Perfect conditions for start of Melbourne to Hobart races

The start of the blue-water classic Wyndham Harbour Melbourne to Hobart Westcoaster and Rudder Cup Melbourne to Devonport ocean yachts races got underway at 3:00pm this afternoon from Portsea.

In contrast to the start of yesterday’s Wyndham Harbour Cock of the Bay race, the fleet enjoyed ideal conditions – sunny and southerly wind of 10 to 15 knots and flat seas inside the Port.

From the start line near Portsea Pier, the yachts head in a north-westerly direction over to the other side of Port Phillip Bay to a laid turning mark off Shortland Bluff, Queenscliff before proceeding out of The Rip at Port Phillip Heads, then on to Hobart and Devonport.

The crowd that assembled on Portsea Pier and the hundreds of spectator boats on the water, were treated to a blaze of colour as yachts hoisted spinnakers immediately after the start for the short run over to Queenscliff.

EXTASEA (Paul Buchholz) had a blinder of a start and led early.  SPIRIT OF DOWNUNDER (Laurie Ford) was one of the first to hoist and get the masthead asymmetrical spinnaker set and quickly made their way through the fleet to take the lead.  Although SPIRIT OF DOWNUNDER was first to the turning mark off Shortland Bluff near Queenscliff, they had problems dropping their spinnaker and were passed by PECCADILLO, the multi-hull going to Devonport then EXTASEA, the Line Honours favourite going to Hobart.  The crew onboard SPIRIT OF DOWNUNDER quickly resolved the problem with the kite halyard and were third around the first mark.

Melbourne is a busy commercial shipping port and to add further complexity for the fleet, the Spirit of Tasmania ship was heading inbound through the narrow Port Phillip Heads entrance as the fleet rounded the turning mark off Queenscliff and headed outbound to Tasmania.  In addition to well defined “laws of the sea” where yachts must give way to commercial shipping in shipping channels, we also collaborate with the Port of Melbourne Corporation Harbour Master and Port Phillip Sea Pilots regarding additional protocols for our ocean races that start inside Port Phillip Bay.

First out the Heads was the multi-hull PECCADILLO (Charles Meredith) who’s heading to Devonport, then EXTASEA (Paul Buchholz) who’s heading to Hobart, followed by SPIRIT OF DOWNUNDER (Laurie Ford), who’s also heading to Hobart.

Very pleasant conditions are expected to continue for the duration of both races. The fleets will experience moderate head winds for the first 12 or so hours, with nothing more than 20 knots of breeze. Then Tacticians and Navigators will be tested in the light and moderate winds forecast for later tomorrow.

Follow the yachts to Hobart and Tasmania via the web yacht trackers for each race on the ORCV Website

– Neville Rose, Commodore

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