Is the Rolex Sydney Hobart in the pocket of the 50s? (Part II)

Shogun crew up to their armpits in action - Audi Hamilton Island Race Week 2011
In Part One, we investigated the furious 50s and why they need to be watched closely in the 2011 Rolex Sydney Hobart, which will be the 67th race down South.

Now another former TP52 out there will be Rob Hanna’s 2007, blue Judel-Vrolijk penned vessel.

'This particular boat is for sale, as new boat has only just arrived and we put her in the water on Wednesday. She was christened Shogun V, with the usual champagne, but could not be brought up to Cat1 Hobart condition in time. No matter, the current Shogun has come second, second and third in the last three years and is still an extremely competitive Hobart contender. Apart from training for the next four days, we have our first hit-out on new boat in the SOLAS Big Boat Challenge next Tuesday. After that, it's the Rolex Regatta and Geelong week, with the Hobart in the middle, but on the other boat', said Rob.

'The ‘great race’ is so dependent upon many variables, that the winner can come from anywhere and usually any one of at least 25 boats can win the Tattersall’s Cup, which I know is the most coveted prize by the sailors. We will have a crew of 14 on board, with three emanating from Tasmania, four from NSW and seven from Victoria. I don't even think of being a Victorian boat. We are Australian, competing against 80+ other Australian and international boats.'

'The challenges of the race mean that most boats are fast, well crewed and competitive. This will be my seventh Hobart and we do have guys on board who have done 20+. There are no first timers, but we do have three who have previously been on winning boats, so I think we can say that we’re an experienced Hobart crew. The boat is ready and we have had a number of training sessions, including night sails to practise our watch system, reefing and night sail changes.'

'This is a navigators race, among many other factors, which certainly does include luck. Our navigator, Tristan Eldershaw, is one of the best and has nearly 20 Hobarts to his name. We will be racing hard, give it our best shot and see what the fates decide.'

Shogun’s crew range from 20 something to Rob at 63 years, with most of the guys in mid-20s to mid-40s. 'We bought a number of new sails for the boat in August and have not modified it for this race. It is a very good offshore boat and likes a breeze. There are no shrinking violets on the boat and within the limits of safety, we’ll push hard all the way. We may not win, but we plan on being hard to beat!'

As far as the Med Cup was concerned, Rob simply said, 'There are far more qualified than I to comment, but I believe the TP owners will decide to revert back to their roots and compete the class in IRC at existing major Mediterranean Regattas, possibly including Cowes Week. It is a bit of a shame, but the 52 is such an exciting boat to race that it will only continue to play a major role on the podium. Equally so with the Soto 40 class.'

Long time Tasmanian campaigner, Tony Lyall, recently purchased the former TP52, Cougar II. She was a formidable weapon on Melbourne’s Port Phillip, took out Hamilton Island Week one year, and was second in the 2008 Rolex Sydney Hobart, as well. Duende is a very well campaigned, former TP52 from the Mediterranean.

TP52 Cougar II - Rolex Sydney Hobart 2011

When you consider that Tony Cable is onboard, the man with the most Hobarts under his belt, you kind of have to pay attention. Strewth is another former TP52 with a string of great results throughout Asia-Pacific. They are joined by the very first TP, in Ffreefire 52, who brings a band of dedicated sailors from Hong Kong and Singapore to the event. The other pair to mention are the Cookson 50s, which are most notable for being the canting-keel variety. Jazz and Pretty Fly III deserve more than a mention, with the former being the exceptionally well-credentialed, Evolution Racing.

No discussion about the Rolex Sydney Hobart, or yachting in Australia for that matter, would be complete without talking with Syd Fischer. At 84 years of age and 42 Hobarts to his credit, he is testament to the adage that you either use it or lose it!

One of the souls joining Syd on board the former TP will be Tony Ellis, off to do his 45th jaunt South. Syd and Tony have done 38 together. 'The five America’s Cup campaigns interfered with it all a bit', said Syd. 'These types of vessels got first, second, third and fourth one year in the Hobart. If the weather suits, they’ll be lurking over the back of the leaders. We have one new sail for this campaign and range from me at 84 years, down to 21. The young blokes are smarter than they used to be years ago. The ones that want to try hard, will do so.'

Syd Fischer, owner of RAGAMUFFFIN, eighty-year old veteran of 40 races
Syd said, 'Our strength has to be that we are an all-round boat. We aim to be up there with them, but you have to be in the right place at the right time. It is a luck race. You really need that sea breeze at Tasman Island…' which is where you often reset the meter to go and have another crack at the opposition.

'With these new, lighter displacement vessels, the power to weight ratio is up. Ours goes upwind well, where as those TPs that are too full in the stern cannot go to windward too well. The Mediterranean boats are a bit like that, as they jam their stern in the water, as they go over the waves. I don’t worry about the Med Cup too much. I’m more in favour of the ORCi rule, as it’s a real rule where boats must comply and perform to that level. It uses the same measurements as IMS, but has different rules applying than IMS. I like it because it is all based in the measurements. We’re doing a normal campaign for the Rolex Sydney Hobart. We’ll do our best and we have the best crew I can muster. We’ll push boat and the people to a good limit. Making the right decisions is crucial in this race.'

So there you have it. If you’re ashore at Christmas time, keep your smart phone in your pocket, because this one will very much be worth watching as it plays out!

Read part one of the story

Rolex Sydney Hobart Yacht Race website