SCUTTLEBUTT #246 - December 29, 1998
TELSTRA SYDNEY TO HOBART RACE
Orange life rafts heaved in roiling seas Monday as a storm decimated the
Sydney-to-Hobart yacht race. At least five sailors were killed as 90-mph
winds and towering seas turned 40-foot yachts into tub toys, flipping them
over, snapping their masts and swamping them with water. A former British
Olympic sailor who had been missing was added to the death count, said
Australian Maritime Safety Authority spokesman Brian Hill. One other sailor
was still missing, but many involved in the rescue were doubtful he could
As Australia mounted one of its largest maritime rescue operations ever,
military helicopters hovered over 35-foot swells to hoist about 50 other
sailors to safety off Australia's southeast coast, 250 miles south of
Sydney. Many of the sailors were injured -- with broken bones, dislocated
shoulders, cuts on the face and hands -- from being struck by broken
rigging or tossed upside down when their boats capsized. Emergency flares
sent streams of red smoke into the air to speed the rescue effort.
The 725-mile race continued despite the worst tragedy in its 54-year
history. Of the 115 yachts that entered, 59 were forced to seek shelter and
several boats were abandoned, race officials said.
As the rescue mission went on, American maxi Sayonara took line honours in
the race, crossing the line shortly before 8:30am AEDT. Although being
ahead of record schedule for much of the race, a southerly wind meant it
finished a little more than five-and-a-half hours outside Morning Glory's
1996 time of two days, 14 hours, 10 minutes and seven seconds. Brindabella
finished in second place shortly before 11:00am AEDT. Easing wind
conditions off the East Coast of Tasmania have given one of the smaller
yachts in the fleet, the 35-footer AFR Midnight Rambler, an excellent
chance to win the race overall on handicap.
To win the race despite such savage conditions is a great achievement for
Sayonara and its crew, but the 54th Sydney to Hobart yacht race will be
remembered for other reasons.
Five sailors are so far confirmed dead - Bruce Guy and Phillip Skeggs who
were both aboard Business Post Naiad plus the two bodies suspected to be
from the Winston Churchill. In addition, British sailor Glyn Charles, 33,
was washed off the Sword of Orion yacht Sunday night and declared drowned
on Tuesday. Race officials said Charles had represented Britain in the Star
Class at the 1996 Summer Olympics in Atlanta, where he finished 11th.
American John Campbell was swept overboard when his yacht capsized. After
less than an hour in the water, Campbell was so crippled by hypothermia
that a helicopter dropped a policeman down on a line to scoop him up.
"There was a point I didn't think I was going to survive,'' Campbell said.
The four Winston Churchill sailors rescued yesterday have told how they
survived a terrifying night in six-metre seas. The sailors were taken to
Mallacoota in north-eastern Victoria. A hugh wave broke on the 56-year-old
Winston Churchill on Sunday afternoon, throwing the crew members violently
around the cabin. It smashed the mast through the bottom of the yacht which
sank in 15 minutes. The nine crew got into two life rafts which, although
tied together, soon separated in the rough seas.
Skipper Richard Winning says the life raft he was in was flipped twice
during Sunday night and he had to dive out from beneath it to flip it back
over. "That was truly frightening. At night...all of a sudden one minute
you're sitting up there as happy as Larry - the next minute you're upside
down. And someone's got to go out through the bottom, put on a rope and
ride the thing with the other three guys inside. That happened to us twice
The life raft was spotted late yesterday and the men were flown to
Mallacoota suffering mild hypothermia and lucky to be alive. Paramedic Cam
Roberson, who winched the four to safety, says it was a tremendous feeling
to find them alive. "Originally we were told they though it might have just
been a one man life raft, but we were delighted to find that in fact there
were four of them in a life raft," Mr Roberson said. "Basically, apart from
being cold, they were in pretty good health and exceptionally pleased to
see us you might say."
Sayonara owner Larry Ellison, in tears after battling through the horror of
the Sydney-to-Hobart yacht race, said he had never experienced worse
conditions at sea. Ellison, the founder and chief executive of computer
giant Oracle, won his second Sydney-to-Hobart race but arrived in Hobart
early Tuesday to a funereal atmosphere. Asked if he'd come back again,
Ellison said, "My first reaction is not if I live to a thousand years. But
"It was just awful, I've never experienced anything remotely like this,''
said Ellison. "It's been a very emotional experience to get here. This is
not what this is supposed to be about. A lot of us are upset.'' Ellison
said it was an extraordinarily difficult as his yacht battled "right
through the eye of a hurricane'' and his crew heard by radio of the deaths
in the battered fleet.
Sayonara's helmsman Chris Dickson says thoughts of breaking the race record
had been lost in the struggle to stay alive. "We hadn't been thinking or
racing for a record at all in this race," he said. "It would have been nice
of course but we were out there to number one look out for the boat and the
people. "And being here first is - sure it's nice - but being here at all
is a big thing. "And I think I speak for every member of the team and we
are thinking of those still out there and not thinking too much about how
we have done," Dickson said. - Peter Campbell, the Australian Broadcasting
Corporation and the Associated Press all contributed to this summary.
Event web sites:
Also, Yachting Magazine's web site has a comprehensive "link farm" for
news, insight and perspective on the Sydney to Hobart Race:
LETTERS TO THE CURMUDGEON
Letters may be edited for space (250 words max) or clarity -- or to exclude
--From Dobbs Davis -- As a reply to Rick Merriman, I agree the $25 fee
charged by US Sailing to process your eligibility seems like a rip-off,
especially since it's not optional for the restricted classes. Seems like a
clever revenue generator if you want to sail as an amateur in the Mumm 30,
1D35, or Farr 40 classes. However, they have done a pretty good job of
processing the applications fast, and they also get the list of eligibility
decisions out quickly for class organizers. Moreover, I think that if a
crew member is not claiming to be an amateur, then his status does not need
to be confirmed. In other words, the class rules restrict the maximum
number of non-Group 1's - thus, only the 1's need their eligibility ticket.
-- From Dave Irish, Chairman, USSA Competitor Eligibility Committee -- Just
a brief response to Rick Merriman's letter. Costs to administer Competitor
Eligibility are staff time and office and communication expenses at US
SAILING. Most of the decision work is volunteered, including their related
costs by the Competitor Eligibility Committee members. The determination,
costing $25 lasts 3 years. I think this activity, which affects less than
2000 sailors of the 40,000 or so US SAILING members, should be self
supporting via user fees. Volunteers could not do this work without the
office coordination, and the office cannot do the coordination without the
costs being supported. Got a better idea than user pays?
-- From Tom Priest (concerning Jim Durden's statements about shoddy race
committee work) -- I have a suggestion that also starts with a question. Is
a five-to-one return on investment a good investment? I believe most folks
would say yes. So here's the suggestion. For every five races you compete
in, you help on RC or volunteer in some fashion help to run one. This
accomplishes many things: eliminates a shortage on RC, it forces better
knowledge of the rules, those quick to piss and moan about RC management
might be a little more understanding, and its actually kind of fun!
So get out there and volunteer! And maybe even bring your whole crew for
that particular race.
-- From Mike Guccione -- I have all the answers to Jim's problems and
racing in general. Now, if I really did, who would I give them to so they
could have them implemented?
We have too many races on the calendar and what we need are better races
and fewer of them. Anybody disagree? No, I didn't think so. Now who will
develop a new plan and new calendar? Until somebody answers this question
we will just continue to talk.
I have spent the last five years getting more involved in race management.
I worked with over 70 race committee people this year alone and less than
5% have ever held a tiller in any race. They want to be the very best they
can at what they do and even though they measure their performance the same
as you do, the priority they give things is different than many racers do.
Consider this. If most of the racers are members of the yacht clubs and
it's the yacht clubs that are buying crappy trophies then why haven't the
racers gone to the management of their clubs and said, "hey guys, we need
better trophies and this is the type we and most of the guys like?"
Make this your New Years resolution. Be part of the solution to one little
problem with your club's race program. Maybe it's suggesting a minor change
in the race announcement, maybe it a suggestion on what kind of beer to
serve, but do a little something!
-- From Hugh Elliot Chairman, Committee on Sailors with Special Needs, US
Sailing Association -- I need to update all 'Buttheads on the
(mis)information - it WAS correct up until the ISAF Meeting in November -
provided in #245 about the Paralympic Regatta.
Since the International Paralympic Committee (IPC) has determined that an
85 athlete limit applies to the Paralympic Regatta and IFDS/ISAF has
determined that teams will be permitted an alternate for the crewed (Sonar)
discipline, the total number of entries is now 17 in each class (Sonar with
team of 3 plus alternate and 2.4 meter people all on their lonesome).
Seven countries (USA included) plus host country Australia were invited to
send Sonar teams based on the results of the 1998 IFDS World Championship
and seven countries (USA not included) qualified for the 2.4 Meter Class
based on results from the [open] 1998 2.4 Meter Worlds. 8 more countries
will qualify in each discipline based on the 1999 IFDS World Championship
results (Cadiz, Spain - September 3 - 10, 1999). The remaining entry in
each class is a "wild card".
-- From Bobbi Tosse -- Some irreverent thoughts regarding Fossett &
company's splash down: I haven't sailed around the world, but I have done
quite a few Pacific Cups. I've even sailed in the area about 10 miles
north of Oahu. I have never seen a shark. So, how come the Associated
Press refers to this area as 'shark infested'? Amazing. When Steve went
down north of New Zealand, that water was shark infested, also. Wow. How
come we don't read about this infestation from all the around-the-world
sailors? Are they hiding something from us?
HOT WEB SITE
If you like photographs of sailboats, you're going to really enjoy Daniel
Forster's new web site. And if it's classic sailboats that 'ring your
bell,' you'll want to 'bookmark' it for sure. Don't miss the preview of
Forster's 1999 calendar -- it truly captures the spirit & grace of the
Herreshoff yacht -- or his classic black and white prints of some truly
classic yachts. You can do it all online: http://www.yachtphoto.com/
When the 14 world championships of the 1999 Melbourne Worlds conclude in
January, an "international sailing summit" will convene in nearby Geelong.
World leaders in sailboat racing and its supporting industries will gather
for two days, January 19 and 20, to develop an action plan to promote
sailing and increase participation in sailboat racing. Discussions will
focus on entry-level sailing, the state of the industry, sponsorship,
marketing on the internet, major events, class, club and event management,
and coaching. The conference will spend one day focusing on the sailing
industry and marketing of sailing. The second day will be devoted to
participation and events. - Excerpt from Grand Prix Sailor
For the full story: http://www.sailingworld.com/gps/gps5298.htm
As technology moves forward in sail design and materials so it does in
custom embroidery as well. New machines software and techniques have been
made it possible to produce a product far superior today than in the past.
Call Frank Whitton at Pacific Yacht Embroidery and Imprintables
(619-226-8033) to stay up with the rest of the world. Don't settle for less
when for the same price you can have the best.
Were it not for a Leg 2 change in ports-of-call, the leaders in the Around
Alone race today could be struggling for survival in a killer storm that
has decimated the 115-boat fleet of crewed yachts that set out from Sydney
on 26 December in the 54th edition of the classic Sydney to Hobart yacht race.
Four years ago (as in every previous Around Alone since 1982), the
singlehanders finished the second leg in Sydney after negotiating the Bass
Strait -- a tricky and often treacherous body of water that separates the
Australian mainland from Tasmania -- and sailing up the continent's
southeast coast. And it was along that exact same stretch that the Sydney
Hobart offshore drama was unfolding early today.
Ironically, with the race now calling in Auckland, the leaders slid south
and then east into the Tasman, and were well out of harm's way when the
front steamrolled the southbound fleet.
- Herb McCormick
Standings (distance to finish in parenthesis) : CLASS I: 1. Soldini (515)
2. Golding (697) 3. Thiercelin (860) 4. Autissier (887) CLASS II: 1.
Mouligne (1081) 2. Garside (1476) 3. Van Liew (1934) 4. Yazykov (2196)
For the full story: http://www.aroundalone.com
THE CURMUDGEON'S OBSERVATIONS
Those who burn bridges better learn how to swim.