'Not as hard as some' was the simple and understated summary from Ed Psaltis as he stepped on to the dock in Hobart yesterday evening, completing his twenty-fifth Sydney to Hobart yacht race. His Hick 35 AFR Midnight Rambler won the 1998 Hobart race, so he speaks with some authority on that subject.
Midnight Rambler berthing_Rolex Sydney to Hobart Yacht Race
Psaltis was quick to point out that for co-owner and navigator Bob Thomas this was another milestone also, it being his seventeenth race south.
AFR Midnight Rambler finished well today in a strong northerly, moving up to third place in IRC Division D with much of their competition still battling gusty headwinds up the Derwent River.
Psaltis seemed quietly satisfied with their race 'What I’m most proud of is that we sailed what was at times still a fairly tough race conservatively enough to get here without any damage at all.'
Reviewing the race Psaltis said 'we were doing really well on the first night, still well up with the DK 46s and just near Rush (a Corel 45). But there were a few holes in the wind and we found one of them spending two hours going nowhere.'
'On the second day the promised strong nor’easter did not kick in until late that evening which was a bit frustrating, but then we really got going' he said describing boat speeds of up to 23 knots in a 20 to 30 knot nor’easter and building seas.
As the wind moved through the north and into the west and southwest AFR Midnight Rambler was toughing it out in the southern half of Bass Strait with winds of 40 knots, which were shifting around from northwest to southwest.
'We did a lot of sail changes, constantly switching from spinnakers to headsails' said Psaltis, 'for a while we had three reefs in the mainsail and a storm jib, but at least we had sheets slightly cracked, it’s just that much less hard work.'
'My only regret was in leaving the storm spinnaker at home; the forecast did not seem to suggest that we’d need one and we were trying to save weight, but in the end we had to sail more conservatively with the lighter spinnakers.'
The AFR Midnight Rambler team have made a number of additional strengthening modifications and additions since last year’s Sydney Hobart from which she retired to Eden with damage and a crew injury.
One such addition had clearly captured the crew’s imagination 'the guys call it the granny rail' said Psaltis pointing to what looks like a stainless steel bike rail just forward of the large lightweight carbon fibre steering wheel 'but it works really well as a general grab rail and it protects the wheel from someone crashing into it and breaking it' he added.
'Some people say they’d never take a Farr 40 offshore' he remarks wistfully, leaving the sentence hanging but clearly implying that the boats are well up to the task if properly prepared.
Psaltis has some support in that view from another Sydney Hobart veteran Roger Hickman. Hickman who is skippering Wild Rose to Hobart this year on his 29th Sydney to Hobart race considers the Farr 40 - a boat he has campaigned successfully himself - more seaworthy for a race of this nature than many of the older generation boats.
Nonetheless the Farr 40 is a light weight performance yacht and Psaltis concedes they are 'a bit skittish' off the wind in a big blow. He indicated that with a masthead spinnaker the margins for errors are not great 'we had two full broaches – not chinese gybes thank goodness - but managed to get the kite down both times successfully without damaging them.'
When engaged on their future plans for the boat Psaltis said 'We’re probably going to fit a new keel. We’ll lose some downwind performance but I think she’ll be a little stiffer upwind.'
The AFR Midnight Rambler team are also proposing to tackle the 950 nautical mile Sydney to Mackay race in July next year.
It’s all more grist to the mill for this successful team of former Sydney to Hobart race winners.