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The elephant in the room

by John Curnow, Editor, Sail-World AUS 9 Aug 2020 15:00 PDT
The Persistence of Memory by Salvador Dali and sorry for the reflections in the glass... © John Curnow

Last year, in what seems like a long time ago, in a galaxy far, far away... Whoops wrong train of thought there. At any rate, time is a very different commodity now, almost Dali-esque, actually. What we're saying is that a week can be a long time in this new world order.

Now there is time before the next Hobart, but just what will that time bring? Think about it. You have the football finals as the precursor announcing Silly Season. Then there is the Melbourne Cup, and suddenly it's all on; the shops are mad, the streets even worse, and tempers are frayed far more than a headsail on a furler up in the tropics that has lost it's UV cover. Some of those very events could now be held in Queensland, or Western Australia...

No you say? Not the Hobart! Well just eight months ago this very issue was contemplated by all, after the cancelling of the SOLAS Big Boat Challenge due to the smoke caused by the worst bushfires seen in a lifetime. It was like Hmmm. When I went out that day I witnessed a Manly Ferry performing an all-astern emergency stop, because the tanker ahead of them was just realigning for a pass under the Coathanger. I can assure you that we heard all of this well before we actually saw any of it.

So apart from the obvious safety issues, there were a zillion logistical matters and then a whole bunch of commercial positions to ponder, like the live broadcast. Thankfully, none of it came to pass, but it did set about a lot of thinking and a lot of creation of plans B through F. Could you take the start offshore, for instance?

What we are talking about right here, right now, is the spectre of a plan. And for us Bondites that's not the Special Executive for Counter-intelligence, Terrorism, Revenge and Extortion, nor the massive Benetti of the same name. We are looking forward to this year's Hobart, but what if it just cannot be staged? Presently, the Tasmanians are very clear about just whom they'll let in, and the homeports for the largest squadrons of the armada are simply not part of that.

It is both quite paradoxical and interesting that at a time when there are precious few regattas, and international means you there, and us here, that the very globalness of the greater group is something that so many people have commented on to us. From David Schmidt in the USA to Richard Gladwell in NZL, bits of information pass rapidly around our group, especially with items like new builds, double-handed, and the AC, especially.

I spoke with our Managing Editor, Mark Jardine, in the UK directly about this. "Collaboration is certainly a key feature of what we do. Mainly via several Skype calls, themes are discussed and solidified. We have had an explosion of club sailing, which has been tremendous, and the general level of interest in our safe sport for everyone, no matter what age or skill level, has gone up accordingly."

"Obviously everyone in looking forward keenly to upcoming events, like the Hobart, and it will be bad if it does not happen, just as with Hamilton and Magnetic Island Race Weeks. However, there is a silver lining to every cloud, and certainly club racing is booming in Europe and the UK, especially in smaller craft, and of course, windsurfers too."

"The other wonderful element has been how many people have made contact via email or phone to show support for things we have written, and this very much includes the double-handed category, with a lot of high placed souls from France and the USA letting us know just how much they have appreciated the light being shown on this burgeoning sector", said Jardine in closing.

Now Mark has written a lot of Editorials over the last few months about the keeping it local aspect, and it was from this that I began to ponder Hobart alternatives, should the need arise. The NSW and QLD fleet (yes the latter is likely to have to self-quarantine on the way back home, as too would anyone form SA and WA) could go around Gabo Island and back, and thereby not breach any jurisdictional issues.

The Victorian crews could go around King Island and back, or for something a bit longer, Flinders and Clarke Islands, which depending on the prevailing weather conditions, would offer some seriously good rides across Bass Strait. As all three are Tasmanian jurisdictions people will have to work through some elements, and then there is say a mark off Port Campbell, or round Rodondo Island off Wilsons Promontory to look at if it is all too hard.

Of course for ages there were a lot of sailors who thought it should really be the Hobart to Sydney Race, given the prevailing weather conditions at that time of year, so perhaps Tasmanian entries not wishing to have to pay for mandatory hotel isolation on return could sail up to Flinders Island, wave at the Victorians going the other way, and then head home...

Now in Double Trouble we looked specifically at the double-handers, who will no doubt be ready to have a go at anything on offer. The quick 30s now mean you are sailing inside a weather system, not merely enduring it, as the old IORs that used to make up a lot of this section have to do.

This is going to make racing really interesting, for just as with Stan Honey taking Comanche off on her own mung bean flyer, we'll get a lot of tactical aspects to enjoy. OK, not to the same degree for sure, but the point remains...

Also brought out in Mark's editorial was the point about Optimal Polar auto-pilots and the more accessible course and angle kind of stuff that is more generally available at realistic prices. Debate will rage and people will probably just want to stay in whichever camp they presently belong to, but the future is now, and if you have got this far into this missive already, then you'll know that the deck has been reshuffled just now, and once more again very soon, then again, and again, etc. Now is not the time to be rearranging the deckchairs on the Titanic. Growth is growth and trends are trends.

Paris (Marseilles) 2024 lays a marker, and the next four Hobarts can help set the pace and shape for things to come. Ken Read said to me once that he'd love to do another, but the Christmas thing is a bit of a roadblock. As recent convert to double handing you wonder if it indeed could be enough to see him appear for 2021. As a potential Olympic Medal for a few countries, their pathways to 2024 are going to need to be worked out and Hobart could be a great annual part of gauging the field, once we get over this little speed hump. Just saying...

Right oh - there is plenty of information on the site for you to review when you can. Please avail yourself of it.

Now if your class or association is generating material, we can help you spread your word just by emailing us. Got this newsletter from a friend? Would you like your own copy next week? Just follow the instructions on our newsletter page. Whilst there, you can also register for other editions, like Powerboat-World.

Finally, thank you for keeping a weather eye on Sail-World. Your increased patronage and sensational, heartfelt comments have made our crew work even harder to bring you the best from all over the globe...

John Curnow
Editor, Sail-World AUS

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