The 13 Victorian boats in this year’s Rolex Sydney Hobart Yacht Race have a great yarn in every locker and, while they may have no real line honours contenders given the forecast, they represent the real ethos of the race, with all its quirks.
Mille Sabords skippered by Stephanie Howarth - Morris Finance Sydney 38 Short Course Regatta 2013
For instance, there is Stephane Howarth, a woman born in Paris, brought up in Corsica and who today owns and skippers the Sydney 38 Mille Sabords out of the Sandringham Yacht Club.
Yet Stephane is not allowed to speak French on board her own boat, not even to Anne-Florence Planté, the other French woman on board who works the brace, does the log and doesn’t get sick. Surely, cursing in any language is the skipper’s prerogative?
Mille Sabords derives its name from a curse hurled by Capitaine Archibald Haddock at his enemies in the children’s comic book series The Adventures of Tintin. 'Mille sabords' means a thousand gunports, so the curse roughly translates as, 'I will sink you with the fire from my 1000 guns'.
Mille Sabords’ guns will be aimed squarely at the four other Sydney 38s in the Cruising Yacht Club of Australia’s annual race: TSA Management (Tony Levett, NSW), Zen (Gordon Ketelbey, NSW), Mondo (Ray Sweeney, Qld) and Audacious (Greg Clinnick, Vic). For the Sydney 38s there is only one race in the CYCA’s Rolex Sydney Hobart. That is against each other.
'Our slogan is One Design, One Passion,' says Greg Clinnick, 'so we are going to be match racing for four days totally oblivious of the maxis and the other speed machines. For us it is about bragging rights as the best 38 in the Rolex Sydney Hobart. There are no handicaps to be seen.'
Audacious has eight first-timers in the crew of 10, including three women doing their first big offshore race after completing the Melbourne to Portland Race and the Apollo Bay Race.
Audacious is a former Chutzpah, campaigned by Bruce Taylor.
Taylor is back in the race with the latest version. Chutzpahs over the years have had 10 divisional wins; overall a second, third, fourth and multiple top 10 places. The core crew has done nearly all their Hobarts together on Chutzpahs.
'We started out as one of the youngest crews 30 years ago and now are one of the oldest,' says Taylor.
The prize for the most implausible excuse for buying a new boat has to go to John Newbold on the Victorian boat Primitive Cool. Primitive Cool is the former Secret Mens Business 3.5 that won the Rolex Sydney Hobart Tattersall’s Cup in 2010 and was third in her division in this year’s Rolex Fastnet Race. The Reichel/Pugh 51 replaces Newbold’s old Farr 40.
This is my first Hobart following some success in Port Phillip Bay racing and ocean racing in ORCV events over the last two years,' Newbold says.
'We bought the new boat from Geoff Boettcher because we had to get to Hobart quicker than the Farr would have delivered us because my only daughter Aimee is getting married on New Year’s Eve.
'My wife believed my motives for the purchase for all of five minutes.'
Newbold’s story might have stood a greater test of time if the new boat had been Jazz Player. Jazz Player is the pink boat in the race, having joined with the Think Pink Foundation to raise awareness for their unique breast cancer patient support facility called The Living Centre, which the foundation wishes to expand nationwide.
This is Jazz Player’s fifth Rolex Sydney Hobart. Matt Lawrence, 23-year-old-son of owner Dr Andrew Lawrence, a well-known Melbourne radiologist, is the skipper.
Bacardi, the Petersen 44 known as the Bus because she competes so regularly in the Hobart race, is back. She has finished 27 times (skipper Martin Power claims it is 28), nevertheless a record for any boat in the race’s history. She was built to last in 1978; fibreglass 25mm thick and weighing 12 tonnes, twice as much as modern yachts. She needs 25-30 regular knots of wind, on the nose, to come into her own.
Power, a veteran of the 1998 and 1999 blows, looks forward to getting to Hobart to celebrate Bacardi’s 35th birthday.
Also in the Victorian contingent are Déjà Vu (Steven Carey), Geomatic (Adrian Lewis), Halcyon (Chris Tucker), Rush (John Paterson), Senna (Chris Manton), Tilting at Windmills (Andrew Roberts) and the highly-fancied Veloce (Phil Simpfendorfer).
Veloce is a 44ft cruiser/racer designed by Kiwi Greg Elliott and launched four years ago. She won the Melbourne to Hobart IRC division three years running, 2009-11, and won the 2011 King of the Derwent, both line honours and on corrected time. This year’s crew includes Australian former Hobart and Volvo 70 campaigners Noel (Nitro) Drennan and Ian (Barney) Walker.
Simpfendorfer expects a battle royale with a cluster of 40 to 46 footers, notably Celestial (Sam Haynes, NSW), Patrice (Tony Kirby, NSW), Midnight Rambler (Ed Psaltis, NSW) and Bruce Taylor’s Chutzpah.
It seems despite the usual NSW/Victorian rivalry, the Victorian boats keep coming back for more in the Rolex Sydney Hobart and for all the right reasons.