Shark bounces off rudder
Wild Oats XI has confirmed that it hit a two-metre long shark at 6.40 pm tonight while sailing at about 20 knots east of Schouten Island on Tasmania’s east coast and while engaged in a tense match race with the other maxi in the Rolex Sydney-Hobart race fleet, Grant Wharington’s Skandia.
The impact was so great that the shark bounced off Wild Oats Xl’s forward rudder and wrapped itself around the aft rudder. The boat has two rudders to improve steering and loss of leeway caused by the canting keel on the boat.
Co-navigator Ian “Fresh” Burns said the crew had to stop the boat, adjust the sails so that the maxi sailed backwards; and the shark was able to shake itself free and swam away. Wild Oats then reconfigured its sails and resumed hostilities with Skandia.
A short time ago, Skandia had resumed the lead in their duel and was 1.7 nautical miles ahead as they closed in on Tasman Island, the next turning point of the race, about 90 miles ahead of them.
Although they are both on race record time, the forecast at Tasman is for a light easterly tonight with a north-westerly not expected to fill in before about 4 am. That makes the 7.40 am local time race record tantalising.
Up until the shark incident, Wild Oats XI had been making solid gains in fresh reaching conditions, according to Burns.
“We have at stages reached up to 28-29 knots and have passed Skandia. This has pepped the crew up, but it is still likely to be a long night,” said Burns.
Wild Oats Xl is going for a record fourth successive line honours win in the 628 nm race.
By Bruce Montgomery/ Rolex Sydney Hobart Media Team