Originally Posted by NorthPacific
Amish! I only wish. I Think even them guys drive pick ups now. Funny
, on all the sailing video they show, they must turn off the engine so as not to break the illusion of the purist adventure.
No, if you watch the transom of the big maxi's while they're still in the harbour, you see the water
out the exhausts.
They CAN'T turn them off - they wouldn't have the powered winches or keel
canting hydraulics. The engines have to run 24/7.
Here's an article about them:
The 628 mile Sydney-Hobart Yacht Race has long been regarded as one of the world’s greatest blue water classics, a supreme test of seamanship and sailing ability. But if Sean Langman is right, that well-deserved reputation, built upon 65 years of fierce competition, may no longer be entirely justified.
Langman, one of Australia’s most experienced and respected yachtsmen, is disturbed by what he sees as the unfair mechanical advantage enjoyed by the multi-million dollar Super Maxis, the so-called “push-button boats”, that use their diesel engines to generate the computer-controlled hydraulic power they depend upon.
Sean Langman explained his concerns in an interview with Bruce Stannard.
Early New Year’s Eve fireworks were bursting over Sullivan’s Cove as Sean Langman’s gaff-rigged 28-footer Maluka ghosted across the line to finish a distant last in the 2012 Sydney-Hobart Race.
The 80-year-old Maluka, the oldest wooden boat in the fleet and by far the smallest competitor, had been at sea for five and a half days. Langman’s amateur crew included his 18-year-old son, Peter, his daughter Nicki, his mate Shaun ‘Kiwi’ McKnight and his wife Erin and Josh Alexander. Far from being downhearted at coming last, the Maluka mob
wore grins like the proverbial Cheshire Cat.
Having savoured the heady wine of close camaraderie and high adventure at sea, they came ashore as salt-caked heroes, laughing and joking and more than willing to turn around and do it all again. Their shared experience – in essence The Spirit of the Race – is one that has been cherished by Sydney-Hobart crews since the inaugural fleet set sail in 1945. It is the magnet of participation that draws crews back to the event year after year.
But now, as the Hobart approaches its 70th anniversary, there is a growing sense of unease in some quarters over the issue of stored power in the bigger boats. At the pointy end, the race has come to be dominated by professionally crewed Super Maxi
yachts, multi-million dollar high performance vessels whose hi-tech canting keels and sail trimming winches rely entirely on hydraulic power generated by diesel engines that run throughout the race.
Does the use of this push-button stored power constitute an unfair advantage? Is this sailing or is it a weird hybrid form of power boating
? Sean Langman believes it is time that these and other questions surrounding the Super Maxis were laid open for discussion.
In this context it’s worth reflecting on the truly astonishing performance history
of Australia’s fastest ocean racer
, the 100ft Super Maxi
Wild Oats XI.
In her first season, 2005, she won the treble: line honours, handicap honours and set a new race record
. In the 2007 Hobart Race she equalled Morna’s 59-year-old record
by taking line honours three times in a row. In the 2008 Hobart Race she broke the record, winning an unprecedented fourth consecutive line honours. In the 2012 race she again won the treble: line honours and the handicap trophy and also established a new race record of one day 18 hours 23 minutes and 12 seconds.
One might have thought that such an amazing string of successes would have been sufficient accomplishment for even the most ardent yachtsman. And yet at the 2012 trophy presentation, Wild Oats’ owner Robert Oatley and his professional skipper
, Mark Richards, made it clear that they were already focussed on winning the next race and the next; a never-ending string of victories that would go on “forever”.
“Winning,” Richards said, “is what it’s all about.”
They were remarks that set me thinking about the ways in which Australia’s premier ocean race has changed since the inaugural fleet set sail in 1945.
Sean Langman, a Hobart Race veteran and one of Australia’s most respected yachtsmen, is far from happy with some of those changes.
“There is,” he says, “a false perception in high-end competitive sailing that says that if you’re any good you progress toward the super maxi kind of boat.
“But believe me, I’ve been there, and, having done that, I’m able to say without hesitation that push-button Super Maxi sailing is the least rewarding experience I’ve ever had.
“For those of us who know the exhilaration, the exultation of going to sea in a purely wind-driven vessel, the idea of having a noisy diesel engine revving away, all day, every day, during a race seems totally out of whack.
“The rate of the engine’s revolutions changes according to the output required of the hydraulic drives. Each time a new function is required, a new button is pushed and the engine revs its head
“It’s not a constant background drone. It’s a sudden dramatic screaming that generally coincides with manoeuvres, which is when the crew’s anxieties are at their highest. If you are of a nervous disposition it can be pretty unsettling.
“Wild Oats XI has a 150hp diesel that runs 24-7 during the Hobart Race. Without it, it is virtually impossible to sail the boat. If the engine stops they’re out of the race. No engine, no sail.
“I think this is wrong for the sport. If people want to use this sort of power for purely cruising purposes, I can accept that, but not for racing
Langman explained that the power transfer system is computer-controlled and programmed to give priority to areas such as shifting the canting keel
and in a gybing manoeuvre to the mainsail winch
. Through these manoeuvres, he says, the engine can be overloaded and stall. And when that happens there is no hand-winding system as back-up.
“On a Super Maxi,” he told me, “the crew spend the majority of their time praying.”
Really? Praying for what?
“They’re praying that the engine keeps working,” he said. “You’re on a sailing boat and yet you rely completely on machinery to go on sailing. I find this to be such a negative part of the sport. You might as well be at home sitting in a shower
, tearing up $100 bills.”
And what was the essential difference between a boat that takes a day and a half to go from Sydney
to Hobart and one that takes five and a half days?
“The difference lies in the personal experience of being at sea,” he said. “It takes three days before your body gets into the routine and you settle down and really start to appreciate the experience of being at one with the boat, with the wind
and the water
“Some people have said to me, ‘five and a half days at sea must have been horrible’, and yet after the Hobart race everyone on board Maluka felt wouldn’t it be nice to keep on going. With six people on a 28ft boat, you end up pretty close.
“And that for me is what it’s all about. It’s not going from A to B in the quickest possible time. It’s about those priceless shared experiences. The great thing for me is that my kids
wanted to join me on Maluka. They weren’t pushed into it and they certainly weren’t paid. They went for the kind of experience, the kind of challenge that was once at the heart of the Hobart Race.”
Langman says every participant in the Hobart Race should cross the line with a feeling of elation, a sense of achievement. But he says he had precisely the opposite feeling when he skippered the Super Maxi AAPT in the 2005 Hobart.
“There was no sense of achievement at all,” he said. “Instead of a feeling of accomplishment, I felt gutted. I felt that I got away with cheating. I’ve put my hand in the toaster several times and each time I’ve been gripped by the same hollow sensation.
“Going back to a little gaff-rigged wooden boat is such a complete contrast. It’s just you and your crew. That’s sailing pure and simple and, to me, that’s what the Hobart Race should be all about.
“At the heart of the race should be the belief that you are on equal terms with the other competitors. You should all be out there fired by the belief that you have an equal shot at winning. But if there are some boats with an unfair mechanical advantage thanks to their hydraulic power, albeit one allowed under the rules, then that makes nonsense of the whole event. It’s no longer what any objective person would describe as a race.
“The unfortunate thing in our sport is that the power base lies not with the administration but with the lobbyists directed by the high-end owners. In Australian ocean racing
the rules have changed around the canting keel boats, around push-button sailing. It’s been quite astonishing to see the way in which things have been changed to reflect the desires of certain owners to win at all costs.
“I don’t want to in any way belittle or diminish the achievement of the Super Maxi guys. They’re racing under rules that they helped to create. It’s just that I don’t agree with them. I’ve made my position known to them but they don’t want a public brawl.
“One of them told me, ‘if someone throws a rock at our house we don’t throw a brick back. We say nothing.’ My reply to that is that if someone throws a rock at your house they’re probably doing that for a reason. You should look at the reason why instead of simply saying we’re right and everyone else is wrong.”
Sean Langman stresses that he is not against speed. To prove it, his ORMA 60 trimaran
is about to challenge the Sydney
to Hobart world record set by Bob Miller’s 147ft ketch
Mari Cha in December 1999. Mari Cha made it in one day 18hours and 37 minutes.