Put it all on black!!! Now then, and before the PC Commandos arrive like the hordes coming down from the Scottish Highlands, let’s be really clear that we are not talking about the need for responsible gambling when approaching the green felt and spinning wheel. Well maybe just a tad….
No, this asks the question, is it that the mini maxis now look the part for an overall win? Sitting here on December 24, announcing anything but the start time is tantamount to Hari Kari. Yet there is more than a soupçon of old school in the way things appear to be shaping up. Back in the day, you always banked on getting a blow, with the only question being exactly when it would arrive and for how long it would last? Curiously, for over ten years that rule seems to have been AWOL in the extreme.
It still seems unclear exactly what will come after Saturday afternoon/evening’s front, but this much is clear. There will be rain and possible thunderstorms for the fleet who will be anywhere from Gabo Island to Ulladulla at the time. The leaders will want to get there quickly too in the 25 knot Nor’noreaster, for it appears to go soft thereafter and in this way they’ll back in their chances. At least the routeing now has them not marching way, way, way offshore looking for the best of the Nor’easter and the East Australia Current.
Two things remain for everyone, however. There will be at least 3-4m of SSW wave on offer with the 30 knot Southerly, and for a change, you will get to see it coming in daylight, or the remnants thereof, late on Saturday. So just before we get back to being in black, Mr. Wayne, it seems interesting to ponder the case of the dark hulled Botin 65 that finished in seventh place (Line Honours) last year, and she was listed as cruiser/racer! Interestingly, the last time I checked, Caro was still for sale…
Speaking with Matt Allen after the announcement, he stated, “What was probably 70/30 to begin with then shortened up to 90/10 and is now a shoe in. We are taking the black boat and not the blue TP52. We got a good look at Chinese Whisper during the Bird Island race and think we can look after ourselves in a reach or a run in the black Ichi Ban.” Note that they took the blue boat and at 10 feet smaller they were only 35 minutes behind Chinese Whisper over the 85nm course.
“It arrives late on the Saturday and then stays in for the first part of the 27th, yet by the 28th it does seem to be all over the place. Time will tell. The small boats may get some help out of this as it could compact the fleet up, but at least in the black boat we can push hard on that first night and hopefully make some ground. It will be the telling tale and larger boats can make more of a bad seaway than the smaller craft, so we’ll have our work cut out for us.”
“It certainly will be on in spades between us and Chinese Whisper. Both crews have some tremendous sailors on board, and we are kind of looking forward to it”, Allen said in closing.
Remember too that the smaller craft also have sailors on board and they’ll be getting tossed around like your salad at a BBQ, so raise a glass to them as you enjoy everything from family to cricket, or if you’re in the Northern hemisphere, red wine and snow on the window sill.
Before closing, it seems prudent to review the two former Volvo Ocean 70s in Black Jack and Maserati. Pedigree alone says one will need to pay attention to them in both the hard charging off the breeze on that first afternoon and then just as importantly when the sunscreen gives way to full wets and much smaller sails later on.
Equally, the front will jam the leaders up after Comanche and fellow sleds Perpetual Loyal and Ragamuffin deploy everything in their ideal conditions. Once the smashing begins we may see Comanche hold sway and we are yet to see what the new, fuller volume Wild Oats XI is going to be like. Perpetual Loyal withdrew last year to avoid catastrophic delamination and so it will be interesting to watch the front for any signs of that and to see what Rags gets up to when it all begins. The fly in the ointment there could be Rambler 88, who has shown great speed at all points thus far. Fascinating reading me thinks…
Many will only want to see red off the glow from the instruments, but this race could all be about the black, which is also handy if you’re a fashionista. As the blind comes up on the weather window, Sail-World will bring you the best in black ink, right here. Also, many thanks to Roger ‘Clouds’ Badham for all his tireless work in gathering and preparing the vast array of meteorological intel we rely upon.
So stay tuned for the complete coverage from the leaders to the back markers and of course, some in depth analysis of just who might be lucky enough to win the Tattersall’s Cup this year.
by John Curnow