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Rogue Wave

Robbie had already heard Des's latest get rich quick scheme fifteen times, and he still wasn't convinced, so he settled on a diversion.

"How did the race fixing scam at the Yacht club turn out?" he asked.

Des was diverted. He bridled, slopping his cocktail. "It wasn't the Yacht Club. It was the Sydney to Hobart yacht race." A much lesser operation.

"So what's the story?" Robbie already knew, but Des had no problem with repeating himself.

"Rogue wave. Wiped out the three leading yachts. All maxis, very fast. They were in a bunch, level pegging. Thunderclap disappeared, lost with all hands. Sabine Warrior capsized. Pasternak was dismasted. Creepy Crawly was far enough back to miss it. It stopped to pick up the survivors from Sabine Warrior, then went on to Hobart. Took line honours."

"So what was the problem? Isn't boats getting wrecked a normal feature of the race?"

"There was a big betting plunge on Creepy Crawly just before the wave hit."

"So somebody had access to a satellite."

"It was an organised plunge. Lots of punters, no one huge bet. That needs time to set up."

"So they reckoned that Creepy Crawly knew the wave was coming, and hung back."

"That's why they tried to disqualify it. The Commodore was foaming at the mouth. But someone pointed out that it really is slower, and couldn't have kept up."

"So they found another scapegoat?"

"Guy called Ladislaus Bernoulli. Works for the University of Eastern Australia. Runs experiments on wave formation. Sets up huge gadgets at the head of narrow inlets to push forward a wall of water, then sees how it propagates over open ocean. Does pretty well, apparently. Stays together and doesn't dissipate."

"But isn't it like a tsunami? Just a ripple in the open ocean. Doesn't do anything until it hits shallow water."

"These are bigger. And if you choose more than one inlet, pointing to the same place, and time it right, they combine into one huge wave."

"Just where the race leaders were."

"That's the theory. Bernoulli denies it. Says it was an accident. He does the experiments at predetermined times, and he'd warned the weather forecasters of the risk, but they ignored him and didn't pass it on."

"Did his assistants place bets?"

"Some of them. And they've got a different story. They reckon that Bernoulli thought that nobody would believe that he had produced a rogue wave until it did what rogue waves do, which was to sink a ship. This wasn't a big oil tanker, but it was the best he could find. With enough live TV coverage to prove that he did it."

"Has he been arrested?"

"There's no laws against producing rogue waves. And anyway, it was outside territorial waters, so noone has jurisdiction. The University sacked him."

"Good of them. What was their excuse? Bringing it into disrepute?"

"No way. There were people on those boats, so it fell into the domain of human experimentation. He hadn't had it approved by the Ethics Committee."

Copyright D.W. Walker, 2014


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