Matt Allen, the Commodore of the Cruising Yacht Club of Australia, the organising club for the Rolex Sydney Hobart, has crossed the finish line in the Rolex Sydney Hobart at the helm of his modified Volvo 70 Ichi Ban. She crossed at 6:01pm this afternoon, the third boat to finish the race.
It has been a frustrating day for Allen and his crew. They were enjoying the best sailing of the race this morning ahead of a fresh northerly when a loud bang signaled the end of their bid for a podium spot. One of Ichi Ban’s twin rudders had snapped off.
'We had dropped a spinnaker in the water as a result of a halyard failure half an hour before it broke and the spinnaker underwater did hit the rudder, but we don’t think that would have caused the failure,' Allen said dockside.
'My view is something hit it. We heard a bang and thirty seconds later we saw the rudder float free behind the boat and that was it.'
Volvo 70s have a rudder on either side, and it was the port rudder that went. So, while the boat would continue to handle well on port tack, on starboard tack it would be very difficult to keep the remaining rudder in the water.
'We were nursing the boat to Tasman Island, from then on it didn’t matter too much as we learnt to balance the boat on one rudder. But coming up the Derwent it cost us quite a lot.' Allen figures the failure cost him around two hours all up.
Those two hours may have cost Ichi Ban her chance at a top three placing on handicap. When the rudder broke she was lying in third on corrected time, with the American STP65 Rosebud in the lead.
'Rosebud still had the legs on us but we were taking a lot of mileage out of her. We were fully pressured up, the keel was canted and we were off and running. We would have ended up 30 or 40 miles ahead of her, which would have given us a pretty good chance on corrected time,' Allen mused.
'Rosebud will be the benchmark, so if she does really well in the race we’ll be more disappointed.'
Ichi Ban’s final 11 miles up the Derwent River was a stop start affair with the hot land and cooler sea breeze battling mid river for pre-eminence.
After 624 nautical miles, the modified Volvo 70 with the busted rudder came to a complete stop just four miles from the finish, before a fresh 15 knot west nor’wester suddenly filled in. Amazingly she finished at 6.01pm this evening with a reefed main and a number four headsail. While Ichi Ban struggled in the river, Rosebud encountered its own zephyr a couple of miles from Iron Pot, the oldest original working lighthouse in Australia. With Tasmanian bowman Justin Clougher perched up the rig scouting for breeze, the US Farr STP65 finally picked up local '4pm sea breeze', the crew jumping to the rail for last 11 miles to the finish line.
Rosebud was the fourth to finish, at 7.02pm this evening.
When owner Roger Sturgeon was told he is the clubhouse leader (the boat others will have to beat), he was elated. 'Wow, that’s the first I’ve heard. There were a lot of things going on out there. We used every sail, and probably used up half of them.
'We saw one of everything except your famous 40 knots. Upwind, downwind, no wind, strong wind, planing, surfing….we had it all. We must have done a hundred sail changes, there was always something going on.'
Sturgeon hopes his success in his first Rolex Sydney Hobart will boost interest in the STP65 class. 'We proved that you can take these boats anywhere, and be top of the game. Hopefully when I come back, we’ll bring a lot of 65s with us. That would be a lot of fun.'
Skandia is the next boat due to finish, due later tonight.
The forecast for tomorrow Tasmania’s lower east coast is for northwest winds 10 to 20 knots, 25 knots offshore at first, tending southwest 15 to 25 knots during the afternoon