The Sydney-Hobart is a tough race.
Six hundred and twenty eight nautical miles across open ocean, demanding and sometimes extreme wind and sea conditions, cramped accommodation and no comforts. And if you are entering from Western Australia, you need to do the equivalent of four Hobarts, short-handed, just to get to the start line.
Two of WA’s three Hobart entrants departed Fremantle last week for the long delivery to Sydney. Trevor Taylor’s Marten 49 Optimus Prime, with the owner, his son Daniel and three other crew on board, battled headwinds to 'the corner' at Cape Leeuwin. However, rounding the Cape exposed the race-hardened racer-cruiser to the full force of the prevailing easterly breeze – thirty knots of it, right on the nose.
Three days later, Optimus Prime rounded Cape Leeuwin for the third time, having been forced to retreat a hundred miles back to Port Geographe for repairs to her torn mainsail. The repair required the damaged sail to be sent on a five hundred kilometre round trip by road to UK Halsey’s loft in Fremantle.
More strong easterlies, and a three day close-hauled dig into the Southern Ocean on port tack, followed by a shorter leg back towards Australia on starboard. One week out, plenty of stress, expense and discomfort – but net progress barely perceptible.
As Optimus Prime passed a hundred and ten miles south of Albany, fellow voyager Phil Childs’ Knee Deep, a Farr 49 which won the 1999 Hobart as Yendys, was making an unscheduled stopover in the southern town’s new marina. The intense easterlies and ragged seas had caused the yacht’s masthead wind instruments to detach, there was other minor damage and one of the six person delivery crew had 'had enough'. Albany is only ten percent of the journey to Sydney.
And the third WA entrant? The remarkable Jon Sanders, in his famous S&S 39 Perie Banou II. Now seventy two years of age, the record-breaking double and triple solo circumnavigator’s yacht is in Auckland for maintenance on the way home from the single-handed Cape Town to Rio race. A quick cruise across the Tasman then a dash down to Hobart with a crew – too easy.