Rolex Sydney to Hobart Yacht Race - Queensland well represented

Rod Jones has assembled an impressive crew for Audi Sunshine Coast. - Rolex Sydney to Hobart 2013
Andrea Francolini
Rolex Sydney to Hobart Yacht Race gets underway in less than two days, on 26th December 2013. Queensland might like to claim Rolex Sydney Hobart Yacht race record holder and six-time line honours winner Wild Oats XI as its own since she flies the flag of Hamilton Island, but that honour goes to NSW.

Oats is a NSW yacht. Nevertheless, Queensland is again well represented in the race with leading contenders for both line honours and corrected time placings having made the delivery trip to the start.

Grant Wharington’s Wild Thing, out of Southport, is the flagship of the eight-strong Queensland fleet. Wharington is attempting to relive the glory days of the 2003 race when the Don Jones designed maxi, then two feet shorter and named Skandia Wild Thing, took line honours in a shoot-out with the New Zealand 98-footer Zana.

A year later she lost her keel when leading the fleet and the crew abandoned ship. Wharington recovered and rebuilt her and was threatening all kinds of retribution in last year’s Hobart race, but was prevented from starting because of incomplete paperwork. Now he is on the start line against Wild Oats XI, Perpetual LOYAL and Ragamuffin 100.

'This could be one of the best battles we have ever seen for the line honours,' says Wharington.

Peter Harburg’s Black Jack, out of the Royal Queensland Yacht Squadron, provides one half of this year’s most anticipated match race, between two Volvo 70s from the last Volvo Ocean Race (VOR). Black Jack is the former Telefonica, which won the first three legs of the VOR and ultimately finished fourth. She is up against Giacomo, the former Groupama 4 that won the VOR. Kiwi Jim Delegat now owns the boat.

Giacomo boasts a daunting crew that includes Rodney Keenan, Steve Cotton, Chris Dickson and top navigator Juan Vila. Black Jack (named after Harburg’s mate, Sir Jack Brabham) has an equally impressive line-up that includes America’s Cup yachtsman/sailmaker and former LOYAL and Alfa Romeo helmsman Mark Bradford, Olympian Anthony Nossiter and VOR Puma helmsman Ryan Godfrey.

Bill Wild is back with the Reichel Pugh 55, Wedgetail, with which he took line honours and finished second overall to Syd Fischer’s TP52 Ragamuffin in this year’s Pittwater to Coffs Harbour race. Wedgetail is the former Yendys and Wild was lucky enough to secure the services of Adrienne Cahalan, who in the past few years has navigated Wild Oats XI to many victories.

Under each name Wedgetail has been a high-performer in the Rolex Sydney Hobart, ninth across the line in 2010 and first in Division 1 in 2006.

Rod Jones’ Audi Sunshine Coast, a Welbourn 50, is a composite boat that he tweaked from the original design, but using the keel, rudder and deck from the delightfully named 1989 Farr 50 Heaven Can Wait. Audi Sunshine Coast won Division 1 of this year’s CYCA’s Sydney Gold Coast Yacht Race.

'I acquired it in late 2011 and have further modified it by the addition of a bowsprit so she flies asymmetric kites. Before, she flew only symmetrical kites,' Jones explains. 'And our winches use stored power.'

The crew is impressive. Jones is a two-time Audi IRC national champion, Matt Chew is a former Etchells world champion, Greg McAllansmith has a second and fourth at SB3 world championships, Sean O'Rourke is a national sabot champion and national open and junior match race champion, Brian Donovan is an Etchells national champion and Lucas Down a sabot national champion.

'So a good mixed team,' Jones understates.

Spirit of Mateship is one Queensland yacht that will attract a lot of attention during the race, both for the boat and crew. She is a Volvo 60, the former Southern Excellence and, before that, djuice Dragons that won the final leg of the 2001/2 VOR from Gothenburg to Kiel.

Skippered by seasoned Queensland yachtsman Russell McCart, Spirit of Mateship will be crewed by 10 servicemen injured in the war in Afghanistan. They are known as the ‘Brave Mates’ and raise money for the Mates4Mates charity.

Kerumba is a Ker 50, built in 2012 by McConaghy Yachts in China and making her visit foray to Hobart.

'This boat was designed to very specific requirements with a very complete bespoke interior, including a fireplace' owner Tam Faragher explains. 'The design incorporates an innovative lifting keel system that preserves interior space, a necessity for Moreton Bay.'

Faragher describes himself as 'boat owner, cheque book sharer and thanks his wife for not counting the zeros'. He did his first Hobart race in 2005 and was heard exclaiming to his wife on arrival, ‘never again’! He says he has even less cents/sense now.

The rest of the crew is fascinating.

'Surveyor Garry Essex has the contacts to realign the satellites if we need. Does this constitute outside assistance?' Faragher asks.

'Peter Fuller is a gym owner operator and in spite of his strict crew training regimen and perfect stature, did his first Hobart on all fours down below. After buying his own multihull and discovering some offshore medical supplies, he promises to help helm us to our own victory.

'Scott Williamson, bowman for 10 years, has finally discovered and adapted to life aft of the mast. Dry and warm, he can now hear what we’ve been yelling all these years. He’s confirmed there’s still no need to take any notice of what is said aft of the mast.'

Ray Sweeney's Mondo is one of five Sydney 38s and eight QLD entrants. - Rolex Sydney to Hobart 2013
Andrea Francolini

Ray Sweeney’s Mondo is a Sydney 38, one of five that will enjoy their own private race to Hobart. As they say, handicaps are irrelevant to Sydney 38s. They only have eyes for each other. Sweeney’s competition is Stephane Howarth’s Mille Sabords (Sandringham Yacht Club), TSA Management (Tony Levett, NSW), Zen (Gordon Ketelbey, NSW), and Audacious (Greg Clinnick, Vic).

Ocean Affinity (Stewart Lewis) is a Marten 49 that performs well in long distance races. She took line honours in the 2009 and 2010 Gosford to Lord Howe Island races, was second overall in 2011 and was placed seventh in IRC Division 2 in last year’s Rolex Sydney Hobart against tough competition.
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