After equalling the record of 44 Sydney to Hobart races and an intense, strategic race among the 10 strong Sydney 38 one design fleet in this years Rolex Sydney Hobart, 80 year old Victorian yachtsman Lou Abrahams today declared he would not compete again.
Abrahams, on board his latest Challenge, has equalled the late John Bennetto's record of 44 races and though he has said 'never again' before, this time there was a sense of inevitability.
'This year I was more a passenger than a participant. You're just too old to do things on deck. It makes it harder on the crew I think,' Abrahams said. 'As you become older you become less of an operator on the boat. That makes the passage seem even longer,' he said.
Abrahams said he did not do much on this trip. 'Not enough. Navigating, not much on the helm.' That meant staying down below, out of the way.
'I've enjoyed it. I've enjoyed the sailing. I'll miss it. A lot of sailing, a lot of friends, a lot of enjoyment. I'll probably be down here (Hobart) in any case next year.'
Abrahams said he would keep Challenge for inshore racing and also to train young people.
In this race, he saw his former boat, Another Challenge in the hands of the race's youngest skipper Chris Lewin, beat him across the finish line by 10 minutes.
Lewin took over Another Challenge from Abrahams in 2004 for its first campaign with Melbourne University students. Abrahams bought a new Sydney 38, the latest Challenge. 'I didn't think there was any difference. I just wanted to get young people into sailing,' he said.
This year's crew was a blend of uni students and sailors more used to sailing in the North Sea. Challenge and Another Challenge had raced fiercely against each other as well as the other eight Sydney 38s for three and half days since leaving Sydney on Boxing Day. They tracked each other as the race progressed.
Lewin said they sailed with Challenge throughout the first day until Abrahams changed spinnakers and took off. 'We learned our lesson,' he said.
Thirty miles north of Tasman Island they saw him again and the boats crossed. Lewin prepared to crash tack because they were on the disadvantaged port tack but Abrahams slipped through. They then match raced to Tasman.
'We got away from him across to Cape Raoul and into Storm Bay,' Lewin said. 'We got into the Derwent and he came back at us again. We found a bit of wind and got away.'
He said the competition between the 10 Sydney 38s has been close. 'At one stage, nine of the 10 were between Tasman and the Derwent, but Lou being Lou, he was the one we were watching.'
Bruce Foye's The Goat won the Sydney 38 division, crossing the line this morning nine minutes ahead of Zen, Gordon Ketelbey's Sydney 38 from the Middle Harbour Yacht Club.
At 10:30hrs this morning 46 yachts had crossed the finish line with another 33 due by New Year’s Eve.
Tony Cable, crewman on Phillip’s Foote Witchdoctor, due to finish later this afternoon, has also contested his record equalling 44th Rolex Sydney Hobart.