Sailors from West Auckland have arrived in Sydney for this year’s Rolex Sydney Hobart Yacht Race aboard a boat named after a popular New Zealand TV show about a bunch of West Aucklanders.
Quintin Fowler’s Beneteau First 45, Outrageous Fortune, sailed in through Sydney Heads on Monday exactly a week after the only New Zealand entry in this year’s fleet of 93 cleared customs at Opua, north of Auckland, and set off across the Tasman. While at sea, Fowler, a self-confessed 'true blue westie' from Swanson celebrated his 51st birthday with the crew’s rousing rendition of ‘happy birthday’ and an afternoon happy hour. During the delivery they also experienced 50 knot winds and a busted Windex that had Fowler climbing to the top of the mast mid-ocean.
Lining up for the Rolex Sydney Hobart has been a long held dream for the owner/skipper who, like many of his countrymen, has tried to crack into the circle of crew who make the lucky final draft for the southern hemisphere’s greatest annual ocean race. He helped deliver the former maxi yacht Zana from New Zealand eight years ago hoping a berth would open up, but was sidelined.
With time ticking away Fowler decided prior to last year’s race, 'that’s it, I’ll bring my own boat,' he said yesterday at the Cruising Yacht Club of Australia after clearing his Cat 1 safety check list. All the boxes have been ticked and Outrageous Fortune is tickety boo and ready to take part in the 1pm Boxing Day start on Sydney Harbour when Fowler anticipates he and the crew will be 'feeling a little bit nervous and excited at the same time.'
On their start strategy he’s well aware of the huge logistical effort of bringing a boat across the Tasman Sea, and intends to be conservative. 'We will make sure we get a good start but won’t be too pushy. Having come all this way we don’t plan to be protested in the harbour.' At the end of this week the delivery crew of four will return to New Zealand and arrive back late December with the full race crew, just as the waterfront is really starting to hum.
Two of Outrageous Fortune’s eight crewmembers have previously started a Rolex Sydney Hobart and one completed the 628 nautical mile course. Local knowledge may be in short supply. However, when it comes time to tackle the famous stretch of water the crew has extensive offshore experience to draw from, including Auckland - Fiji and Auckland - Noumea races. Fowler says the ultimate would be the touted handicap win, but standing in his way is every other entry racing under IRC handicap and in particular, Darryl Hodgkinson’s sistership Victoire, which has the Midas touch.
Two other international entries, Jeffery Taylor’s Nemesis (USA) and Jacques Pelletier’s L’Ange de Milon (FRA) remained in Australia after contesting last year’s blue water classic and are readying for a follow up passage south. Rives Potts’ USA based McCurdy & Rhodes 48, Carina, is being delivered from the UK by Potts’ 26 year-old son and nephew and is due to arrive in Sydney mid-December. The two Hong Kong entries, Geoff Hill’s Strewth and Anthony Day’s Ffreefire 52 are already ensconced at the host club, the CYCA, while Alex Thomson’s Open 60, Hugo Boss, is currently on a ship and will be unloaded on Aussie shores early December. The Rolex Sydney Hobart fleet stands at 93 following the withdrawal of Chris Dawes’ Polaris of Belmont, James Cameron’s Midnight Rambler (1998 overall winning yacht) and David Cutcliffe’s Crossbow.
Entries close this Friday 2 December.
Rolex Sydney Hobart website