a giant water area, besides “back” from the South Antarctica. That’s really why the wind and the waves. And no wonder the British over two centuries ago called Storm (Storm Bay) the Bay in which he built Hobart. So before the boat crossed the finish line, it is impossible to relax!

As for the current year… While we are training before the start, weather is unpredictable: the sun, the rain, the lull, the wind is 20-25 knots. On Friday (December 21) evening in some areas of Sydney fell absolutely do not expect a powerful castle. Hailstones reached the size of a Golf ball, and more! Local news on the morning of the next day reported about one and a half hundreds of millions of dollars of damage claimed by insurance companies. Whole areas of the city remained without electricity, hundreds of cars were seriously damaged. We got on the boat hail broke supplies a wind sock on the mast. I had to change.

But for the period of the race, the prognosis is still favorable. We expect a varied, but not stormy conditions. However, we must bear in mind that this is only a forecast and it – “Sydney-Hobart”. All can have a lot of time to change. And all the 85 allowed to start this year crews are preparing different versions of his tactics for the upcoming race.

– You arrived in Sydney. Managed to meet up with someone from those who competed in previous years?

– Of course, our entire team already assembled, like the vast majority of participants. To this race no one is, as an easy walk, so all the teams are very busy and are busy preparing the boats, all again (twice, three times) inspecting.

Of course, sailors from Australia – and especially Sydney – are in the majority among the participants. Almost all of them not the first time participate in the Rolex Sydney Hobart Yacht Race. The owner of our boat – Owen Murray (Murrey Owen) – kicks off the 13th time. By the way, he being a new Zealander, for many years living in Australia, said the organizing Committee as the representative of Russia. This very accurately describes his attitude towards us is coming with him for the third race, and the Russians at all. So the crew we do fully Russian. However, as in the previous two times.

Of course, we meet here a lot of friends. But since most boats crews hired and people can change from race to race, acquaintances are mostly local sailors and the boat.

This year the race was part of the Russian boat Volvo-70 from the famous project Volvo Ocean Race 2008-09 – “Orca”. However, the crew she came from Poland. But she was a strange story: despite the beginning of training this command, the organizers said that the boat will not be allowed to compete, and now she is in port are covered with warnings that the decision of the Federal court of Australia boat arrested, and access is prohibited.

How to tell the local staff of the club, police boats, right during a training session on Sydney harbour, arrived at the boat and demanded its return to port. The crew, of course, is now in despair and tries to find places in other teams. Very strange and unpleasant story…

A lot about the upcoming race write a Sydney newspaper? Who do you consider favorites?

Perhaps no other annual yachting event in the world attracts such attention by the Australian media, as a start in Sydney harbour. Rolex Sydney Hobart Yacht Race – one of the pillars of the public interest of the inhabitants of the country, along with jumps the Melbourne Cup, open tennis championship Australian Open, cricket and Christmas.

Australian all leading news channels and print media, be sure to do regular reports about the approaching race. Show, radio and print interviews with the racing heroes of the past and well-known yachtsmen who intend to take part this year.

We are participating a few years ago for the first time, too, when I first encountered such a media interest in this event. Knowing that the race will participate the whole team from Russia, local television showed in Prime time in sports news reports and interviews with us. And when, towards the end it became clear that we would go to the first result of their division, quirky Australian radioresponse managed to reach the boat by satellite phone of the owner to interview us during the race. And only to the rapidly deteriorating weather, as I have said, served as a justification of the rejection of the immediate interviewing of the crew. The journalists here understand how hard times have sailors in this race.
And, here, as for favorites… of Course, there are big fast boats and very well prepared team. Many captains and crews participated in the regatta more than once… But, I guess, “Sydney Hobart” and attracts yachtsmen, renowned for its unpredictability, and, in General, equal conditions for all. Suddenly “shoot”, everyone can.

PS Thank Alexander Vodovatov for such a detailed story and wish the Russian team a fair wind and success in the Rolex Sydney Hobart!

P. P. S. the Interview with Vodovatov “Second attempt”, dedicated to the performance of his team in the “Sydney-Hobart” two years earlier, was published in the magazine Yacht Russia №3 (94) for 2017.

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