Welcome to Sail-World's detailed coverage of the 2012 Rolex Sydney to Hobart. We have assembled our largest ever reporting team for this years event. With online technology getting better and better, we have lots of surprises for you in our coverage this year.
Reflections over the water at the CYCA with some of the quick vessels lying in waiting for the chance to speed. - Rolex Sydney Hobart Yacht Race
This 628 nautical mile race is considered the toughest bluewater ocean race, but in a lot of ways its like an icecream.
Yes, it can be likened to a tub of Australia's famous Peters Neapolitan ice cream. You get three flavours inside the one experience, you see.
There’s the start to the turning mark of South Head, the run down to Tasman Island and then the reset to get across Storm Bay and ultimately, up the Derwent River. And that all makes for Chocolate, Strawberry and Vanilla neatly arranged for you to then choose which you like the most.
For Skippers, crews and the all important Navigator, whether you end up with the chocolates, or just boiled lollies, is a function of where you are on the track, relative to the competition and how the weather pattern has played out across the vast spectrum of hull speeds inherent in a fleet of such varying hull types.
LtoR: Sam Haynes (Celestial), Matt Allen (Ichi Ban), Andrew Saies (Two True), Mike Broughton (Jazz), Lindsay May (Love and War), Ian Box (Toy Box), Jim Cooney (Brindabella). - Rolex Sydney Hobart Yacht Race
Now of course, Hughie, the God of Wind may choose to add all three scoops into a blender and give you a thick shake. That is his prerogative after all, and he’s no stranger to utilising it when he so deems.
However, it would seem some things never change. There were the traditional BBQs in the park and crews enjoying a lot of the spirit of the event and the season under the lovely afternoon Sydney sun that appeared over Rushcutters Bay on the Friday.
Master varnisher, Julio from Argentina, sets his culinary skills to the celebratory BBQ. - Rolex Sydney Hobart Yacht Race
Lars Runow from D&R Shipwrights said, 'We’re happy to be finishing early, as we usually go right up to the 24th. Everyone’s organised, so we’re thrilled to be able to finish up with Julio here making a grand feast for all.'
Now on December 26, a kite start seems to be likely in a moderate breeze, which is expected to be from the South. With that start, the races within the great race will also get underway. There’ll be the four 100 foot maxis, the minimaxis in the 60 to 70 foot range, the seven TP52s and then the 12 Beneteaus making the annual pilgrimage South. Interestingly, eight of these are First 40s and given that they have just had their inaugural National Championship, the RSHYR could well serve as a quasi Offshore Championship.
Currently, Day One looks to be on the nose before it clocks out to the Nor’east. It is expected that the vessels over 60 feet will make the most of this and get South before the breeze comes from that direction itself once more. This would seem to spell the end of the run for the smaller vessels, which will have a large deficit of nautical miles to make up. If this does pan out to be true, then the overall winner could well come from the likes of Blackjack, Loki or Ichi Ban. All of these boats are capable and the crews more than qualified to take out the coveted Tattersall’s Cup.
Lindsay May, who collects membership to that 40 Sydney Hobart races club upon completion of this, the 68th edition of Australia’s iconic offshore event, commented on the fact that the weather can change markedly, 'It is seven days out until this critical situation happens, so I remain confident that it could change a little bit yet. We’re all spread out over a large patch of water and what the leaders get is obviously a lot different to those at the back. I remember seeing a lot of boats parked at the bottom and more arriving as the weather brought them down.'
Now it was only a few years ago that the TP52s were all over the leaders and in a fight amongst themselves to see who would get the overall prize, but speaking with Matt Allen of Ichi Ban, he said, 'At this time, I don’t think they’ll be close enough after the run on the second day, so it definitely seems like it will be 60+feet that gets it. The weather pattern currently seems to make it less and less likely for the chance to win to move further back down the fleet in terms of size. It could even be one of the maxis that gets it.'
As mentioned, there are 12 Beneteaus competing this year, including former winner, Andrew Saies, with his First 40, Two True. 'We’re just concentrate on our divisional win, which just happens to be eight sister ships and you don’t always get that. We’re keen to win this as the unofficial Beneteau ocean championship, as there are some great crews sailing against us like Wicked. It’s a long race and you need to get there to be in the chance for anything. We’ll sail our race and the boat to its polars and if our division is not one of the front-runners, then so be it. To complete, to be safe and a divisional place are the three hallmarks of our campaigns.'
On other matters, Lindsay, who has three wins from his soon to be 40 consecutive Hobarts. He is the eleventh man to do so and the tenth still standing. He brings a special bonus in the form of the three wins from his career going back to 1973 and will be the only one in this most illustrious of clubs with that hallmark.
'It’s quite exciting and almost surprising. I did not set about this business with 40 in mind, even 20 or 30, but they sneak up on you and here we are. I can say that my bag is always packed with the checklist on top of that, so I am now very much looking forward to making 50. I’ll keep fit and see if I can continue to earn a spot each Boxing Day. After all, what else is there?'
For the 2012 event, Helsal 3 are honouring the recent passing of distinguished designer, Joe Adams. - Rolex Sydney Hobart Yacht Race
As usual, there is a good collection of vessels from elsewhere attending the race. There are four from overseas, representing Japan, New Zealand and Lithuania. Domestically, there are two from Western Australia, three from both of Tasmania and South Australia, nine from Queensland and 12 from Victoria.
Amongst all of the fleet, there are a number who will enjoy the following conditions and be praying that it arrives on time and then lasts for long enough to place them firmly in contention. They range from the Farr 55 Living Doll, on to Secret Men’s Business 3.5 who know how to win, thence on to the Cookson 50s Akatea and Jazz, the Rodgers 46 Celestial, which loves to reach and then the well-sailed and sprightly Elliott 44, Veloce.
Elsewhere in the middle of the fleet are two 40-footers to look out for once the breeze swings around. The Ker 40 AFR Midnight Rambler and Bruce Taylor’s Chutzpah will love the speed. Another vessel, John Muirhead’s Enchantress, may be just 36 feet long, but her crew extract each and every ounce from her under kite and more importantly, know how to do so at night. A couple of years ago, Enchantress screamed down the West coast of Tasmania to claim the triple crowns of IRC, Australian Measurement System and Performance Handicap System, in a truly emphatic display.
In the end, all you can say is there’ll be lots to watch for and dear old ‘Hughie’ will keep his cards close to his chest. Choose your flavour or mix them all up. No problem, for it all means the fun and games are well and truly still on to entertain us.
One of the eight Beneteau First 40s competing in the event, Brannew. - Rolex Sydney Hobart Yacht Race