by Jim Gale
The Rolex Syndey Hobart Yacht Race is set to start in just over a week and crews are busy preparing. There are some that might assume that if you want to hit a target at long range you might try a hi-powered rifle – to hit a 600-mile target - How about a cruise missile? But a blunderbuss?
The Four Kinsmans - Fred, George, Tony and Harry just prior to the 2010 Rolex Sydney Hobart.
Still, Tony Kinsman insists there is nothing short-range about his Blunderbuss. In fact, he has seven and a half thousand sea miles to prove it.
That is how many miles his Beneteau First 40 Blunderbuss has travelled since Tony and his three sons launched her a year ago, and by the time she is back in Brisbane via Hobart’s Constitution Dock after completing the Cruising Yacht Club of Australia’s Rolex Sydney Hobart, the mileage will be up over 9000 miles.
It’s a measure of just how committed Tony and his sons Fred (21), George (23) and Harry (26) are to an ocean racing adventure that began four years ago; one that has added a whole extra dimension to the traditional father/son relationship.
In the first few years, the family campaigned a Beneteau 40.7, also called Blunderbuss, including in the 2010 Rolex Sydney Hobart, the first time either father or sons had competed in the annual 628 nautical mile race.
'We didn’t do too well,' Tony concedes, 'We blew out a sail, that sort of thing, but we wanted to keep going and do better.'
So in 2011, Blunderbuss 1 made way for Blunderbuss 2, and a decided lift in the family’s competitive fortunes. The Farr designed Beneteau 40s rate very well and the Kinsman’s won their Club Championship this year, having won their division in last year’s Pittwater to Coffs Harbour Yacht Race.
And joining the winner’s circle hasn’t been the only benefit of trading up. 'She is a beautiful boat to sail,' Kinsman says of the F40, 'Markedly better than the 40.7 - especially downwind. She has a deeper rudder and is much more controllable.
'In the Brisbane Noumea race we had 35 knots downwind for more than 12 hours, but we were able to control her quite comfortably. We exceeded speeds of 20 knots at times - only momentarily as we surfed down a wave, true, but the spray from the bow comes over like a fan hitting the boom. In some other boats you would be very apprehensive,' he says.
Harry, George, Tony, Jane, Fred at the junction of the Gordon and Franklin Rivers when they circumnavigated Tasmania in Blunderbuss after the 2010 Rolex Sydney Hobart. Photo courtesy of the Kinsman family
Kinsman is a long-time passionate sailor, and exposed his kids to the contagion at an early age. As a youngster, he sailed Sabots and Fireballs, went ocean racing in his carefree 20’s and then settled back into off the beach dinghies and catamarans. Over the years, the family chartered yachts in Queensland and around the world.
Four years ago, with his oldest son Harry in his early 20s and the youngest, Fred putting his pimply teenage years behind him, Tony began to look at ocean racing again.
'This was always a father and sons project,' he acknowledges. 'Ocean racing appeals to younger people; they like the risks and they enjoy each other’s company. You go through phases when you bring up kids, but when you get through all that and they start to mature and mellow and develop relationships, it opens a window and we can take advantage of that.'
Yacht racing imposes its own schedules. You have to show up for race days, which are set down in concrete well in advance. For Kinsman, it beats random barbeques and a card on Christmas Day hands down. 'We all live in different places now, lead different lives, but it (Blunderbuss) brings us together - and we have a stronger relationship for that.'
'We will always do one of the larger races each Christmas; the Hobart in 2010 and this year - Coffs last year,' Kinsman says.
'We can’t do Hobart every year. For a Queensland boat it is a much larger project. You end up in Hobart and that’s a long way from Queensland. The crew delivers the boat as well, so it’s a bigger organisation and commitment of time that we can’t always make.'
Kinsman is confident they will do a lot better this year than in 2010. He and his crew have done a lot more sailing together and everyone on board has done long races so knows what to expect.
There is one comparative newcomer, Craig Blackwood, who came to ocean sailing late, in his late 30’s actually, when he helped bring Blunderbuss from Devonport to Sydney after the 2010 Rolex Sydney Hobart. 'It was his first time offshore and we got really thrown about a lot,' Tony says. 'I expected him to say never again, but he said ‘that was fantastic’ so he’s part of the crew.
Blunderbuss is one of six Beneteau 40s competing in this year’s Rolex Sydney Hobart, so he is looking forward to an intense race within the larger race. 'We’ll all be sailing in the same bit of water. We’ll be able to see each other; it’ll be a tough race,' he says.
The Farr designs rate very well in their divisions, so the leading Beneteau First 40 could well win the division, and even the race, as another F40, Two True (Andrew Saies) from South Australia did in 2009.
Blunderbuss gives some of the other Beneteau 40’s a bit on handicap, mostly because of the sail wardrobe Kinsman has chosen, but 'We’ve been sailing actively for 12 months and we’ve had our fair share of results,' he says confidently.
A Blunderbuss is, after all a weapon, not a description.
Rolex Sydney Hobart website