Koomooloo storming home

Wild Rose, the Farr 43 sailed by Sydney yachtsman Roger Hickman is safely tied up in Hobart, but her race is not yet over. Hickman has to wait until 2:02pm today to find out whether he has won Division E or been pipped at the post by the 1968 Hobart winner Ray White Koomooloo.

Hickman is no doubt used to a fingernail-biting wait to have victory confirmed. He has won two Rolex Sydney Hobarts overall, the first on the very same boat he sailed to Hobart this week. Then she was called Wild Oats and the year was 1993.

And the boat he is waiting for is another former Hobart winner, Ray White Koomooloo - the magnificent timber lady that is the oldest yacht in the fleet.

‘We had a great run down the Tasmanian coast, though we did get very patchy wind in Storm Bay which cost us time,’ Hickman said.

‘But when we tied up at 3:30 this morning we were sure we had enough time over Ray White Koomooloo to beat her.

‘Then 15 minutes later we heard on the radio she had reached Tasman Island - we couldn’t believe it.’

At her present speed Ray White Koomooloo has about an hour up her sleeve, so Hickman is becoming resigned to his fate. He hasn’t given up all hope though.

‘The wind is strong here in Hobart but it doesn’t seem to be getting past the Iron Pot,’ he said.

‘Three times we ran out of air in Storm Bay and the log showed zero, so if the same thing happens to Ray White Koomooloo you never know.’

There is pressure dockside but the Koomooloo guys are feeling it too. Mike Freebairn just reported to Sail-World. ‘We are currently beating up storm bay into 20 knots of NW.

‘Our time to beat Wild Rose is 2pm this afternoon and therefore Div E is the most closely fought division racing.

‘We still have 30nm to go and it will be close should the breeze fade or shift.

‘Last night was frustrating with the breeze dying and then slowly filling in from the West.

'We have missed the tide into the Derwent and must now battle that as well'.

It has been 30 years since Koomooloo last sailed up the Derwent for a Hobart Race and we are looking forward to celebrating her arrival!’

The two boats have been rivals all year. ‘We raced them eight times in the Hog’s Breath Race Week - we beat them five times, they beat us three,’ said Hickman.

It’s been a tough race for the slower boats this year Hickman described the weather as ferocious at times, particularly in the second half of the race after the big boats had reached Hobart and most of the fleet was still in Bass Strait.

‘We had a few ‘whoopsies ’,’ Hickman jokes.

At one stage the wheel came off in his hands while the boat was in full flight. Earlier, they had broken their spinnaker pole in the steep, confused seas of the New South Wales coast.

‘We just couldn’t steer her, just kept rounding up,’ he said.

‘Eventually we decided to stop pushing it and wait for things to get better.’

As well as the rivalry that has developed between the two boats, there is also a great deal of respect.

Hickman says that the Queensland crew of Ray White Koomooloo are terrific sailors, well worthy of a boat with such a distinguished history.

‘But there’s too much emphasis on winning these days,’ said Hickman.

‘The vagaries of the weather often decide who wins and who loses.

‘Ocean racing is really about friendship and camaraderie.’