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The Golden Rules of the Sydney to Hobart Yacht Race

by John Curnow, Editor, Sail-World AUS 25 Dec 2019 15:28 PST

Now in particular order, and not a complete set by any means, herewith is a list of the important aspects to remember when reviewing the way to tackle the Rolex Sydney Hobart Yacht Race.

1. He, or she, with the gold makes the rules - So if you don’t like it, step off!

2. In order to finish first, first you have to finish – Well yes. You say it as it is written, and you follow it immediately with ‘Derrrrr Braniac!’ However, it means getting everyone and everything there in working order. It is important because you need all your gear for the various conditions that may occur. You need all your people to share the load, and of course stay within the rules. So out of it all, prudence and foresight seem to be the criterion to have in your mind.

3. To win the Tattersall’s Cup you have to win your division. Huey will then decide which division is to reign supreme that year, so make sure you know who the opposition is, how they sail, and then choose whether you keep yourself between them and the mark, or let them have a mung bean flyer… (P.S. The way the maths works and relative speed of the TP52s when running means they are hard to beat when it is time to do a bit of hard running. If reaching, then 60plus seems to hold sway....)

4. I’ll tell you who won when they boats are all tied to the quay at Constitution Dock – Always easy then, so when all these reports start flying around with speculation this, and theorem that, just remember this adage.

5. The weather will be exactly what it is as you put your head out the companionway hatch. Never has a truer sentence been put together, so take all the intel, and then remember, it is what it is.

6. There are four starts – Sydney Harbour, Sydney Heads, Tasman Island and the Iron Pot. Yep. So the race is a set of races within itself, and no matter how well you did overnight, the opposition may come up beside you at the Iron Pot, and you’ll wonder what went on. Just remember, this is why you have sleep, even if it is on the rail.

7. Storm Bay is aptly named, but it can also deliver exactly the opposite. Could also be called Agony Bight, so just remember, it is over when you’re in the Customs House.

8. The River Derwent loves to close down at night. Darkness is not a good time to be trying to finish. Happens nearly every year, and there are always boats with tales of absolute woe. Several moons ago now I remember hearing a boat radio in that were passing the Iron Pot with an ETA of XYZ, which was around 2300. Something like barely five minutes later, the same boat raised back in to say they were passing the Iron Pot once more. Only this time it was backwards. So if it happens to you, you will have to find Patience, Prudence’s younger sister BTW, and suck it up.

9. It is a 628nm Windward/Leeward. That’s right, so be thankful if you do get to use the kite gear, for there have been many a Hobart where you wondered why it had been clipped on the rail in the first place.

10. The crew that works hardest at night will do best. It’s a little bit like finishing first above, only it is amazing to see how some crews really apply themselves when it is dark, and others shine. No marinas out there, just lots of blue stuff, so get to it.

11. You go out early and come in late. No. It is not a clubbers guide to Hobart, but rather a reference to the East Australia Current. It runs hard out off the coast of NSW, and in the bad old days you used a pool thermometer in a bucket to see if you were there. Where the transitions come, relative to where you are on the track is critical. Might be more sophisticated these days, but it is all still true enough. Funny too how one year you might be wide at the bottom of Tassie and think you have it stitched up, and then angle tightens and tightens as you get closer in. What is with that?

12. Computer generated ETAs are to be taken with a tablespoon of salt. Say no more…

13. WAGS and HABS now know exactly when you arrived, especially with today’s technology, so don’t forget to call before you head to the Customs House!

14. You’ll be able to buy cheap wet weather gear at the Customs House in the days after the arrivals, especially in the event of a bad blow. So do have cash, and Tassie now has ATMs, so it is even easier.

15. About every seven years you’re bound to have the complete proverbial kicked out of you. No. Scrap that. On reflection, this appears to be true for pre-2005 era, so we’ll leave that in the yet to be re-confirmed basket for now.

16. Actually another is that you always get a blow, it is just when it arrives, how serious it is, and for how long. This too would appear to be from another era, so we’ll place it in the to be pondered pile for now.

17. Change is a cornerstone of the weather in Australia at this time of year, so anything is possible.

So becoming a bit more serious now, and Number 18 is ‘one hand for you, and one for the boat.’ It is the quintessential remark about safety at sea. It is vital that you check your own gear, and just as importantly, check how it is being applied. In the marine environment it can all go to hell faster than you think.

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