Plenty of Irish interest as Sydney-Hobart Race begins

Cobh’s Barry Hurley returns for third successive race as co-skipper on Breakthrough

World sailing interest focuses on Australia this morning as a record 119 yachts gather for the 70th Sydney-Hobart Race that will include Irish crews.

And, in the Volvo Ocean Race, a former deputy chief of the Australian navy is leading the investigation into November's grounding of the Team Vestas Wind VOR 65.

Cork and Dublin sailors are among the offshore crews carrying out final preparations in Sydney Harbour before next week's 630-nautical mile race to Hobart, Tasmania.

Hurley at helm

Cobh’s

Barry Hurley

returns for his third successive race as co-skipper on the Australian 40-foot entry,

Breakthrough.

Joining him on board are Dublin brothers Kenny and

Alexander Rumball

of the

Irish National Sailing Club

and

Catherine Halpin

.

Cruising Yacht Club of Australia race organisers say the 70th race is “bringing new, old, large and small” together for the start on St Stephen’s Day.

Due to the large number and sheer size of some entries, including super maxis more than 100-foot long, there will be three start lines this year.

The last time numbers topped 100 was in 2004, when 116 boats started, though just 59 finished.

The Sydney-based Breakthrough is owned and skippered by Mathew Vadas (70), who sails it with a local crew for much of the year. Hurley, who took first in class on IRC and ORC in October's Malta Middle Sea Race, works with Vadas remotely in preparation for the biggest sailing event in the Australian calendar.

Together with new sails and new rigging and a combination of northern and southern hemisphere crew, the aim is to make it third time lucky for Hurley.

Still given the straight-line nature of the 630-nautical mile course, he cautions that the “trajectory can sometimes favour boats at either end of the rating spectrum”.

As one of the smaller boats, Breakthrough's position in the overall standings may well be a result of weather patterns, though Hurley said "our placing within our class will be the true measure of our success".

Grounding panel

Meanwhile, an independent panel will report by January 31st into the grounding of the Volvo Ocean Race yacht,

Team Vestas Wind,

on a reef in the Indian Ocean.

Onboard reporter Brian Carlin, from Kerry, recounted the terrifying hours after Team Vestas Wind ploughed into the shark-infested Cargados Carajos Shoals.

His photographs revealed how the 19-knot impact and subsequent battering from the seas ripped the stern off the V65 ocean racer.

The panel is to be chaired by Chris Oxenbould, a retired rear admiral and former deputy chief of the Australian navy.