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Sydney to Hobart race Dec 2021



This page refers to participation in the virtual offshore sailing race game. The Sydney to Hobart race course is a distance is 628 nautical miles and takes about two to four days, more or less, depending on the wind.  It is a Christmas season race starting on Boxing Day at 1300 local time in Sydney on Saturday 26th December 2021. It fills the time nicely between Christmas Day and Hogmanay/New Year's Day.

You may join the virtual Rolex Sydney Hobart Race race 2021 here: https://www.virtualregatta.com starting 26 Dec 2021 at 2am GMT.

To join in the race game go to Virtual Regatta (external link above) and invent a name for your Class 40 boat. Its free of charge for a boat with basic sails (Main Sail, plus basic Jib and basic Spinnaker). You can pay extra for options like faster pro sails (Light wind, Strong wind and Code Zero reaching sails), foils, hull polish plus more route waypoints programming capability and more programming of heading changes.  Obviously, in the overall race rankings, a boat with the additional options does better and has more chance of winning a prize. The number of competitors was 37293.

This virtual regatta race is far easier than the Rolex sponsored real race which requires a vast amount of training, qualifications, paperwork, boat testing, logging, reporting and radio work. If you want the pdf details go here:  Sailing Instructions and Notice of Race.  You will ideally need team of highly capable people to actually interpret, understand and follow all the instructions and rules, including Covid PCR testing and QR codes. If you can even get to the start line without having contravened some rule you will be doing well.

The start and finish of the course ..

Start lines
The real race starts in Sydney harbour with four start lines for different classes of boats as shown approximately as above.

The virtual race starts approx at the green buoy marked. I guess this has been chosen to help the virtual boats get started. If they had made the simulation more realistic many boats would have had trouble navigating out into the open ocean particularly if there was a strong wind from the north east as they would have had to tack a zig zag at high speed to get north east past two sets of buoys before turning south.

The route of the race is south alongside the coast of Australia, across the Bass straight and then south a bit further to the port of Hobart on the east coast of Tasmania.

Finish
The finish line at Hobart.

Having passed Tasman Island, the finish is up across Storm Bay and into the Derwent River estuary. Navigating this will requires skill if the wind if from the north.

Starting heading
Showing just after the start of the Sydney to Hobart race at 02:02am on 26th Dec 2021.

The wind is from approx 156 deg (from the south east). The best course I can set is 100 deg as shown. The angle to the wind is 56 deg which gives the best speed into wind (Velocity Made Good or VMG). You need to get this figure, which varies with wind speed from a graph of the Polars for the type of boat you are sailing and choice of sail type.  The white/blue Lock symbol (lower left) show that I have selected to sail the boat relative to the wind direction, so as the wind slowly changes direction the boat heading will vary to match.

 Class 40 polars
This is what a Class 40 Sailing boat Polars graph looks like.

Note that a wind speed of 14 knots is selected. The best angle for sailing into wind is 53 deg as this gives the best Velocity Made Good of VMG of 5.3 kt.  Since  actual boat speed (for 14kt wind and 53 deg wind angle) is 8.8 knots the VMG = 8.8 x cos(53 deg).

Similar calculations apply to going downwind when you have to sail off the direct downwind direction by about 38 deg to get the best downwind VMG. See the green lines in above Polars graph..

Sydney to Hobart race chart
Sydney to Hobart race chart at  08:00am 26th Dec 2021

It is now 08:00am 26th Dec 2021, so we have been sailing for about 6 hours. Sydney is right at the top. The sloping solid white line (with arrow) is just a game suggestion of a possible route towards the finish in Hobart. The wind is presently from the 162 deg (just east of south). My boat is at the left end of the curved dotted line. I have just tacked to the east.

The dotted white line shows the expected route over the next 4 hours assuming I stay steering at 54 deg to the wind. I tacked during the night and have marked my earlier route in orange.  The boats that tacked earlier have finished up nearer the coast and are several miles further south, so my position 3428th.

Route Sydney to Hobart race
Now 1340G on 26 Dec 2021. Route Sydney to Hobart race.

On this different scale chart you can see the whole route and the objective of Hobart in Tasmania to the south.

The wiggly dotted line off to the Pacific shows what will happen if I simply leave the boat locked on a 50 deg wind angle. The wind has got up a bit, now 19.5kt directly from the south (180 deg), and many real boats are in difficulty. I've adjusted the steering wind angle to 50 deg to suit my change of foresail (now Staysail). It is disappointing to me that the boat does not sail closer to the wind, like 45 or 43 deg wind angle. Still, if you choose to buy a Class 40 boat you get a standard design with same performance to all the others in your class.

Tacking
26 Dec 2021 1834. Tacking again.

After a further 5 hours I have tacked again. Now going somewhat south west, but tending towards due south,  the wanted direction, after 2 to 3 hours as the wind direction changes so it is more from the south east. Somehow the leading boats are about 1-2 miles ahead. Not sure what I have done wrong!.

The wind direction has been changing so it is more from the south east which prompts a change of tack at 1834 tacking to south west. I now have a projected route, well aimed at the objective and with possible wind angles between 50 and 60 deg using Light Jib.  I started with 50 deg, then adjusted to 53 deg in the middle of the night..


Official video below

My boat
27 Dec 2021 11:13 am  My boat.

Note 300 nautical miles done and 386 nautical miles to go to the finish, so a bit under half way!. Assuming average speed of 7 knots it should take about 55 further hours. This race is such a struggle. When the winds are from north west, north or north east you get very much better speeds, particularly with foils, as shown in orange midway along and beside the boat. You just hope these foils don't catch on killer whales or similar sea creatures or floating containers or wooden pallets. The colour scheme of my boat is the standard grey theme. The are many more colourful options to choose from in the Virtual Regatta game..

Sailing along nicely
27 Dec 2021  11:13am. Sailing along nicely, somewhere amongst the leading group. My position now 891st.

Using Light Jib and locked on 59 deg wind angle gets me in approx the right direction. On the coast we have passed Green Cape and an appropriately named "Disaster Bay". At this point we are supposed to have called race control on the radio using SSB at 4483 kHz and declared that we comply with the requirements (radio ok, life-rafts ok, crew ok, weather ok, auto-helm ok) and that we elect to continue racing!

Crossing the Bass straight and approaching the Furneaux Group of Islands, north of Tasmania
28 Dec 08:10 Crossing the Bass straight and approaching the Furneaux Group of Islands, north of Tasmania

Looking forward to a messy gybe in light winds in about 4 hours time as the wind swings right round.  I will need to change from Code 0 sail to Light Gennaker, then steer for optimum downwind VMG, gybe and then reverse the whole process changing sails and getting back on course with the wind the other way. Not good, but after that I'm looking forward to a nice long reach in light winds for several hours.. 

Sailing routinh software
28 Dec 2021  22:44

It is getting late at night and the above chart shows a computer routing simulation (provided in the game) for a possible next 24 hours. The white lines are isochrones which show where you can get to after so many hours. The dotted line and the orange blobs show a hopefully good route towards the next mark on the course which is Tasman Island, famous for its fur seals, and marked with a lighthouse. It is no use just aiming for the lighthouse, you need to keep clear of the land and rocks. The computer simulated routing shows a steady curve for the next 3 hours, then a turn south followed by a further 4 hours as we approach the coast north of Maria Island. Of course, the routing is invalid if the actual wind is not the same as the weather forecast! The game frequently updates the winds.

What will happen around 2 - 3am is difficult to predict as the wind direction is changing rapidly.

Changed from Code 0 reaching sail to Light Jib
29th Dec 2021 0304

I have very recently changed from Code 0 reaching sail to Light Jib sail as the wind angle has reduced. The angle has reduced further and as soon at it reached about 55 deg I locked it and then waited till the boat was heading 55 deg off the wanted heading. I then tacked, keeping 55 deg wind angle until on the wanted course, then unlocked the wind angle (so now on wanted course) and a few minutes later changed back to Code 0 sail as the wind angle increased.  All very complicated and I am not sure that all the messing about was worth it. Changing the sails over and tacking slows you down.

With the current wind coming from the east, the next 3 hours or so look good, with course in the right direction. The problem will come later as the wind changes so it is coming more from the south. Amazing to see I am presently in 116th place, out of over 37,000 other boats.  The boats with yellow markers are the elite who have done well in previous races.

Definitely a sailing into wind problem
29 Dec 2021 11:45

Definitely a sailing into wind problem right now, at 3am!. I have plotted a couple of zig -zags, good for next 5 hours or so, by which time I will be more awake. You really need several people driving the boat, working shifts (called "watches" in nautical terminology) around the clock. Going round the lighthouse we are supposed to tell race control that we don't have Covid symptoms and give them an estimated time of arrival at the finish.

My whole route to Hobart on chart
My route in yellow. Total tacks and gybes 18.

My actual route at Hobart finish on chart
Having got round Tasman Island and turned north into Hobart Bay.

Having got round Tasman Island and turned north into Hobart bay, I was getting rather tired and simply set two approximate tacks shown by the dotted white lines and red blobs. The angles of these dotted lines to the wind was just a rough guess designed to get me to the finish line somehow, even if a few degrees off. At this time, 21:56pm, I was in 144th position. In retrospect I should perhaps have made the final planned tack a few miles earlier and arrived nearer the west end of the finish line. When you get close to the finish it is not good to be going sideways and losing several hundred places ! Iron pot lighthouse is on that tiny island once the finish line is in sight.  I've just noticed that since I went the wrong side of Iron Pot Light house Island I am probably disqualified!.

Actual route on chart
This shows the my actual course followed.

My final position was 563 which shows how just a few deg off optimum course can lose you 419 places. Anyway not to worry the rankings for the BRITPACK team and the UK as a whole are shown further down.

Congratulations on finishing
My certificate of completion.

Certificates given out at the prize giving ceremony (max 2 people per boat), masks required and QR code to get in! No records broken this time.  1 day 23 hours is the best ever for an under 15.5m boat (Class 40 is max 14.19 m or 46.6 ft)

Britpack results
Above are the ranking results for the Britpack team.

I was pleased to find that I was the first to finish in the Britpack team, with Crikey Bobs and Geogo coming second and third. Well done to all. Lockkeeper7 is our team leader.

UK results Sydney to Hobart 2021
The All UK rankings table.

In the Uk rankings, I was 13th and not even on the first screen above. The first UK boat home was called "Ar vag ~^;^". I have plotted their route in black (and mine in yellow) on the charts below. I'm not sure quite what Ar vag refers to but there are several boats in this Virtual regatta with similar names. It may refer to a particular boat manufacturer or to a specific sailing vessel with that name with registration MMSI 227103740 that appears in the vessel finder web site at https://www.vesselfinder.com/vessels/AR-VAG-IMO-0-MMSI-227103740.

Sydney to Hobart routing : overall
Race analysis showing the routes chosen by the winner and myself.

In the above I went somewhat further offshore for about 60 nautical miles early on in the race.

Sydney to Hobart routing : approach to Hobart
Final routings into Hobart, myself and first UK boat home.

From this I can see that I made a major error by doing two tacks that were not required, thus wasting time. Doh!

( Previous result:  29th Dec 2015. I finished 478th. )

If you want to add comment or images here please send to me by email: eric@satsig.net



Page created 24 December 2021, amended 9 Jan 2022.

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