(Photo @Rolex/ Daniel Forster)

(Photo @Rolex/ Daniel Forster)

Sydney, 24 December 2017 – For over seventy years, Australia has stood still at lunchtime on the 26 December to mark the start of one of the world’s great sporting institutions. 2017 is no exception with 102 yachts set to embark on the 73rd edition of the Rolex Sydney Hobart Yacht Race. Four 100-footers will lead the famous 628nm charge south, followed hard by the remainder of the highly competitive fleet representing some 27 countries from both northern and southern hemispheres. With two days to go, attention has turned firmly to who might prevail in the battle to be first to finish and the contest to win overall, the sought-after main prize.

Organized by the Cruising Yacht Club of Australia, with the support of the Royal Yacht Club of Tasmania and partnered by Rolex since the 2002, the Rolex Sydney Hobart starts at 13:00 AEDT on Tuesday, 26 December. The current weather forecast suggests an upwind start from Sydney Harbour into a 5-10 knot easterly. Once outside the heads, the wind strength will increase to around 15 knots, and turn towards the north east later on Tuesday afternoon. This direction is set hold until early on Thursday morning. The fastest boats are predicting a quick run, although the record of 1 day, 13 hours, 31 minutes and 20 seconds set in 2016 by Perpetual LOYAL does not appear threatened.

PEDIGREE PERFORMERS
The four expected front-runners, all from Australia, come with some serious pedigree in both their achievements and their crews. A fierce contest is expected with the conditions likely to favour each yacht at different times. Forecast wind transitions will test the resolve and skill of these powerhouse yachts. At a press conference this morning, featuring the skippers of LDV Comanche (Jim Clooney), Wild Oats XI (Mark Richards), InfoTrack (Tom Slingsby) and Black Jack (Mark Bradford), the collective view was that LDV Comanche looks to have the upper hand. Her crew features some rare talent, including James Spithill, Stan Honey and Brad Jackson, able to push this rocket-ship hard. “There’s a period of time when we think conditions will be very good for Comanche, but I think conditions are good for all of us and there will be parts of the race where one boat will shine more than the others,” opined Clooney. “We’re looking at one of the most intense and exciting races for a long time.”

Wild Oats XI is a former two-time treble winner (line honours, course record and overall victory). Despite not finishing the last two races, undone by frustrating breakages, and a lightning strike a week ago that led to a flurry of unplanned activity to put her right, Mark Richards is confident that the boat is prepared and ready for the contest ahead: “We couldn’t ask for a more comfortable forecast and it will be an exciting race between the four fastest 100-footers on the planet.”

Black Jack is a near-sistership of Wild Oats XI in terms of design. Her race set-up, though, is different and she is in new hands since winning line honours in 2009. Mark Bradford can see real opportunities with the forecast: “We are hedged pretty heavily for light air, but everyone’s going to get their moments. The first bit is going to favour us and hopefully the last bit.”

Formerly Perpetual LOYAL, InfoTrack carries the weight of 2016 record-breaking glory. This means little to new owner, Christian Beck – embarking on his first ever Rolex Sydney Hobart – or his stellar afterguard which includes Grant Simmer on his twentieth race and former Rolex World Sailor of the Year and Olympic gold medallist, Tom Slingsby. Simmer believes that though they are perhaps the least favoured there will be some chances: “We just need to be smart. These boats are so big, so powerful and so difficult to make any sail change. You can lose a lot in a sail change. Managing and planning ahead is what’s important for us.”

OVERALL WIN CONTENDERS
Race aficionados believe the 2017 Rolex Sydney Hobart is set to provide conditions most suited to yachts in the 50-foot range. With close to thirty yachts around this size, it is a tough call to pick a single standout contender.

Matt Allen’s Australian TP52 Ichi Ban, launched this year, is well-regarded. The boat has proved fast and competitive in early season racing. Allen’s experience and that of his crew is substantial with over 150 races between them.

The similar-sized Quest may be older, but skipper Bob Steel has two overall wins to his name and the confidence that comes with that: “The Rolex Sydney Hobart used to be a marathon, and now it’s a sprint race. You have to change the mentality. There’s a gate every 50 miles and you have to get to that gate first. Then you start the next sprint. You cannot settle back, you have to be intense from minute one. You have to do everything well and at speed.”

The international contingent is also strong in this size bracket. A number of crews will be challenging Australian hegemony. The Italian Cookson 50 Mascalzone Latino is a former winner of the 605nm Rolex Middle Sea Race. Her crew is highly-tuned and are not here to make up the numbers, according to tactician Adrian Stead: “We are here to give ourselves the best chance of winning. We think we’ve got a good boat, we’ve got a great sailing team and we’ve come here to try to win this race on handicap. We know there are a lot of others that have that same goal. Looking at the weather it’s not bad for us and we’re quite excited.”

It is not clear-cut. Smaller boats, too, see possibilities. Andrew Weiss from the USA with his 43-foot Christopher Dragon is fulfilling a life-long dream, and with the overriding ambition to perform: “We’ve done a lot of racing over the years. When we race, we try to do well. It’s a huge organizational challenge to get here and we are not here just to tick the event off the list.”

One of the smallest boats in the fleet is 35-foot Banque de Nouvelle-Caledonie, owned by Michel Quintin. In 2015 Quintin finished second overall behind a TP52. He counts among his crew 2015 Rolex Fastnet winner Alexis Loisin, a formidable sailor: “We’re good in all conditions. The forecast looks okay at the moment, certainly the start and down to the bottom of Australia. The last part looks less clear- maybe with wind, maybe no wind, even a lot of rain and with a big transition of the wind. We’ll see.”

What is certain is a rousing reception in Hobart for each and every crew participating in the race. And, at the final prize giving, on 31 December the eventual winner will have their achievement acknowledged with the historic Tattersall Trophy and a Rolex timepiece, the recognized reward for excellence.

The 73rd edition of the Rolex Sydney Hobart Yacht Race starts on Tuesday, 26 December at 13:00 AEDT. Daily video highlights will be available on the Rolex Yachting YouTube channel throughout the race.

(Photo @Rolex/ Daniel Forster)

(Photo @Rolex/ Daniel Forster)

 

ENTRIES

Abracadabra, Allegro, Another Painkiller, Arch Rival, Ariel, Banque de Nouvelle Caledonia, Beau Geste, Black Jack, Black Sheep, Blunderbuss, Calibre, Celestial, Chancellor, Charlie’s Dream, China Easyway , Christopher Dragon, USA4304, Chutzpah , Climate Action Now, Concubine, Dare Devil, Dare to Lead, Dark and Stormy, Derucci, Dorade,
Duende, ENVY Scooters Beachball, Enchantress, Enigma, Euphoria II, Eve, Extasea, Flying Fish Arctos, Freyja, GPB Yeah Baby, GREAT Britain, Garmin, Grace O’Malley, Gun Runner, Hartbreaker, Helsal 3, Highfield Caringbah, Hollywood Boulevard, HotelPlanner.com, Ichi Ban , Imalizard, Indian, Infotrack, Invictus Games, Invictus Games, Jazz Player, Khaleesi, Kialoa II, Koa, Komatsu Azzurro, LDV Comanche, Liverpool 2018, M3, Magic Miles, Maluka, Mascalzone Latino 32, Mayfair, Merlin, Merlion, Mister Lucky, Mondo, Nasdaq, Ocean Gem, Opt2Go Scamp, Oskana, PSP Logistics, PYR-ArnoldCo/Wot Eva, Patrice, Pekljus, Qingdao, Quest, Ran Tan II, Reve, Rockall, SailDNA, Sanya Serenity Coast, Seamo Racing Mahligai, She, She’s The Culprit, Smuggler, Snowdome Occasional Coarse Language Too, Sonic, St Jude, TSA Management, Takani, Triple Lindy Triton, Unicef, Vanishing Point, Visit Seattle, Warrior Won, Weddell, Wild Oats X, Wild Oats XI, Wizard, Wots Next, XS Moment

Comanche Sydney Hobart Line Honour 2015

Comanche take line honours in the 2015 Sydney Hobart Race.

Jim Clark and Kristy Hinze-Clark’s super maxi Comanche pulled off an incredible feat tonight, taking line honours in the 71st edition of the Rolex Sydney Hobart Yacht Race, winning the Illingworth trophy and a Rolex Yacht Master II timepiece. This was the first time in 17 years that the most coveted title in offshore yacht racing has been won by an American team since Larry Ellison’s Sayonara won in 1998.

Comanche’s official finish time for the 2015 Rolex Sydney Hobart Yacht Race was 2 days, 8 hours, 58 minutes and 30 seconds.

Designed to break records, the 100 foot maxi debuted in last year’s edition of the Rolex Sydney Hobart and since then has circled the globe, collecting the most prestigious titles in yachting – setting a new 24 hour monohull distance record, line honours in the New York Yacht Club Transatlantic Race and the Rolex Fastnet Race – Comanche’s performance this past year has been unlike anything ever seen in yacht racing. Returning to Australia, seeking the title that they so narrowly missed out on last year, was a Herculean effort, which has paid off nicely.

Despite facing retirement after having suffered significant damage (to a dagger board and rudder) on the first night, skipper Ken Read made the game-changing call to effect repairs and finish the race, saying: “I don’t care if we limp over the line!”

A true test of stamina and determination, the international crew of 21 included co-owner Kristy Hinze-Clark and fellow Australian, America’s Cup winner Jimmy Spithill. Commenting on her first Rolex Sydney Hobart, Hinze-Clark described her experience: “It was really gruelling. Pure terror at one stage. Excitement and now just total joy. It’s one of the best things I’ve ever done.”

The French-designed maxi managed to extend their lead this afternoon as they rounded Tasman Island and crossed Storm Bay towards the finish line, putting solid distance between fellow American competitor George David’s Rambler 88, which is expected to finish in the early Tuesday morning (AEDT). Syd Fischer’s Ragamuffin 100 is in close pursuit despite having severed their starboard dagger board overnight, crashing through the rough seas.

The 2015 edition of the Rolex Sydney Hobart Yacht Race has delivered some of the most grueling race conditions since 2004. Almost one third of the fleet of 108 retired in the first 48 hours – the litany of damage included rudders, dagger boards, masts and sails. The remaining teams have their sights set on the finish line in Hobart in hopes of a win on corrected time.

Most of the smaller yachts have only just passed the halfway mark in Bass Strait and as the breeze continues to lighten towards the Tasman coast the Tattersall’s Cup, for overall corrected time winner, is still in play.

 

Wild Oats XI near finish (Photo by Rolex / Daniel Forster)

DOUBLE TRIPLE WITH ICING ON THE TOP
 
Robert Oatley’s Wild Oats XI was announced this morning as the Overall Winner of the 68th Rolex Sydney Hobart. It had become clear overnight that none of the yachts still at sea could better the corrected time established by the 30.48m (100 foot) maxi skippered by Mark Richards. Wild Oats XI has repeated its historic performance of 2005, when it secured the treble of Line Honours, Overall Winner and Race Record.

 

Aside from Rani, in the very first race, Wild Oats XI is the only yacht ever to have achieved this impressive display of dominance. She has now done it twice. Bob Oatley was understandably impressed: “The main aim was the fastest time. To get the handicap too was fantastic, a real bonus. Getting the record trip was really the icing on the cake.”

By 15:00 AEDT on 29 December, 13 yachts had finished the 2012 Rolex Sydney Hobart including two of the international entries: KLC Bengal from Japan and Ambersail from Lithuania. Last year’s winner, Loki, has so far come closest to unseating Wild Oats XI. Finishing last night at just before 21:00 even she was two hours adrift on corrected time. Black Jack, which arrived an hour before Loki, lies in third overall. Chris Bull’s Jazz holds fourth.

Victorian yacht Calm had appeared to have the best opportunity of the yachts destined to arrive before dawn today. Needing to finish before 01:31, she was behind schedule yesterday afternoon. Owner Jason Van der Slot believed they would pick up pace but had not counted on stalling close to the finish: “We parked for two hours off Tasman Island and for an hour in the Derwent. We were aiming to finish in time to win and up to Tasman Island we were on track. It had all gone according to plan until then.” She eventually finished at 06:06 this morning and holds fifth place.

Five yachts have retired so far and, for the 58 yachts still racing, a difficult evening lies ahead. In the lee of northeastern Tasmania there is a substantial wind shadow. From midway down the eastern seaboard to Tasman Island spindrift is flying off 3 metre waves in a 26 – 36 knot west-southwesterly. These conditions are forecast to prevail through much of 30 December too.

Wild Oats approaching the Hobart finish for 2012 Line Honors (Photo by Rolex / Carlo Borlenghi)

 
        
 
On the morning of 28 December 2012, Wild Oats XI once again stamped her name in the Rolex Sydney Hobart history books. From the moment the start gun fired on Boxing Day the silver wraith seemed intent on condemning her rivals for line honours to the position of also-rans. Wild Oats XI’s finish time of 1 day 18 hours 23 minutes and 12 seconds sliced 16 minutes 58 seconds off her own record. Another commanding performance in a race she has begun to treat as her own.

 

Without doubt skipper Mark Richard’s crew of thoroughbred racers had some luck, but their race was not without problems. The first night saw the wind drop in the scheduled transition and her opponents close down the lead she had worked to establish during the afternoon. The crew held their nerve and once the northeasterly settled in they were off.

Ragamuffin-Loyal’s endeavours to stay in touch with Wild Oats XI were hampered by a headsail gear failure from which the 100-foot maxi never recovered; Syd Fischer’s equally accomplished crew forced to accept the unwelcome role of bridesmaid. Ragamuffin-Loyal finished almost five hours behind Wild Oats XI. Had the apparent error of starting the race too early been converted to a penalty, her crew’s sense of disappointment would have been complete. Fortunately, the International Jury found that race officials failed to notify Ragamuffin-Loyal after five minutes that they had jumped the start, leaving the crew unaware that they should have returned and restarted.

By 20:30 AEDT only four yachts had completed the 628 nm course. Lahana rounded out the maxi contingent just before 19:00, while Black Jack was the first mini maxi some 40 minutes later. Loki and Ichi Ban will be next home. None have so far been capable of posting a time that knocks Wild Oats XI off the overall podium position. The door may be open for a smaller yacht if the weather obliges. Calm, Jazz, Quest and Shogun look best placed to foil a second triple crown. They need the wind to shift substantially in their favour, something it has singularly failed to do so far.

Wild Oats XI near finish (Photo by Rolex / Daniel Forster)

MALUKA OF KERMANDIE the smallest yacht in the fleet by Daniel Forster

MALUKA OF KERMANDIE the smallest yacht in the fleet (Photo by Rolex / Daniel Forster)

The 68th Rolex Sydney Hobart got underway in exceptional conditions. The forecast southerly breeze providing the perfect angle for a spinnaker start and run down the harbour. The angle would prove less kind as the yachts exited the Sydney Heads and made their turn towards Hobart, finding the 20 – 25 knots now firmly on the nose. Mark Richards and Wild Oats XI looked to be in no mood to be interrupted in her bid to claim a sixth line honours, blasting off the line and showing Syd Fischer’s Ragamuffin Loyal a clean pair of heels before popping out of the Heads comfortably in the lead.

 
 
An interesting night lies ahead. The decision how far to head out to sea was the first conundrum facing the crews. So far the bulk of yachts appear firm in the belief that staying inshore, and inside the rhumb line will pay better. Only, one or two boats have shown a determination to head offshore for any length of time. Mike Broughton, navigator on Chris Bull’s Jazz, felt ahead of the start that the fleet would do well to stay inshore for the initial section of the race, certainly until the major swing in wind direction expected during the night. This transition should see the wind back to the northeast and will have the yachts running under spinnaker for an extended period.

 
Start of the 2012 Rolex Sydney Hobart
Earlier this morning, Gordon Maguire, tactician on Stephen Ainsworth’s Loki, indicated some of their pre-race routing suggested the bigger yachts could profit enormously from the predicted northeasterly. If it arrives on cue, they could bite a huge chunk out of the course during the hours of darkness and be lying off Green Cape by mid-morning on the second day, 27 December. The small boats, meanwhile, such as race veteran Roger Hickman’s Wild Rose, might only find themselves parallel with Jervis Bay as dawn breaks. The difference in power between segments of the fleet will be all too apparent at this juncture.

 

Wild Oats XI leads out of Sydney Harbor (Photo by Rolex / Carlo Borlenghi)

WILD OATS XI, after the start
At 17:30 AEDT Wild Oats XI was 8 nautical miles north east of Kiama travelling at 12 knots, with some 50 nm under her belt after 4.5 hours of sailing. Any thought of setting a new record seemed to be on hold as navigator Adrienne Cahalan called in to report the wind speed dropping as evening arrives. Ragamuffin Loyal lies within striking distance just astern. Lahana, Ichi Ban and Black Jack round out the top five on the water. Conditions have been wet and hard on crews during these first few hours and the measure of performance differential between front-runners and back markers is clearly demonstrated by Charlie’s Dream. Averaging just 3.4 knots, Peter Lewis and crew were parallel with Botany Bay having knocked a mere 13 nm off the 628nm course distance.

Black Jack charges down the harbor by Daniel Forster

Black Jack charges down the harbor (Photo by Rolex / Daniel Forster)

The start of the Rolex Sydney Hobart is like few other yacht races. The natural amphitheatre formed by the deep-water harbour offers great viewing potential from the water, at water level from the beaches and coves, and grandstand opportunities from higher ground. Every Sydney-sider has a favourite location, and South Head must be one of the most popular and dramatic. A huge crowd always assembles to watch the fleet barrel down the harbour and make the sharp out into open water. This year’s spectacle was worth the effort involved. After a dreadful Christmas Day, when rain and wind battered Sydney, Boxing Day has been a joy. Blue sky and reasonably warm temperatures brought the locals out in their thousands to cheer the determined and enthusiastic crews off on their compelling adventure.

 

Crowds on the South End enjoy the spectacle. (Photo by Rolex / Carlo Borlenghi)

Entries

Abracadabra 5612 New South Wales Tripp 47
AFR Midnight Rambler 8338 New South Wales Ker 40
Akatea NZL8710 New Zealand Cookson 50
Ambersail LTU1000 Lithuania Volvo 60
Ariel A140 New South Wales Beneteau First 40
Asylum YC10 South Australia Sydney 38
Aurora N3 New South Wales Farr 40 – One Off
Black Jack 52566 Queensland Reichel Pugh 66
Blunderbuss RQ4000 Queensland Beneteau First 40
Brannew 9988 New South Wales Beneteau First 40 Cr
Breakthrough 6834 New South Wales Beneteau First 40
Brindabella 10000 New South Wales Jutson 79
Calm SM5252 Victoria TP52
Carbon Credits 6669 Queensland Beneteau First 45
Celestial-Assistance Dogs 421 New South Wales Rogers 46
Charlie’s Dream RQ1920 Queensland Bluewater 450
Chutzpah R33 Victoria IRC 40
CIC Technology Inca F111 Aust Capital Territory Vickers 41
Copernicus 6689 New South Wales Radford 12
Corporate Initiatives 7407 New South Wales Beneteau First 40.7
Cougar II 5200 Tasmania TP52
Dekadence S20 Victoria DK46
Duende ESP6100 New South Wales JV52
Dump Truck A6 Tasmania Ker 11.3
Enchantress SA346 South Australia Muirhead 11
Eressea 6590 Queensland Hanse 415
Finistere F108 Western Australia Davidson 50
Flying Fish Arctos 7551 New South Wales McIntyre 55
Frantic GBR5211 New South Wales TP52
Geomatic M495 Victoria Hanse 495
Halcyon R75 Victoria Beneteau First 40
Helsal III 262 Tasmania Adams 20
Holdens Secret Mens Business YC3300 South Australia Reichel Pugh 51
Icefire R6572 New South Wales Mummery 45
Ichi Ban AUS 03 New South Wales Jones 70
Illusion 5356 New South Wales Davidson 34
INSX SM5985 Victoria NSX 38
Jazz Player S390 Victoria Bakewell – White 39
Jazz 5299 New South Wales Cookson 50
Kioni 6146 New South Wales Beneteau First 47.7
KLC Bengal 7 JPN4321 Japan Humphreys 54
Lahana 10081 New South Wales 30m Maxi
Living Doll R55 Victoria Farr 55
Local Hero 1236 New South Wales BH 36
Loki AUS 60000 New South Wales Reichel Pugh 63
Love & War 294 New South Wales S & S 47
Luna Sea 8339 New South Wales Hick 35
Lunchtime Legend RQ14 Queensland Beneteau First 40
Maluka of Kermandie A19 Tasmania Ranger
Martela 7075 Tasmania IMX 38
Merit 8679 Queensland Volvo 60
Occasional Coarse Language Too 8008 New South Wales Sydney GTS 43
Ocean Affinity RQ64 Queensland Marten 49
Papillon 6841 New South Wales Archambault 40RC
Patrice Six 360 New South Wales X41
Peugeot Surfrider 7771 New South Wales Beneteau 45
Primitive Cool S777 Victoria Farr 40 Mod
Quest 52002 New South Wales TP 52
Ragamuffin Loyal SYD100 New South Wales Elliott 100
Rikki NZL8008 New Zealand Reichel Pugh 42
Rush B45 Victoria Corel 45
Sailors with disAbilities 6953 New South Wales Nelson Marek 52
She 4924 New South Wales Olsen 40
Shogun 6952 Victoria JV 52
Southern Excellence NOR2 New South Wales Volvo 60
St Jude 6686 New South Wales Sydney 47
This Way Up RF360 Western Australia Sydney 36CR
Toybox 2 MH4 New South Wales XP 44
TSA Management MH60 New South Wales Sydney 38
Tusitala SAM1 Samoa Goss 60
Two True YC400 South Australia Beneteau First 40
Veloce SM602 Victoria Elliott 44CR
Wicked SM4 Victoria Beneteau First 40
Wild Oats XI 10001 New South Wales RP100
Wild Rose 4343 New South Wales Farr 43
Zen 3838 New South Wales Sydney 38

Syd Fischer and Tony Ellis (Photo by Rolex / Daniel Forster)

 

The 68th Rolex Sydney Hobart Yacht Race promises to be one for the true believers; if you admire people who constantly challenge your values, fire your imagination, refuse to quit when the going gets tough, can’t be told that they are too old, are too stubborn to give it away and who keep coming back for more, then this year’s race is a Christmas present you’ll never forget.

At centre stage of the race, again run by the Cruising Yacht Club of Australia, is Sydney yachtsman Syd Fischer, a national living treasure who is still in the grip of finish line fever. At the age of 85, when most men of his age might be shuffling around a retirement village in their slippers with their trousers braced up around their chest, Fischer wants to win line honours in the Rolex Sydney Hobart Yacht race – again.

He’s taken over the boat to do it, Investec Loyal, last year’s first across the line. The 100-foot super maxi becomes the latest iteration of Fischer’s Ragamuffin series, Ragamuffin Loyal.

Syd – lean, leather-skinned, laconic, highly competitive and still the subject of discussion for his exploits on and off the water – personifies Sydney: he won’t lie down.

The challenge he mounts at the front of the 80-boat fleet caps off an indifferent year for Australian sport internationally, a disastrous year for world cycling, but a great year for Australian sailing.

We had success at the Olympics with Mathew Belcher and Malcolm Page in the 470 Men’s, Nathan Outteridge and Iain Jensen in the 49er, Tom Slingsby in the Laser and Olivia Price, Nina Curtis, and Lucinda Whitty in the Women’s Match Racing in the Elliott 6. The TV coverage at the superb Weymouth venue has reinvigorated interest in sailing and helped to demystify it for non-sailors.

Fischer will be on his 44th Sydney-Hobart. He has already won line honours wins with Ragamuffin in 1988 and 1990, with an overall win in 1992 aboard an updated Ragamuffin.

This year he is leasing Investec Loyal with a view to knocking off five-time line honours winner and race record holder (1:18:40:10 set in 2005) Wild Oats XI, whose skipper, Mark Richards, is just young enough to be his grandson.

Last year Loyal, skippered by owner Anthony Bell, beat Wild Oats XI in the fourth closest finish in the race’s history; three minutes and eight seconds.

This month Richards and Wild Oats XI recaptured a psychological advantage over Fischer by taking line honours in the 180 nautical mile Cabbage Tree Island Race, when Ragamuffin Loyal had to drop her mainsail after a pin dropped out of the port runner block. Sailing with a scratch crew, Fischer made repairs, but was unwilling to risk the rig. It must be noted she was eight miles behind Oats at the time and contesting her first ocean race with Fischer.

Prior to winning last year’s race, Loyal was second across the line in 2010 and fourth in 2009. Not only has Fischer leased Loyal for the next two Hobart races, he will buy it outright when the lease runs out.

For this year’s Hobart race, Fischer will have right-hand man, Tony Ellis, and David Witt as boat captain. Ellis will sail his 46th race (one behind the record), but will sail his 40 together with Fischer, while Witt was one of Australia’s best known 18ft skiff sailors in the 90s. He made the transition to ocean racing, via the great events: the Rolex Sydney Hobart, Melbourne-Osaka double-handed race and the Volvo Ocean Race.

Asked at today’s official launch if there are many arguments between him and Fischer on the boat, Ellis said: “We’ve had plenty of cross words over the years – but it stays on the boat.” Does Ellis win any of the arguments? “Syd’s won a few arguments with me,” Ellis quipped.

When asked about the crew that will be onboard for the Hobart race, Ellis said, “We’re going to have a pretty well rounded crew by the time we get to the start line… Andrew Cape (multiple Volvo Ocean Race and Rolex Sydney Hobart yachtsman) is going to come and navigate for us. The last time we sailed together (the 1992 Hobart), we won the race overall.

Geoff Huegill, the Aussie swimming legend and former butterfly world record holder, is back, sailing aboard the same boat he did his first race on in 2010; Ragamuffin Loyal. “To be part of a crew that has such great experience behind them is something that I am really looking forward to,” he said.

“Once you’ve got the bug for sailing it really gets you – the teamwork aspect is an opportunity that I really enjoy,” Huegill commented.

The hardest part of his first race, the retired swimmer said, was “Sleep deprivation – but I’m used to it now, because I have a 10 month old baby,” he said.

Owner, Bob Oatley, has gone back to the drawing board with Wild Oats XI after her defeat in the Derwent last year. Oats had been no match for Loyal in light weather. She keeps her retractable daggerboards that were fitted before last year’s race, but she has a new retractable, centreline fin, three metres aft of the bow.

The aim of all three is to reduce leeway, but they are each used in different phases of light weather sailing, the forward fin being used first before being retracted. In addition, there is a new fitting on the bulb of the keel, whose role is to minimise ‘tip vortex’, curling water at the tip of the bulb that can reduce lift.

Skipper, Mark Richards said at the official Rolex Sydney Hobart launch today, “Last year’s race was a great race all the way until the finish, but Loyal was quicker in light air – and we’ve made some radical modifications to rectify that. We’ve tested the new set-up and it’s
working well.”

This then is the battle royale to which we can look forward to at the front of the fleet, the old bull versus the young bull for the fastest boat at sea, but there will be other contenders.

Peter Millard and John Honan’s 98ft maxi Lahana is back after finishing third across the line in 2010 and 2011. Also on the front row of the grid is Grant Wharington’s Wild Thing, which took line honours in 2003, when she was named Skandia. The 98 footer has undergone modifications ahead of the race, including being lengthened to 100 feet.

Last year’s overall race winner, Stephen Ainsworth’s Reichel/Pugh 63 Loki, is back to defend her title and still appears to be the boat to beat. In August, the CYCA boat broke the 13 year-old record for a conventional yacht in the Audi Sydney Gold Coast Race and won the race outright. This month she won the CYCA’s Cabbage Tree Island Race and she goes in to the Rolex Sydney Hobart as the pre-race favourite.

On board again are sailing master Gordon Maguire and navigator Michael Bellingham. Ainsworth has also declared this is his last. He will be selling Loki and spending future Christmases with his family (unless he suffers the Fischer Syndrome at some stage).

Fischer first took line honours in 1988 in a gale-strewn race that ended with one of the smallest boats in the fleet, the Davidson 34, Illusion, win the race outright. Illusion is back as well this year, this time in the hands of Kim Jaggar and Travis Read.

The two bought the boat in April and, according to Jaggar, have spent more on its reconfiguration than the actual purchase. They are seeking to reduce the boat’s rating by going to a masthead kite, smaller headsails and a longer spinnaker pole. It will sail with a crew of eight.

“We’d like to beat Hicko (Roger Hickman’s Wild Rose) and Simon (Simon Kurts’ Love & War),” Jaggar said, “but it has to be right race for us.”

Love & War is always a sentimental favourite for handicap honours in the race. Peter Kurts won the race in 1974 and 1978 and, after his death in January 2005, son Simon gave the nod for his navigator Lindsay May to sail the wooden boat to Hobart the following year.

May sailed her to an emotional third win in 2006 and is back in his role as navigator, while Peter’s son Simon will skipper the yacht with his 21-year-old son Phillip having his second crack at the race.

Bob ‘Robbo’ Robertson’s top performing Queensland yacht Lunchtime Legend is on a mission, coming off a win in the Magnetic Island Race Week series and second in both the Audi Hamilton Island and Airlie Beach Race Weeks.

“This is our year; we have to do it this year,” Robertson said, having built and launched the Beneteau 40 in time for the 2011 Rolex Sydney Hobart race and scoring a highly creditable third in IRC Division 4 after scoring the exact same overall time as Andrew Saies’ same design Two True (SA) and in the company of pacesetters of the calibre of Hickman’s Wild Rose (NSW) and David Rees’ Whistler from Tasmania.

This time, Lunchtime Legend has a younger crew fired up, Robertson says, after the Australian successes at the London Olympics: “That has done so much to get young people involved again in sailing. I reckon our average age will be 20 years lower than in the 2011 race.”

This is a strong fleet of 80 boats: four maxis and nine previous winners of the major trophy, the Tattersall’s Cup, presented to the overall winner.

Joining Illusion, Loki, Love & War, Wild Rose and Wild Oats XI in the previous winners’ club are Geoff Boettcher’s 2010 winner Secret Men’s Business 3.5, Andrew Saies’ 2009 winner Two True, which is one of four South Australian entries, Bob Steel’s 2008 winner Quest and Luna Sea, which won the nightmare 1998 race as AFR Midnight Rambler, which is now in the hands of James Cameron.

Anthony Lyall’s Cougar II, which was second overall in 2008 in the hands of Victorian Alan Whiteley, leads the Tasmanian contingent in this year’s race. She has just won the Maria Island Race in record time and claimed the treble of record, line honours and overall win.

All states and the ACT have boats in the fleet with the NSW fleet numbering 43, Victoria 13, Queensland nine, Tasmania and South Australia four each, WA two, the ACT one and there are four overseas entries.

The overseas boats include the first Lithuanian entry, Ambersail (Simonas Steponavicius), a Volvo 60 that had been the Assa Abloy training boat for the 2001/2 Volvo Ocean Race.

Beneteaus make up the biggest design contingent, 12 of them, all in the 40-foot range. Two True and Lunchtime Legend will be up against the other form boat, the reigning Blue Water Point Score champion, Darryl Hodgkinson’s Victoire and the chartered Balance, now known as Peugeot Surfrider, which will feature a mostly French crew headed by Sebastien Guyot.

Once again, David Kellett will lead an experienced team on the Radio Relay Vessel (RRV), JBW, which accompanies the fleet to Hobart each year, generously loaned again by John Winning. Young Endeavour will act in the role of Communications Support Vessel to the RRV this year, under command of LCDR Michael Gough, Commanding Officer STS Young Endeavour.

The CYCA’s annual race starts at 1pm AEDT on Boxing Day, December 26 on Sydney Harbour. The fleet will sail from two start lines off Nielsen Park. The start will be broadcast live on the Seven Network throughout Australia, webcast live to a global audience on Yahoo!7 and the Australia Network throughout the Asia Pacific Region.

By Bruce Montgomery, Rolex Sydney Hobart media team

THE 2012 RACE

YACHT NAME SAIL NUMBER STATE / COUNTRY TYPE
Abracadabra 5612 NSW Tripp 47
AFR Midnight Rambler 8338 NSW Ker 40
Akatea NZL8710 New Zealand Cookson 50
Ambersail LTU1000 Lithuania Volvo 60
Ariel A140 NSW Beneteau First 40
Asylum YC10 SA Sydney 38
Aurora N3 NSW Farr 40 – One Off
Black Jack 52566 QLD Reichel Pugh 66
Blunderbuss RQ4000 QLD Beneteau First 40
Brannew 9988 NSW Beneteau First 40 Cr
Breakthrough 6834 NSW Beneteau First 40
Brindabella 10000 NSW Jutson 79
Calm SM5252 VIC TP52
Carbon Credits 6669 QLD Beneteau First 45
Celestial-Assistance Dogs 421 NSW Rogers 46
Charlie’s Dream RQ1920 QLD Bluewater 450
Chutzpah R33 VIC IRC 40
CIC Technology Inca F111 ACT Vickers 41
Copernicus 6689 NSW Radford 12
Corporate Initiatives 7407 NSW Beneteau First 40.7
Cougar II 5200 TAS TP52
Dekadence S20 VIC DK46
Dodo* HKG2238 NSW Andrews 52
Duende ESP6100 NSW JV52
Dump Truck A6 TAS Ker 11.3
Enchantress SA346 SA Muirhead 11
Eressea 6590 QLD Hanse
Finistere* F108 WA Davidson 50
Flying Fish Arctos 7551 NSW McIntyre 55
Frantic GBR5211 NSW Tp52
Geomatic M495 VIC Hanse 495
Halcyon R75 VIC Beneteau First 40
Helsal III 262 TAS Adams 20
Icefire R6572 NSW Mummery 45
Ichi Ban AUS 03 NSW Jones 70
Illusion 5356 NSW Davidson 34
INSX SM5985 VIC NSX 38
Jazz Player S390 VIC Bakewell – White 39
Jazz 5299 NSW Cookson 50
Kioni 6146 NSW Beneteau First 47.7
KLC Bengal 7 JPN4321 Japan Humphreys 54
Lahana 10081 NSW 30m Maxi
Living Doll R55 VIC Farr 55
Local Hero 1236 NSW BH 36
Loki AUS 60000 NSW Reichel Pugh 63
Love & War 294 NSW S & S 47
Luna Sea 8339 NSW Hick 35
Lunchtime Legend RQ14 QLD Beneteau First 40
Maluka of Kermandie A19 TAS
Martela 7075 TAS IMX 38
Merit 8679 QLD Volvo 60
Occasional Coarse Language Too 8008 NSW Sydney GTS 43
Ocean Affinity RQ64 QLD Marten 49
Papillon 6841 NSW Archambault 40RC
Patrice Six 360 NSW X41
Peugeot Surfrider 7771 NSW Beneteau 45
Primitive Cool S777 VIC Farr 40 Mod
Quest 52002 NSW TP 52
Ragamuffin Loyal SYD100 NSW Elliott 100
Rikki NZL8008 New Zealand Reichel Pugh 42
Rush B45 VIC Corel 45
Sailors with disAbilities 6953 NSW Nelson Marek 52
Secret Men’s Business 3.5 YC3300 SA Reichel Pugh 51
She 4924 NSW Olsen 40
Shogun 6952 VIC JV 52
Southern Excellence NOR2 NSW Volvo 60
St Jude 6686 NSW Sydney 47
This Way Up RF360 WA Sydney 36CR
Toybox 2 MH4 NSW XP 44
TSA Management MH60 NSW Sydney 38
Tusitala SAM1 Samoa Goss 60
Two True YC400 SA Beneteau First 40
Veloce SM602 VIC Elliott 44CR
Wicked SM4 VIC Beneteau First 40
Wild Oats XI 10001 NSW RP100
Wild Rose 4343 NSW Farr 43
Wild Thing AUS10 NSW Jones 100 Maxi
Zen 3838 NSW Sydney 38

 

Investec Loyal crossing the finish line for Line Honours (Photo by Rolex / Daniel Forster)

Investec Loyal crossing the finish line for Line Honours (Photo by Rolex / Daniel Forster)

The 2011 Rolex Sydney Hobart Yacht Race was notable for an unexpected winner of the coveted line honours trophy, a worthy overall winner and a slow passage home for the smaller boats.

The Boxing Day start of the 628 mile race south to Hobart was spectacular, with the 88-strong international fleet setting off from the heart of Sydney Harbour, with its iconic bridge and Opera House as a backdrop. The Heads and shoreline were teeming with spectators as news helicopters flew overhead. Leading the charge on the beat out of the Harbour was Bob Oatley’s maxi Wild Oats XI, the line honours winner in five out of the last six Rolex Sydney Hobarts.

Weather-wise the start of the race was fairly conventional with some fast running conditions for the afternoon, but with a dramatic 180 degree wind shift into the south forecast for the first evening. A swell from the north generated by the ex-tropical cyclone Fina, combined with this wind shift, created a horrific confused sea on the opening night, as the 30 knots southerly wind kicked in with a punch, gusting up to 40 knots. But it is these brutal, testing conditions competitors expect when they set out on the Rolex Sydney Hobart and give the event its reputation as one of the world’s toughest offshore yacht races.

For the crews it was a case of battening down hatches and muscling through and by the first morning there was an impressively low attrition rate with just two retirements. They were joined later by a third, the 2003 line honours winner Grant Wharington’s Wild Thing, suffering sail damage.

24 hours in and race favourite for line honours, the Mark Richards-skippered Wild Oats XI ,was 11 miles ahead of Anthony Bell’s maxi Investec Loyal, these two having broken away from Peter Millard’s Lahana with singlehanded round the world sailor Alex Thomson on Hugo Boss holding fourth on the water. On IRC handicap Roger Hickman, an old hand in the Rolex Sydney Hobart, competing in his 35th race, had pulled into the lead aboard his 1993 race winner, Wild Rose.

For this Rolex Sydney Hobart Wild Oats XI had been ‘turboed’ with the addition of new twin daggerboards and a larger square-topped mainsail, but her dominance as the fastest boat in the race was called into question when at 20:00 on the second evening of the race she was overtaken by the similarly-sized, but older, Investec Loyal.

With the wind lightening and backing from the southwest into the southeast, so Wild Oats XI was caught in a wind hole. Her co-navigator, Ian Burns explained what happened: “They [Investec Loyal’s crew] were keeping track of how we were doing and the moment we stopped under a cloud with no wind under it, they basically sailed right around the outside of this large hole we were stuck in and came back above us. It was good work on their part.”

The theoretically faster Wild Oats XI managed to catch up and overtook Investec Loyal at 07:30 on the second morning of the race as the two boats were sailing down the east coast of Tasmania. For the rest of the morning followers of the race were on the edge of their seats as the two boats match raced around the remainder of the course.

As they rounded the south side of Tasman Island, so Wild Oats XI was becalmed again and, taking their chance, Investec Loyal once again pounced, sailed around the outside of them to regain the lead. Crossing Storm Bay and sailing up the Derwent River to the finish, the Wild Oats XI crew, sailing with many of Australian yachting’s elder statesmen and women on board, threw all they could at Investec Loyal, but it was not enough. Investec Loyal crossed the finish line at 19:14:18 local time, after 2 days 6 hours 14 minutes and 8 seconds at sea, just 3 minutes and 8 seconds ahead of Wild Oats XI. This was the fourth closest finish in the 67 year history of the Rolex Sydney Hobart.

Unfortunately celebrations were dampened when the line honours winner was protested by the race committee. This was over a conversation between Investec Loyal tactician Michael Coxon and a helicopter pilot on the first morning of the race in which Coxon enquired about whether the mainsail or the trysail was being used on board Wild Oats XI. Investec Loyal’s line honour victory was finally confirmed when, after a three hour long protest hearing, the International Jury concluded that Coxon, in his capacity as Managing Director of North Sails Australia, had made the enquiry about Wild Oats XI’s new 3Di mainsail for professional reasons and this in no way had benefitted Investec Loyal’s performance during the race.

Investec Loyal Crew Celebrates Taking Line Honours (Photo by Rolex / Daniel Forster)

Investec Loyal Crew Celebrates Taking Line Honours (Photo by Rolex / Daniel Forster)

 “It was one of the great experiences in my life,” said Anthony Bell, Investec Loyal’s owner and skipper of his win. “The whole thing from the very start, right through to the finish line, was exhilarating. It was a really tough fought out race, but the crew believed in the boat and the cause right from the start and we are so happy to have got past the finish line first.”

Bell’s campaign doubled as a vehicle to raise money for charity (it raised Aus$ 1 million in 2011) on this occasion for the Humpty Dumpty Foundation, which purchases vital medical equipment for 178 children’s hospitals around Australia and East Timor. For this reason among their crew were a number of celebrities including sports stars, such as Australian rugby union internationals Phil Kearns and Phil Waugh.

As the slower boats were becalmed in Storm Bay and up the Derwent River, so it became evident that this year’s Rolex Sydney Hobart would be one for the smaller large boats, including the competitive 50ft fleet. However the stand-out boat in this size range was Stephen Ainsworth’s Reichel Pugh 63, Loki. Over the last 18 months this has proved to be one of the most successful campaigns in on the Australian circuit. Under IRC, Loki’s corrected time was 50 minutes faster than that of Michael Hyatt’s Farr 55 Living Doll, with 84 year old Syd Fischer’s modified TP52 Ragamuffin third and the Cookson 50 Jazz of Britain’s Chris Bull, fourth.

Overall Handicap winner, Stephen Ainsworth, LOKI with Patrick Boutellier Rolex Australia Poto by Rolex / Daniel Forster)

Overall Handicap winner, Stephen Ainsworth, LOKI with Patrick Boutellier Rolex Australia

 

“We are elated. It is a fantastic feeling, a huge thrill to win this race,” said a jubilant Ainsworth, after being presented with a Rolex Yacht-Master timepiece by Patrick Boutellier of Rolex Australia and the coveted Tattersall’s Cup, for winning IRC handicap honours. “Having done 14 races, I know how hard it is to win this race. So many things have to go right for you and the wind gods were with us. Our race went extremely well. The aim for the navigators was to avoid stopping and we successfully did that, although we came close a couple of times. Look at what happened to Wild Oats XI – that could easily have happened to us.”

Ainsworth’s crew, led by Irish round the world sailor Gordon Maguire, was 18 strong, but of these only one third were professionals. “The handicap win came when the big boats parked up,” said Maguire. At one point the maxis had extended to almost 120 miles in front of them, but as they had slowed, so Loki had managed to reel back 60 miles.

Earlier in the race the competitive 40 and 45ft Beneteaus had been among the most promising on handicap along with Roger Hickman’s Wild Rose. However the progress of the smaller boats was hampered as the wind shut down for them as they manoeuvred around the east coast of Tasmania into Storm Bay and up the Derwent River leading up to Hobart.

Darryl Hodgkinson, skipper of the First 45 Victoire summed it up best: “I thought it was going to be a carbon copy of last year’s race where we sat in the Derwent. This year we actually camped in Derwent! The last miles from the Tasman Light to the finish typically take six to seven hours. On this occasion it took 15.”

A pre-race favourite among the smaller boats was the new Ker 40 AFR Midnight Rambler, but co-owner Ed Psaltis, winner of the race in 1998, said they had made some wrong tactical choices and, entering Bass Strait, ended up in a giant wind hole, entrapping them for six hours.

While there had been a strong turn-out in Hobart’s Constitution Dock to witness the end of the match race marathon between Investec Loyal and Wild Oats XI, this was rivalled when Australian youth solo round the world sailing phenomenon Jessica Watson arrived aboard Ella Baché another Challenge. Watson’s crew have now entered the history books as the youngest to take part in the Rolex Sydney Hobart, but having spent two and a half months training as a team prior to the start Watson was delighted with taking second place in the Sydney 38 class.

“It was really, really good, everything you would expect,” said Watson on her arrival. “We had three quite bouncy nights on the nose. We didn’t see any severe conditions, but there was some pretty uncomfortable stuff for quite a while there.”

Having previously sailed solo, Watson was full of praise for her crew. “The crew were awesome. It was the best sailing we’ve ever seen them do. It’s what we have been training for and they did exactly that. Everyone did an amazing job. All credit to them – I just held on for the ride.”

Last but not least MALUKA OF KERMANDIE crew and owner Peter Langman (Photo by Rolex / Daniel Forster)

Last but not least MALUKA OF KERMANDIE crew and owner Peter Langman (Photo by Rolex / Daniel Forster)

The last boat to arrive, crossing the line late in the afternoon on New Year’s Eve, was that of Sydney boatyard owner Sean Langman. Langman is best known for his attempts to win line honours in previous races, but on this occasion was sailing the wooden 1932 coastal cruiser/fishing boat, Maluka of Kermandie as crew for his 18 year old son Peter.

This year’s race once again proved that to earn victory in the Rolex Sydney Hobart is something that takes persistence. As Gordon Maguire concluded: “I won this race in 1991 on an IOR 2 tonner Atara with Harold Cudmore. It was my second Hobart race and I thought ‘easy’. It has been 20 years since I won it again. I have won an awful lot of regattas in between and I do this race almost every year, so it is not an easy race to win. You can’t just come down here with the best boat in the world and win it. You have to come down here with the best boat in the world and have all the luck in the world – all that has to happen in the same race. It is a very unusual beast.”

 

Loki , AUS60000 handicap winner from the air (Photo by Rolex / Daniel Forster)

Loki , AUS60000 handicap winner from the air (Photo by Rolex / Daniel Forster)

With the wind fading for the smaller boats, so this morning (local time) Stephen Ainsworth’s Loki was announced the handicap winner of the 2011 Rolex Sydney Hobart Yacht Race.

At a presentation on board their white four year old Reichel Pugh 63 footer, Ainsworth and his crew were presented with a Rolex Yacht-Master timepiece by Patrick Boutellier of Rolex Australia and the much coveted Tattersall’s Cup, for winning IRC handicap honours, by Garry Linacre, Commodore of the Cruising Yacht Club of Australia, and Graham Taplin, Commodore of the Royal Yacht Club of Tasmania.

“We are elated, it is a fantastic feeling, a huge thrill to win this race,” said a jubilant Ainsworth. “Having done 14 races, I know how hard it is to win this race. I have been trying for a long time. So many things have to go right for you and the wind gods were with us. Our race went extremely well. The aim for the navigators was to avoid stopping and we successfully did that, although we came close a couple of times. Look at what happened to Wild Oats XI – that could easily have happened to us.”

The present Loki was launched three years ago after Ainsworth’s previous boat was lost after she was abandoned in severe conditions when her rudder broke during the 2007 Rolex Middle Sea. The new boat was built for offshore racing and specifically to win the Rolex Sydney Hobart. This was Ainsworth and his crew’s fourth attempt in the latest Loki.

Ainsworth and Loki are one of the most successful teams racing in Australia at present. Last year they won the Australian IRC Championship, the Audi Sydney Gold Coast Yacht Race and this year Audi Hamilton Island Race Week. Personally, this month Ainsworth was voted the Cruising Yacht Club of Australia’s joint Ocean Racer of the Year.

Typically they sail offshore with 18 crew and of these only one third are professional, led by Irish Volvo Ocean Race veteran, Gordon Maguire. On board typically Maguire helms while Ainsworth trims the main sheet. The other pros on board for the Rolex Sydney Hobart included other much capped round the world race sailors Anthony Merrington, Jeff Scott and sailmaker Alby Pratt, while a regular with Ainsworth is his long term navigator Michael Bellingham.

However, Maguire points out that many of their ‘amateur’ crew are among the most talented sailors in Australia. “We have really good sailors from all walks of life. It is more rewarding when you line up against fully pro crews.”

For the Rolex Sydney Hobart this year, Loki was fitted with a new, bigger mainsail and for the first time they had an on board weather expert to assist Bellingham in the form of British navigator Will Best.

According to Maguire, during the race they were always in contention, but down the east coast of Tasmania the 100ft maxis had stretched away. “They were getting out to 120 miles in front of us and at that distance it was hard to stay in touch on handicap. But they parked up at Tasman Island and that brought us right back into them. We took 60 miles out of them that morning. So the handicap win came when the big boats parked up. We were always very confident that we had time on the boats behind us, particularly with how the weather patterns were going to shape up from halfway down the east coast to the finish.”

Ainsworth said Loki would return to the Rolex Sydney Hobart next year to defend her title.

Stephen Ainsworth owner of LOKI with his crew and Patrick Boutellier Rolex Australia (Photo by Rolex /  Daniel Forster)

Stephen Ainsworth owner of LOKI with his crew and Patrick Boutellier Rolex Australia (Photo by Rolex / Daniel Forster)

Slow boats up the Derwent

Meanwhile for today’s finishers the pace had distinctly slowed. Over 11 and a half hours, last night and into this morning, just one boat arrived as the water turned to glass on Storm Bay and the Derwent River leading up to Hobart.

Darryl Hodgkinson, skipper of the Beneteau First 45 Victoire summed it up best: “I thought it was going to be carbon copy of last year’s where we sat in the Derwent. This year we actually camped in Derwent! The last miles from the Tasman Light to the finish typically takes six to seven hours, on this occasion it took 15.

Ed Psaltis, co-owner of AFR Midnight Rambler arrived in Hobart suffering from an infected arm and unhappy with their performance. “It was very disappointing, our race. We made a few wrong choices. Entering Bass Strait we were in good shape against all the opposition and doing well overall, but we found a hole [in the wind] bigger that anyone else did and we sat there for six hours going nowhere. We also had northerly, adverse current in Bass Strait so we did very well going the wrong way.”

Between two scheds AFR Midnight Rambler lost 25 miles, but once the wind turned favourable and they could set the kite on their new Ker 40, they managed to make up the deficit. Then they too had a slow finish. “It was probably the slowest passage I’ve had from Tasman Light to the finish – and this is a pretty quick boat. But that’s how it is,” said Psaltis. “Next year it will be a lot better than it was this year.”

Australia’s solo sailing star arrives

This afternoon the marina of Constitution Dock was packed five deep with spectators waiting patiently for the arrival of 18 year-old Australian solo sailor Jessica Watson. Since 2010 when she became the youngest person ever to have completed a singlehanded voyage non-stop around the world, Watson has become a media sensation in Australia.

ELLA BACHE in Hobart with Jessica Watson and the youngest ever Sydney Hobart crew (Photo by Rolex / Daniel Forster)

ELLA BACHE in Hobart with Jessica Watson and the youngest ever Sydney Hobart crew (Photo by Rolex / Daniel Forster)

In this year’s Rolex Sydney Hobart Watson achieved her ambition to lead the youngest crew ever to compete in the race. She and her seven crew – among them fellow youth solo round the world sailor, Britain’s Mike Perham – raced in the Sydney 38 class aboard the pink hulled Ella Baché Another Challenge.

“It was really, really good, everything you would expect,” said Watson upon her arrival. “We had three quite bouncy nights on the nose. We didn’t see any severe conditions, but there was some pretty uncomfortable stuff for quite a while there.”

Having previously sailed on her own, Watson was full of praise for her crew. “The crew were awesome. It was the best sailing we’ve ever seen them do. It’s what we have been training for and they did exactly that. Everyone did an amazing job. All credit to them – I just held on for the ride.”

Her round the world voyage also didn’t involve competition, something which she seems to have relished in this Rolex Sydney Hobart. “The last leg in was amazing, some really close racing with the Sydney 38 fleet, changing positions all the time. Then to come in second was just awesome. It was as good as anyone could hope for. We had a really close battle with The Goat.” She added: “The race wouldn’t have been the same if we didn’t have that close boat-on-boat racing.” Watson was especially pleased to have beaten their coaches, sailing on Deloitte As One.

Since lunch time, boats have been flooding into Hobart, with 26 arriving between 13:23 (local time) and the latest arrival at 17:24 of Tony Warren’s Kiss Goodbye to MS, the 49th finisher. 28 boats remain still racing with John Bankart’s Eressea, bringing up the rear, some 137 miles from the finish.

Loki (Photo by Rolex / Kurt Arrigo)

Loki (Photo by Rolex / Kurt Arrigo)