Please select your home edition
Edition
Sailing Raceboats 2016/17 RS Quest 728x90

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.’

Protector - 660 x 82Insun - AC ProgramMusto AUS 2017 660x82 1

Related Articles

Volvo Ocean Race - Triple champion says Team AkzoNobel ready to race
Team AkzoNobel skipper Brad Jackson says the team are moving on and looking forward to the start of the opening Leg After a week of turmoil ashore, newly appointed Team AkzoNobel skipper Brad Jackson (NZL) says the team are moving on and looking forward to the start of the opening Leg of the Volvo Ocean Race. The short leg from Alicante to Lisbon is due to start on Sunday. There the fleet will reassemble ahead of the start of the race proper with a 7,000nm leg from Lisbon, Portugal to Cape Town, South Africa
Posted today at 11:24 am
America's Cup - Dan Bernasconi on shaping the AC75 'Beast'
Dan Bernasconi, Technical Director of Emirates Team NZ is leading the design team charged with developing the AC75 rule Dan Bernasconi, Technical Director of Emirates Team New Zealand, has turned his hand from leading the team charged with developing the quickest America's Cup multihull on the planet to performing a similar feat with a monohull. First step in the process is coming up with a concept boat, and then writing a class rule to accommodate that type. The 75ft monohull has been given various monikers, bu
Posted on 5 Oct
America's Cup - Dalton opens up on boat and options for next Cup
The Protocol for the 36th America's Cup will take place in Auckland on the morning of the 29th September Italian media are reporting that the announcement of the Protocol for the 36th America's Cup will take place in Auckland on the morning of the 29th September. Dalton confirmed the details of the yacht will be revealed two months later on November 30, but would not say if it will be a foiling monohull as speculated in the media.
Posted on 18 Sep
Pulling G’s with Beneteau – Pt II
Just a little while ago we pulled some Gs with Beneteau’s Mr Product, aka G3. Just a little while ago we pulled some Gs with Beneteau’s Mr Product, aka G3. You can go back and read Part One of the story of Gianguido Girotti, as and when you may like. However, for now we’ll push on with the incredible semi-foiler Figaro 3, and the new Oceanis 51.1, along with what they represent for the brand as a whole. It is a very interesting tale, especially as Beneteau...
Posted on 31 Aug
JATO ignited as SuperFoiler prepares for take off (Pt II)
When we left SuperFoiler last time, the JATO rockets had been lit, and we were rapidly approaching the time for rotation When we left SuperFoiler last time, the JATO rockets had been lit, and we were rapidly approaching the time for rotation (lift off). You can catch up with Part One of SuperFoiler and the JATO rockets, but for now we get to talk speed, the crew on board, and finally the commercialisation of it all. Buckle up!
Posted on 28 Aug
Pulling G’s with Beneteau – Pt I
In a car, just the one G will have you straining at your seatbelt. In a car, just the one G will have you straining at your seatbelt. Over nine (+ve) in an aircraft, and without a G-suit, you will be unconscious. So at three G’s, and pulling no punches with them either, we not only enjoyed our opportunity to sit with Gianguido Girotti (G3), we got to learn a lot as well!
Posted on 23 Aug
JATO ignited as SuperFoiler prepares for take off (Pt I)
When small military transports have to take off from impossibly short runways with a belly full of cargo When small military transports have to take off from impossibly short runways with a belly full of cargo akin to Mr. Creosote, they reach for the JATO bottles. Aircraft like C-7 Caribous and LC130 Hercules strap rockets, yes rockets, to the underside of their wings to gain valuable extra thrust, which surely helps keep the pilots' heart rates below the red line.
Posted on 22 Aug
A Q&A with the RORC’s Nick Elliott about the 2017 Rolex Fastnet Race
I caught up with Nick Elliott, RORC Racing Manager, via email, to learn more about the world-famous Rolex Fastnet Race. When one stops to consider the world’s best ocean races, the Royal Offshore Racing Club’s Rolex Fastnet Race, which starts on Sunday, August 6, 2017, is never far from mind. I caught up with Nick Elliott, RORC Racing Manager, via email to learn more about the race’s history and evolution, its challenges, and the amount of work that goes into pulling off this world-famous regatta.
Posted on 1 Aug
Tank killers
Not all that long ago, the US Army started using depleted Uranium shells. Not all that long ago, the US Army started using depleted Uranium shells. These shells were wickedly awesome at their job, which was killing enemy tanks in their tracks (and yes the pun is fully intended). The mighty, turbine powered, M1 Abrams became even more formidable, and their crews somewhat safer again.
Posted on 24 Jul
Ian Walker - Musto Ambassador on the Volvo Ocean Race, America's Cup
Ian Walker on his Volvo Ocean Race win, why food and clothing are so important offshore, his views on the America's Cup We speak to Musto ambassador Ian Walker about his Volvo Ocean Race win, why food and clothing are so important offshore, his views on the America's Cup, his new desk job, sailing for fun, and 20 years of the John Merricks Sailing Trust.
Posted on 23 Jul