by John Curnow
Rolex Sydney Hobart Yacht Race - There has been a sailor’s adage that’s been around forever when it comes to this race, and that is that you go out early and come in late.
The CYCA pond with Peugeot Surfrider in the foreground. - Rolex Sydney Hobart Yacht Race
And no, it is not talking about Christmas night celebrations, either. Rather, it refers to heading offshore immediately upon passing South Head at Sydney and then coming in close to shore as you near the Southeast corner of Tasmania.
Historically, it has been proven to be more than true. Now no one likes to second guess the Bureau of Meteorology, least of all me, but I cannot help thinking that the way the weather is shaping up and with the amount of change and variance on offer, that 2012 may well be the year that this theory gets put to the test.
Time will tell, of course, and I’m not the only one who reckons the weather in this country has changed over time, especially in the last ten years or so. Ultimately, you get to another old favourite about this race and that is that it will blow in from the South at some point. The questions then become at what time and for how long. These will be answered before the fleet sets off on Boxing Day and so now is certainly not the time to pontificate about that.
Moving on then, Sunday was a great opportunity to meet some people who have made their choice to get involved in this iconic offshore event for the first time. Interestingly, they also represent a lot of the divisions are represented in this group, from old to new, fast to slow and so will provide yet more interesting observation as the big race pans out. Some were young, some were not as young and one even had a piece of metal around his neck. Silver to be precise.
Silver Medallist, Blair Tuke of New Zealand talks about his many sailing activities of late. - Rolex Sydney Hobart Yacht Race
That badge of honour belongs to London 49er Silver medallist, Blair Tuke, who is doing his first Sydney Hobart on board the New Zealand entry, Rikki, a Reichel-Pugh 42. ‘I did not commit to this until after the Olympics, but I have always dreamed about doing a Hobart, however I just had to keep the focus on the big event. The Olympics was the pinnacle of four years of work and now I’ve done some passagework and hope to get this to kick off an ocean racing career. We are still aiming for Rio, as there is a bit of impetus to even the score with our Australian training partners. We had a glamour run across the Tasman, so am now really inspired for the Hobart. Having said that, I am not sure watching all the video clips about the race was a good idea, but I am prepared for whatever may come and learn all that I can from the team.’
Clinton Evans is the Boat Nigel for Quest and he’s excited about going South with Bob Steele’s TP52, which is the overall winner from 2008. ‘Yes, I have been busy getting her ready and am looking forward to a downhill race. The top three or four TP52s, with the likes of Calm and Shogun will provide for a great tussle and we’re looking forward to the grand match. By the time we get there, the toll on the crew is expected to be very significant.’
‘We have new carbon rigging, new 3Di working sails, along with new kites, so now we’re not only reaching our targets, but going past them, so that is encouraging. Whereas, before the targets were kind of hard to get to. Many thanks to Bob for spending all that money to get us back in the mix.’
Clinton went on to add, ‘We have plenty of skill on board with likes of Tom ‘Mr Fix It’ Braidwood amongst us. There is also a Marine Electrician, three sailmakers and then Tom and I to fix anything that may go awry. I think Tom will get the diesel, as I am predominantly a rigger. In the end I am so looking forward to opening her right up downhill and see how she goes, as I have heard all the stories.’
On the left is Quest’s Clinton Evans and right is Owain Brady from Love and War. - Rolex Sydney Hobart Yacht Race
Of note elsewhere in the fleet is the 58 year-old rookie, Warwick Sherman. An effervescent chap, Sherman is taking his relatively new Jason Ker designed GTS43 to Hobart, which makes it a first for both of them. He said, ‘I’ve admired and watched the event get underway for a long time, so now I’m getting in to it and may get the bug or not, we’ll see! We have a terrific young crew and we’ve done a lot of races together as preparation, so they’ll be fine to look after the boat and keep us going quickly.’
Some of his crew, seven to be precise, come from the much acclaimed and ever-so-accomplished Tow Truck, with Anthony Paterson as Sailing Master. ‘Will Howard is on AFR Midnight Rambler, whereas Richard Howard is on Occasional Course Language Too with us, so bit of sibling rivalry always helps to stir the blood. There is 20 seconds an hour between the vessels under IRC rating, so we have to stay in touch and well and truly be in sight of them by the time it’s all said and done.’
‘The boat feels good and behaves well in the light, which is a little bit of a surprise. If it is all downhill, the Ed (Psaltis of AFR) will get away and then we have to work hard uphill, when we have a slight advantage that we need to capitalise on. We will work out whether to stay with them or play our own game’, Sherman added.
‘We’ve had some success over Winter and also offshore too. We’d like to take it to Celestial as well, and there is Chutzpah. Let’s get to Hobart and then see who’s either already tide up or still coming up behind’, Warwick finished with.
Another of the young guns making an entry to their career with this event is Owain Brady, who is on Love and War with Lindsay May, the man making his 40th consecutive run South in 2012.
‘Rather than me getting in to him about what to expect, I think he’s been in my ear more than me. I am really lucky to have the opportunity to learn so much from some very experienced people. I decided early on in Winter to do this and the boat is double my age. Phil Kurts is the other young gun on board and we’ll be busy no doubt with one of us on each watch to be up for’ard getting the jobs done as required.’
Adding an international flavour to it all are the representatives from New Zealand, Japan and Lithuania. Some also are amongst the firsts and not just as racers, but also as a country.
Specifically, this is Lithuania, who have brought Ambersail to our shores, one of the three Volvo 60s that will compete in 2012. They have done a lot of ocean events and keen to do all of the Rolex Offshore Series around the globe, and as such, the Sydney Hobart marks the nearing of the end of that particular milestone.
Simonas Steponavicius is the Skipper and he said, ‘This is one of those events you start dreaming about when you’re young. We’re delighted to be here for this legendary race, which is very competitive, tactical and technical. It is a challenge to get to Australia, as it is so far away for us, but we’ve here now and we do deliver her on her own hull wherever we go, which equates to an average of 20,000nm a year.’
The 18 person, all-Lithuanian crew are all first timers and comprise a mix of Olympic and older sailors.
Representing Japan is Yoshiko Murase and his crew on board KLC Bengal 7. - Rolex Sydney Hobart Yacht Race
Yoshiko Murase from Japan is another first timer, and commented, ‘This is a cherished dream that I have had since I started sailing 40 years ago and am so thrilled to be here finally. It was not easy to make it happen, but dreams are dreams, so you have to chase them. There is a lot of concern about the weather, so I think that is why there are not that many vessels that come from Japan.’ KLC Bengal 7 is the ninth to represent the Rising Sun.
The crew from Peugeot Surfrider after a training session. - Rolex Sydney Hobart Yacht Race
Sebastien Guyot is the head of the Australian/French entry that is utilising Paul Clitheroe’s Beneteau First 45, Balance, for the 2012 race. Some of the crew are expats living in Sydney and others are here for the first time and represent some of France’s very impressive sailing fraternity.
‘We are very amazed and impressed and like everyone here, it is a dream to participate, so we have to thank Paul very much for making it happen. We have definitely heard many a story about the wind, waves and all the conditions, so we think that with good preparation we can overcome the challenges.’
‘The partnership with Surfrider is about focussing on protecting the ocean and highlighting their beach cleaning activities. We have to be aware of how dumping plastic affects us all and certainly have to act to change it’, added Sebastien.
Peugeot Surfrider’s Nicolas Lunven. - Rolex Sydney Hobart Yacht Race
Nicolas Lunven is going to be the Skipper and is certainly an accomplished sailor in his own right. He said, ‘Everyone knows the French are keen on single handed and offshore racing too. Personally, I’m really happy to be here and continue the Surfrider work that we also do in France.’
New Zealand entry Akatea is a fixed keel Cookson 50, a type of vessel well and truly suited to the rigours of ocean racing. Father and son team, Gary and Wade Lewis, did a Hobart together with their previous vessel and decided after that to get something faster, hence the purchase of the new boat some 10 months ago.
Wade Lewis from new Zealand’s Akatea is keen to chase speed. - Rolex Sydney Hobart Yacht Race
‘There is a lot of preparation to be done and we’ve been at it for over three months, so it is great to be here and we’re really keen to be in the 50s having previously completed the race in a Ross 40. As part of our preparation we did the NZ IRC Nationals with Rikki (also a Hobart competitor this year) along with that really rough race to Noumea a few months ago. This time we also have four Australians on board, which we collected from research in the pub at Hamilton Island by our Quantum Sails representative. The local knowledge will be good.’
‘The Noumea race certainly taught us to fight with the TP52s and to keep going fast in the right direction. David Ward (13 previous runs) from Vengeance will be doing our Navigations and Greg Johnston (25) is on board with his 18 year old son who is doing his first. We have a total of five first timers coming with us’, said Wade.
So there it is. They’ve made their choice and now it is your turn to follow the coverage and see who can make the most of what Hughie, the God of Wind, delivers from December 26 onwards.
Occasional Course Language Too owner and skipper, Warwick Sherman. - Rolex Sydney Hobart Yacht Race
All the way from Lithuania is Ambersail - skipper Simona Steponavicius. - Rolex Sydney Hobart Yacht Race
Peugeot Surfrider’s Sebastien Guyot. - Rolex Sydney Hobart Yacht Race