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Rolex Sydney Hobart Yacht Race – Christmas cheer

by John Curnow on 25 Dec 2012
Alex South keeps baby Lara Lewis more than amused. - Rolex Sydney Hobart Yacht Race John Curnow
Santa Claus and his Christmas cheer arrived at the Cruising Yacht Club of Australia to spread happiness amongst the four international crews competing in the 2012 Rolex Sydney Hobart Yacht Race.

And they needed some cheer for it was a pretty dreary day in old Sydney town, as the thunder bellowed and the rains rolled in, often with more than a decent vigour.


Nicole Browne first alerted Santa to this special stop on his busy tour of the globe back in 2004. A very obliging D.D McNicoll, the respected journalist from the Australian, stepped in to the big man’s shoes and did a marvellous job, ensuring that the many children around the club also got to experience the festive joy.

Assisting him in the Principal Elf role was Alex South, who is most famous as being the driver of the Skiff Chicks Racing, 18-Footer team. So it was not just about smiles, ringing of bells, holding babies and ho-ho-ho-ing. There were great treats to be presented. These included charts of the various species of shark to be found in Australia, fly swatters, chocolates, stuffed toy indigenous animals, face ‘war’ paint, bottle (read beer) opener, and possibly the most useful of all, an Aussie slang dictionary to assist them understand the unique habitat into which they have put themselves. We are lead to believe this includes a special section for that other unique dialect, Tasmanian.


First stop was Ambersail from Lithuania. Owner/skipper, Simonas Steponavicius, commented on how much they appreciated the gesture and gifts, ‘We hope to have a lot of this strong stuff, as we love it and it does suit the boat.’ Asked if this included beer, he said, ‘We are on a water diet as from today, so that will have to wait until Hobart. We are really looking forward to this race, as it is a dream for every sailor to do one. We have done a lot of the Northern hemisphere events, like the Rolex Fastnet and Middle Sea races, along with the New York Yacht Club’s Transatlantic race. This is our first time Downunder, where we’ve noticed everything is a bit opposite.’

It was then on to Gary Lewis’ impressively maintained Cookson 50, Akatea from New Zealand. On hand to greet Santa was Gary’s brother, Ross and his wife Jennifer and seeing Santa for her first time ever, was 6-month old baby daughter, Lara.


Santa then strode down the quay, greeting and chatting with all of the people on the way, as he got to the ANZAC/Franco crew on Peugeot Surfrider. They were all very relaxed and happy, with Santa receiving a wonderful welcome, full of great merriment.


Asking skipper, Nicolas Lunven, about the transitions in the weather, which will be a major feature of how each boat performs in the end, he said, ‘We will certainly be on the look out for these, as everything is not completely bedded down and can change in matter of a few hours over the course of the next few days.’

‘Just a few minutes ago I was looking at the various models from the routing software and I think it is really possible to do very well inside these transitions, relative to your opposition. Most of all I am most cautious of the Tasmanian wind shadow and it looks to be an interesting challenge for the last part of the race with not a lot of wind and many a change to be aware of.’

‘For the moment I do not have a favourite model and we’re certainly not locking ourselves in, just yet. Perhaps during the race one will appear to be more suitable.’


Finally, the super-cheerful Japanese crew of KLC Bengal7 had gathered for Santa back up at the clubhouse. They enjoyed every second of their gifts being presented, including demonstrations and explanations by those crewmembers who had worked it out. Their smiles were delightful and their commitment to the day evident by their hats and liberal use of tinsel to decorate everything and everyone.

Everyone is now enjoying their own Christmas cheer and then tomorrow the real games begin when the fleet heads South in readiness for New Years Eve celebrations in Hobart.





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