Please select your home edition
Edition
Barz Optics - Kids range

Rolex Sydney Hobart – Its a cruel race says the winner

by Rob Kothe & the Sail-World team on 31 Dec 2011
Loki (AUS),Stephen Ainsworth Daniel Forster/Rolex Carlo Borlenghi/Rolex
Rolex Sydney Hobart 2011 overall handicap winner Stephen Ainsworth first sailed his own yacht in the 1998 Hobart race. A tough initiation but things have improved since then as Stephen explains to Sail-World.com

‘My first Hobart was in 1985 in a boat called Neville Chidgey’s Swanson 36 Mystic Seven.

‘I had done Sydney Noumea and Lord Howe Island races with Neville and then the Hobart race. I moved to the UK and was living there for six years, had a young family and was busy with work so I didn’t sail for six years.
Then I got back to Australia thought ‘I’ll get back into sailing’. I thought I could do some offshore racing but it took me a while to find a boat.

My first year doing the Sydney Hobart in my own boat was 1998, with my Swan 44 Loki. We rolled in Bass Strait and we didn’t do a complete 360 but was turned upside down and smashed a port hole and filled up with water, then basically ran bare poled, surfing down massive waves. We limped into Narooma, (north of Eden) the following day.

‘We stayed there overnight, took Michael Bell (the Swan dealer rep at the time sailing as crew) off to hospital as he had hurt his leg, we got the port hole fixed, steadied the boat and we went back to Sydney the next day.


By 2000 I had switched to a Swan 48, again called Loki. I was a slow boat in those days and was playing a trick coming home in the following breeze, as the 48 is a terrific boat upwind. Not much good downwind because it is too heavy but upwind it really sailed to its rating.

‘Then came the Reichel Pugh 60 Loki which we lost off Sardinia in October 2007 when the rudder broke on a lee shore.’ (Stephen and his crew were winched from life rafts by Italian Navy helicopters - ED.)

‘McConaghys built the 63 for us in 2008 at Mona Vale in Sydney. ‘It is a very, very good boat offshore and we can race in regattas and be very competitive too. It is a fantastic boat.

‘Reichel Pugh got it really right. We had a bit of surgery on the boat before it went into the water as there were problems that Reichel Pugh had with their chimes but it was worth the extra cost and time involved in fixing the problems.

‘We have had a great run with the boat, both offshore and around the cans in the last three years.

‘The hardest part of the 2011 Hobart, of course, was the first night. There was plenty of wind but it was only for the first hour it was really hammering. It wasn’t a constant 40 knots, just some initial gusts and probably only for half an hour or so.

‘We went to a double reef, and number 4, luckily, before it came. We got the chute off, put on a 4 jib and very quickly put one reef in and then put another reef in when it started to get violent. We were happy as we were ahead of the game when we approaching the roll front – which you could see was coming very quickly.

'When that front came through it hit us quite hard with gusts of up to 40 knots and driving rain - that was really quite stinging rain as big drops being driven 35-40 knots tend to hurt. After that we knuckled down and belted upwind for the next day or so and we had a bit of seasickness on board. Quite a few of the guys threw up, but they just kept on going.



‘Coming down the north coast of Tasmania we had a soft patch and there was a bit of a transition. It did go quiet but we found our way through that reasonably well. The key was not to stop and we didn’t.

‘There was a good mix of conditions during the race, but probably the real highlight was the fact that we never stopped and we kept going the whole time. We nearly stopped, we got as low as two knots boat speed, but we managed to keep moving.

‘My brief to the navigators was ‘whatever you do don’t let us fall into a hole where we stop because that is fatal’. We were winning last year’s race as we got to the other side of Bass Strait after all that heavy air. We had our sister ship Limit 15 miles behind us but then we stopped - we just stopped and everybody was sailing up to the horizon. When you’re a high rating boat that’s just instant death to you on handicap.

‘These things nearly break your heart. It is just a cruel race, very cruel.

‘It is such a fickle race and it’s devastating when that happens. I was talking to Rob Hanna (TP52 Shogun) today and in this year’s race he fell in a hole and sat there for eight hours. They were in the river and they were becalmed and had a procession of boats sail around them, round the shore, after leading them for hours and hours, only to finish up hours behind them.

‘Now we have won the 2011 Sydney Hobart, by finishing at three in the morning, which is unusual.
‘From Tasman Light we had a reasonable 12 Knot (maybe) breeze, although it was a gradient breeze. We were able to carry the breeze pretty much until we past the Iron Pot and as we went up the Derwent it gradually faded. We ghosted in. We were desperately looking for any breeze that we could find and we had a code 0 up and we fell across the line. We were so relieved, that last few hundred metres was agony.

‘This year, actually when you look at it, was a big boat race. All the top boats in the handicap division are all from division 1 or 0.

‘Normally we’d not have expected to be able to keep going in the River so late at night - maybe it was Loki, the Norse God of mischief and trickery, playing up again.

‘I am very proud of our crew. They have evolved. I think the key part of this crew was bringing Gordon McGuire on board a couple of years ago, he is a great asset, a very good sailing master and very good at managing people. We have built a very nice team and they are all good guys and enjoy sailing on the boat

‘This boat has been remarkable. It’s been a progression - everything you learn as you are going along you put into the next boat. You develop experience and expertise with the people who you have been sailing with and utilise more of that, this boat is the result of a lot of years of accumulated expert experience and not just mine, but that of a number of people.



‘This is a great boat and at 63 feet it is still manageable. I am very happy with it. I have been lucky in that, because of the state of the economy around the world after the GFC very few boats have been built, so it is still highly competitive.

‘Michael Hiatt’s Farr 55 Living Doll did well to take second this year. I was probably more surprised at how well Living Doll went as she has always struck me as a bit of a ‘one trick pony’, good in light air and flat water. I think they are sailing the boat a bit better in the sort of offshore conditions that we got and are now a contender in all conditions. .

‘Syd Fischer came third with his TP52 Ragamuffin. From our experience with the TP52's, if they get a lot of downwind component in the race they are competitive. They can sail to their rating very well and exceed their rating downwind, upwind and reaching … not so sure.

‘Overall there was quite a bit of upwind in this year’s race and our good transitions and our lucky run to the finish were the keys to winning 2011 Sydney Hobart race.

‘I will be back in 2012. Absolutely. It is a small group of people who have won a Hobart race but it’s a really small group of people who have won two. Hopefully I can join that exclusive club but I am 57 years old so if it’s going to take another 15 or 20 years, I don’t know if I will make the distance.’

Related Articles

McConaghy built Loki's jubilant Tattersall's Cup victory
After 14 attempts, a delighted Stephen Ainsworth has staked claim on the historic Tattersall’s Cup After 14 attempts, a delighted Stephen Ainsworth has staked claim on the historic Tattersall’s Cup with his McConaghy built Reichel/Pugh 63’ Loki, adding the Rolex Sydney Hobart handicap victory to a brimming trophy cabinet. 'We are elated, it is a fantastic feeling, a huge thrill to win this race,' said a jubilant Ainsworth.
Posted on 9 Jan 2012
2011 Rolex Sydney Hobart images
The 2011 Rolex Sydney Hobart Yacht Race was extraordinary with an unexpected Line Honours winner The Sail-World team have compiled a gallery of images from the 2011 Rolex Sydney Hobart from notable photographers Daniel Forster and Kurt Arrigio.
Posted on 7 Jan 2012
Bob Robertson weathers another Rolex Sydney Hobart
Sunshine Coast ocean racing veteran Bob Robertson weathered another physically tormenting Rolex Sydney Hobart Yacht Race Sunshine Coast ocean racing veteran Bob Robertson weathered another physically tormenting Rolex Sydney Hobart Yacht Race finishing 12th overall and third in IRC Division 4 with his relatively new sloop Lunchtime Legend. As the experienced skipper again found out there is no written tactical strategy on how to best apply the ocean racing experience from twelve previous Hobart’s
Posted on 4 Jan 2012
Rolex Sydney Hobart - Trophy presentation in Hobart
The Rolex Sydney Hobart Yacht Race came to a conclusion on January 1 at the Royal Club of Tasmania. The Rolex Sydney Hobart Yacht Race came to a conclusion on January 1 at the Royal Club of Tasmania, where the Official Prize Giving took place. Tony Cable contested his 46th race to Hobart.
Posted on 2 Jan 2012
A special mission of loyalty for a lost mate
Leo Rodriguez and his dedicated crew onboard Merit sailed a physically tough 628 nautical miles to Hobart Leo Rodriguez and his dedicated crew onboard Merit sailed a physically tough 628 nautical miles to Hobart on a special mission of loyalty for a lost mate. They dedicated the race to well known Sydney Hobart race sailor Nick Wells who passed away in November.
Posted on 2 Jan 2012
Rolex Sydney Hobart- Post Race Protests - is there another way?
Can the Sydney Hobart sort itself out? Sailing Instructions are an accident looking for a place to happen say observers. There have been two Race Committee Protests against the Line Honours winners dismissed in two years, putting a dampener on celebrations. The Rolex Sydney Hobart Sailing Instructions are an accident looking for a place to happen say many observers.
Posted on 2 Jan 2012
Rolex Sydney Hobart Yacht Race overall
Rolex Sydney Hobart Yacht Race 2011 was notable for an unexpected winner of the coveted line honours trophy Rolex Sydney Hobart Yacht Race 2011 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.
Posted on 1 Jan 2012
Rolex Sydney Hobart Yacht Race - Divisional winners awarded
Rolex Sydney Hobart Yacht Race - At a ceremony this morning the divisional winners were awarded. Rolex Sydney Hobart Yacht Race - At a ceremony on Hobart’s Constitution Dock this morning the divisional winners were awarded. Having arrived ninth into Hobart, Chris Bull’s British Cookson 50 Jazz picked up honours in IRC Division 0, was second in ORCi Division 1 and finished fourth overall under IRC.
Posted on 31 Dec 2011
Rolex Sydney Hobart Yacht Race - Natelle Two arrives in Hobart
Rolex Sydney Hobart - Natelle Two Skipper, Laura Roper, was glad to have the support of her father and brother as crew Rolex Sydney Hobart Yacht Race - The skipper of Natelle Two, Hobart's Laura Roper, was glad to have the support of her father and brother as part of her crew in her first Rolex Sydney Hobart Yacht Race. One of only three female skippers in this year's race, the delighted 22 year old wanted to take the opportunity to promote women in sailing.
Posted on 31 Dec 2011
Maluka last in for New Year in the Rolex Sydney Hobart Yacht Race
Rolex Sydney Hobart - Three members of the Langman family shared the honour of sailing the last boat to the finish line In the Cruising Yacht Club of Australia’s 2011 Rolex Sydney Hobart Yacht Race, three members of the Langman family shared the honour of sailing the last boat to the finish line; crossing it at 4.48pm late this afternoon in the time of five days, three hours, 48 minutes, and 22 seconds.
Posted on 31 Dec 2011
T Clewring AC72Lancer Inflatables - BJInSunSport - NZ