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An interview with Larry Green about Cailin Lomhara's participation in the 2019 Sydney Hobart Race

by David Schmidt 24 Dec 2019 08:00 PST December 26, 2019
Cailin Lomhara is a Bob Perry-designed Tayana 52 © Image courtesy of Larry Green/Cailin Lomhara collection

Few middle-distance races command the respect that the Rolex Sydney Hobart Yacht Race wields in international circles, both for its fierce, all-out big-boat competition, and for the heroic conditions that it’s 628 nautical miles regularly deliver. This may be a big reputation, but the “Sydney Hobart” has plenty of history to back this up, ranging from record-busting conditions to boat-busting—and, tragically, fatal—years that are the stuff of sailing lore.

But, when conditions are on in the right ways, race veterans are quick to say that the Sydney Hobart is one of the absolute best races in the world.

One of the challenges for North American sailors interested in competing in the event, aside from Bass Strait’s sometimes-massive waves and the downright-impressive offshore sailing skills regularly exhibited across the fleet, is the logistics of antipodean travel and vessel delivery. American-flagged yachts have won the race, both on corrected time (American Eagle in 1972, Kialoa III in 1977, and Rosebud in 2007) and line honors (Ondine in 1962, Ondine II in 1968, Kialoa II in 1971, American Eagle in 1972, Ondine III in 1974, Kialoa III in 1975 and 1977, Sayonara in 1995 and 1998, and Comanche in 2005), but pulling it all off isn’t simplified by geography or time zones.

I checked in with Larry Green, the owner and skipper of Cailin Lomhara (USA 61268) and the lone Yankee entry in the 2019 Rolex Sydney Hobart Race, via email, to learn more about his preparations and ambitions for this demanding offshore contest.

What was your impetus to travel DownUnder and compete in the Sydney-Hobart? The race is an absolute classic, of course, but so is the Fastnet, Bermuda or Transpac—what was it about the Sydney Hobart that inspired you?

Since we are in Australia on a portion of our cruise around the world, the Sydney Hobart was a natural for us. Way too far to the British Isles for the Fastnet, and the Transpac has never been especially interesting.

Years ago (1987) I sailed aboard a friend’s boat in the Marion-Bermuda Race and have sailed to Bermuda a few times on this boat.

Perhaps the most important point about Sydney Hobart is it is a real challenge. Weather systems are notoriously fickle, and it is nearly impossible to predict much in advance whether it will be a downwind sail or a bash to weather, or some combination producing a lovely ride.

It is not an especially long sail, only about 650 nautical miles, yet you travel through at least three distinct weather areas, coastal Australia, Bass Strait, coastal Tasmania and last, probably the most frustrating part of the race is the trek up the [River] Derwent to Hobart.

Back to your original question, the impetus to travel down under was simply it is on the way to wherever we may be going. We do not know where our travels will take us and are currently thinking after Australia maybe Indonesia.

How long have you had the boat, and what other big events have you done with it?

I had the boat built in 1999, she celebrated her 20th birthday this past May. She is not a custom-built boat, she is a highly customized and personalized Tayana 52, designed in the mid-eighties by Robert Perry and built in Taiwan.

A really good friend of mine owned a Tayana 52 in the late eighties and I really liked her looks, construction and sailing characteristics. When it came time in the late-nineties to look for the boat I would ultimately retire on, I kept coming back to this design. It was very easy and relatively inexpensive to set up the boat’s interior, exterior and rig the way I wanted it.

Though I have sailed this boat over 50,000 nautical miles, I can’t say there have any other “big events”, certainly nothing as famous as the Sydney Hobart. That is not to say there have not been some exciting times aboard, like when the drawbridge closed before we were completely through, or the transmission failed about 200 miles offshore and we had to sail to Savannah and get hooked to a tow while under sail near the mouth of the Savannah River.

Where does the boat’s name come from? Cailin Lomhara is Irish Gaelic for Precious Girl. My ex-wife had originally named the boat, and after a divorce the name was changed. I did not have a woman in my life at the time and have always adhered to the tradition that boats are feminine, thus she was my precious girl and named her accordingly.

And yes, went through the whole re naming ritual, just to be safe.

Can you tell us about your Sydney Hobart preparations? What, if any modifications did you have to do to the boat to get ready? Any new sails or other big investments?

The preparations for the Sydney Hobart are very extensive, both in terms of getting the boat up to the race-committee requirements as well as filling out (very efficiently, on line) lots and lots of forms.

Some of the larger investments have been in the area of either safety gear or getting the boat qualified for the race. Since this is not a racing boat or production boat used a lot in racing, I have to prove the actual stability of the boat, as built.

That is essentially proving what is the point of positive stability, or put another way at what point of heeling will the boat keep going and do a 360. In order to do that I first contacted the designer, Robert Perry and asked if he could supply 3D line drawings for the deck, hull, rig etc. He reminded me the original design was done before the advent of CAD, so the plans were all done by draftsmen in a single dimension; i.e. on a flat sheet of paper. He was very accommodating, and offered to have them converted to 3D CAD drawings.

We agreed on a price, then I spoke with an Australian Naval Architect familiar with the Sydney Hobart requirements. He, and one of his cohorts came to the boat, after I had unloaded about 1,000 pounds of loose, miscellaneous gear, and did an incline test and took detailed measurements of the freeboard. Those two items were probably the single largest investment in the race.

Next came the purchase of a new six-person liferaft. I had a perfectly good, less than three-year-old, four-person raft, but since the minimum crew requirement is six people, I needed a bigger raft. It seemed to be less expensive and less of a hassle than renting (and finding a place to stow) a second raft to supplement the old one.

I have always kept the boat up to date with electronics and safety gear, and as a circumnavigator sails are always treated with great care.

The only other large out of pocket expense will involve that 1,000 pounds of gear I had removed for the inclination test, along with the tender, outboard and our two cats. They all need to be shipped from Sydney to Hobart.

Has anyone onboard ever done the race before or will this be a first-time experience for all involved?

This race will be the first Sydney-Hobart for the entire crew.

Of the six people, my wife and I and three others joining us have made at least 1,000 mile passages on this boat together. One young woman joining us is a small-boat racing sailor who has an entirely different skill set than the rest of us.

What aspects of the race are you most looking forward to? The start? Bass Strait? The Organ Pipes?

How about the start and the finish!

With all the long-distance sailing I have done over the years, the one thing I am reasonably certain of is that once we start, conditions will continually change from our expectations.

What are your personal and team goals for this race?

My personal goal for the race is to win! However, recognizing we are likely the only live-aboard cruising boat [that’s racing] we are likely not as fast as those far more in contention to win.

I will be delighted if we finish the race in a respectable position. I will be happy if we simply finish the race in the time allotted.

What are your post-Hobart plans? Will you stick around Oz and do some cruising, or will you and the boat be headed back to North America?

Our plans following the race will be to cruise Tasman waters for a couple of months. From everything I have seen and read it is a beautiful place, with lots of fine anchorages and places to explore.

As for returning to North America, we have no plans to do that yet. This part of the south Pacific has more cruising grounds than we could possibly visit in a lifetime, even if we started at a much younger age.

The perfect part of what we are doing is we need make no particular plans. We think after Australia we will go to Indonesia, however we have about six months remaining on our Australian Visas, so that is almost too far for detailed planning. We are truly living the dream, and enjoying complete freedom to do as we wish.

We are in no hurry for it to end.

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