The West Coast race has been a competitive affair with multiple boats vying for the lead at various times and tactics playing a key role. Laurie Ford’s Cameron De Lange 12m, Spirit of Downunder, was not first out the heads but quickly took pride of place as the racers settled in for a quiet light wind night on the first day.
Imagine Ford’s face at first light to find Yoko and that wily old salt Robin Hewitt sitting just off his stern. Not to mention that the significantly smaller Addiction was sailing a blinder and pressing them at every turn.
Then misfortune struck when they blew out their mast head spinnaker near Cape Grim reducing them to using the asymmetric, less effective but still it worked. Tactics were at play and Addiction picked up good wind when they went to the west. Ford was squeaking in front but was in a duel with Turbulence and looking to the west for the reappearance of Addiction.
Sometimes experience does help and with this his 10th Westcoaster he rounded Maatsuyker in front, from there he just pulled away and put pressure on the unofficial race leader of the Red Wine Cup, XLR8, that is the first to Hobart from the East or West coast. He flew up Storm Bay but it was not quite enough finishing just 21 minutes behind XLR8.
He is however the Line Honours winner of the 43rd Melbourne to Hobart Westcoaster, a race that is highly regarded amongst the yachting community. With a finish time of 03:55:48 he finished with an elapsed time of 2d 15 hours and 25 mins.
They have led since the race started on the 27th December in Portsea and in the small hours of this morning Ray Shaw steered his Reichel Pugh 46, XLR8, across the line in Hobart. With a finish time of 03:20:34 and an elapsed time of 2d 14 hours 50 mins.
The first night at sea was unkind as the wind varied between light and none but Shaw was able to establish a lead that night through clever and conservative sailing. Once the northerlies started to fill in he just steadily but inexorably increased their lead so that at the finish he had 33 nms between himself and the next yacht Cartouche. The heavy winds down the east coast gave them a wonderful spinnaker run before the turn into Storm bay.
The honour of first to Hobart between the two fleets, West and East swung many times over the course of the race between XLR8 and Spirit of Downunder. During the afternoon and evening of the 29th the ETA’s had the leaders arriving within minutes of each other until Storm Bay where Shaw had the better of the running despite difficult conditions. The Derwent then played havoc with his finishing time as it is wont to do, particularly at night, the breeze dropping in and out and a safe berth tantalisingly close.
Shaw is also Vice Commodore of the Ocean Racing Yacht Club of Victoria and contributes to the sport in so many ways giving of his time and expertise to promote and educate. With a PhD in spectroscopy he is no stranger to the teaching role having been a senior teaching fellow at Monash University before joining the commercial world as a Senior Scientist with Varian later to be heading the Magnetic Resonance Division which did pioneering work in MRI.
All crew are tired but elated and will enjoy being in Hobart after a long and difficult race.