Please select your home edition
Coast Guard Foundation LEADERBOARD 1

Smoke on the water at Grinders Coffee SOLAS Big Boat Challenge

by Nic Douglass 9 Dec 2019 19:11 PST 10 December 2019
Smoke on the water during the Grinders Coffee SOLAS Big Boat Challenge © Andrea Francolini

For the first time in the 26-year-history of the Big Boat Challenge, the race has been abandoned due to safety concerns following the settling of thick smoke from the Australian bushfires over the Sydney basin and a serious lack of visibility.

"It was really suggested to us from harbour control that perhaps we shouldn't be racing" said Race Officer, Denis Thompson.

"The smoke haze has been in most of the morning - it's coming from bushfires north-west of here" a harsh reality of the situation at present for the Australian's currently under threat from the fires.

"The visibility here is pretty bad and as you can hear in the background the ferries have their fog horns going. We are concerned not only about the safety of the yachtsmen but also the safety of the spectators" he confirmed as Nic Douglass, Sailor Girl interviewed him under the code flag N over code flag A on the Cruising Yacht Club of Australia's start boat.

Now known as the Grinders Coffee SOLAS Big Boat Challenge, the race was set to have six entrants, including The Oatley Family's Wild Oats XI, 11-time-winner of the race, miraculously back after three weeks of repairs following the CYCA's Cabbage Tree Island Bluewater Pointscore Race in November.

"It's been a phenomenal effort from the team after the catastrophic failure" said skipper of Wild Oats XI, Mark Richards.

Peter Harburg's Black Jack was also set to compete, for the first time representing the Yacht Club de Monaco, and the only boat to have beaten Wild Oats XI on the harbour in the past ten years, in 2017 under current ownership, and in 2009 with owner Neville Crichton under former name Alfa Romeo.

"I think it's no secret that we've put a huge effort in this year, we've been going since we finished last year" said Mark Bradford, skipper of Black Jack. "We've done the most sailing out of everyone by a long distance, and we are hungry to go one better [in this year's Rolex Sydney Hobart]".

SHK Scallywag was going to be skippered by the owner Seng Huang Lee or "SH" today, with David Witt acting as tactician. This team are raring to go following an early retirement from last year's Rolex Sydney Hobart, and a massive overseas program including the Rolex Fastnet Race and the Transatlantic Race.

SHK Scallywag were also pumped to support SOLAS, "it's quite close to Scallywag's heart, and an opportunity to raise money and awareness" said David Witt.

Christian Beck's Juan K 100, InfoTrack was focussed on fun for today, with a number of corporate guests on board and a full focus also on raising money for the SOLAS Trust.

Naval Group the RP69, in recent history known as Moneypenny, was set to represent Australia and France once again this year with owner Sean Langman from the Noakes Group at the helm.

URM RP72, originally known as Neville Crichton's Shockwave arrived back in Australia in October for new owner Anthony Johnston and was set to race their first Grinders Coffee SOLAS Big Boat Challenge.

Despite the racing not going ahead, the total money raised today from auction bids was $10,654.11 to sail on the four maxis, which will add to over 1.76 million that has been raised for the SOLAS Trust since it was founded in 1999.

We know that all diehards were looking forward to seeing a re-match of the maxis, with all of their new modifications and in close quarters, while raising money for the CYCA's SOLAS Trust.

At least the coffee was good this morning - thank you Grinders!

Now we will just have to wait until Boxing Day to see how this will all unfold, but most importantly, our heart goes out to all of those directly affected by the bushfires in Australia. Thank you to all of the volunteers and the Rural Fire Service for all they are doing behind this smoke on the water.

Smoke on the water

We can't get this song out of our heads for some reason.......?

Thank you to Pantaenius Sail & Motor Yacht Insurance for their support of this broadcast and our adventures. We were considering not going out before the race was abandoned, simply because for Pantaenius, safety and managing risk is paramount.

We look forward to bringing you our "Every man, woman and boat" broadcast to celebrate the 75th Rolex Sydney Hobart.

For more adventures head to, or find Sailor Girl on Facebook, Twitter, or Instagram.

Related Articles

At the front of the fleet.
Handy position to be in. no matter whether it is icy pole sticks in a drain, or ocean racers at sea. Handy position to be in, no matter whether it is icy pole sticks in a drain, or Grand Prix boats out in the big blue. Since my last ditty, I noticed that three podiums in the one race were all powered by North Sails... Posted on 16 Jan
Mark Bradford on Grand Prix Sails
Black Jack's skipper explains some of the how and why of effective downwind sail combinations For many on the sailing scene who haven't raced on a grand prix offshore yacht, the types and configurations of sails set forward of the mast – particularly for downwind sailing – are something of a mystery. Posted on 8 Jan
Sydney Hobart, Magnus Olsson Prize, #TeamSeas
Read David Schmidt's first North American editorial of 2022! The Pacific Northwest might have been buried under snow and unseasonably cold temperatures over the holidays, but things were decidedly warmer in Australia with the annual Rolex Sydney Hobart Race. Posted on 4 Jan
Rolex Sydney Hobart Yacht Race: A full examination
The 76th edition delivered on the event's formidable reputation Without doubt, the 76th Rolex Sydney Hobart Yacht Race delivered on the event's formidable reputation. It was a race of two decidedly different halves. The first was a punishing test of physical endurance and perseverance. Posted on 2 Jan
Decision of International Jury on protest hearing
Ichi Ban remains the overall winner of the 2021 Rolex Sydney Hobart Yacht Race The Request to Reopen hearings in relation to protests by Ichi Ban versus Celestial and the Race Committee versus Celestial, was considered by the International Jury for the 2021 Rolex Sydney Hobart Yacht Race at the Royal Yacht Club of Tasmania today. Posted on 1 Jan
Sydney Hobart – Double Up to Double Down
He's been with us the whole way, and given a special insight into the new Two-Handed division. He's been with us the whole way, and given a special insight into the new Two-Handed division of the Hobart. Posted on 1 Jan
Sydney Hobart Day 7 Race Wrap
The biggest buzz on the dock has been on the pier where all the Two-Handers and final finishers are Without doubt the biggest buzz on the dock in the 2021 race has been on the pier where all the Two Handers and final finishers are berthed Posted on 1 Jan
Video - Azzurro after the Sydney Hobart race
The irrepressible Shane Kearns arrived in Hobart yesterday afternoon aboard the S&S 34 The irrepressible Shane Kearns and his redoubtable crew aboard the S&S 34 White Bay 6 Azzurro arrived in Hobart yesterday afternoon Posted on 1 Jan
Video - Speedwell after the Sydney Hobart race
Wendy Tuck and Campbell Geeves arrived in Hobart yesterday afternoon aboard Colin's Speedwell Wendy Tuck and Campbell Geeves arrived in Hobart yesterday afternoon aboard Colin Geeves' Beneteau 34.7 Speedwell. Posted on 1 Jan
Solveig brings 2021 Rolex Sydney Hobart to a close
The famous 71-year-old Halvorsen 36 crosses the finish line Solveig, the famous 71-year-old Halvorsen 36, designed, built and raced by the equally famous seafaring Halvorsen brothers in the early years, crossed the finish line of the RSHYR at 08:42.11am this morning to bring the CYCA's 2021 race to an end. Posted on 1 Jan
Lloyd Stevenson Catalyst 45 728x90px3 BOTTOMRooster 2020 - Impact BA - FOOTERDoyle Sails 2020 - Built for Adventure 728x90 BOTTOM