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Sydney Hobart – I'll tell you who's won…

by John Curnow, Editor, Sail-World AUS 25 Dec 2021 14:05 PST
Who will take home the 2021 Rolex Sydney Hobart's most coveted prizes? © Andrea Francolini

…when all the boats are tied to the quay. It is one of the great truisms of the race that captures a nation, and for the 2021 edition it could well be played out in full.

Much has been made of the Southerly in the lead up to the event, but it would appear to be far from a buster, as such. Moons ago, you almost expected this sort of thing soon after the start, with the more severe stuff to greet you off the bottom of the New South Wales coast. It is where lines like, ‘Why did I bother clipping the kite gear to the rail?’ come from.

However, times change, technology advances, and now Line Honours is completed in one day and change, with the mighty Comanche setting 1:9:15:24. Incidentally, expect the supermaxis to be a couple of hours over two days this time. Whilst well short of a record, it does mean they will arrive up the River Derwent well before the sunlight goes, and the river goes to sleep for the night. All three Skippers have said they want all three vessels to be there at the same time, it is just I think they forgot to add with their craft in front.

Anyway, back to the beginning, and you can expect some Christmas lunches to be lost overboard, as there will be a nasty little seaway running, and the washing machine at the offshore turning marks is always a harbinger of good times ahead, as well.

Being on the nose means waterline length rules, so Black Jack, Scallywag, and Law Connect will look to maximise this, and are likely to head offshore to find a brisk East Australia Current that could be running South as hard as three knots. We’ll see if they come back in around Bateman’s bay to find the right-handed SW change. Yes, this will be a race for the Navigators, and likely to be just as crucial as when the great Stan Honey took Comanche halfway to new Zealand to find optimal conditions for the girl with the wide undercarriage.

Others will wonder whether experiencing potentially less aggressive wave action inshore will be worth it. None the less, all will have to nurse their boat and rig, and look after their crew. Rudder bearings could fail, always seem to in this kind of weather, and hopefully no one has any delamination issues to content with.

Some craft, like say two-time overall winner Quest are not only built for this, but suit a windward/leeward kind of affair. The Schmacher 54, Maritimo 11, is another with a kindlier hull form. One can’t help thinking that being on something like The Bus (Bacardi) would be the best, especially as the forty-somethings are going to be three and half to four and a bit days to get there. One thing is for sure. The flat bottom fliers will need to be conservative with rag options, and make sure the drivers don’t crash ‘em through too many waves. Speaking of rag, expect Black Jack to have a slab in early, as the R/P pencil does not need a lot of squirt to get a heel on, and there is no point dragging the fence through the water.

Transitions, or gear changes will remain another crucial component. You might have to go down early after the start, back up to maximise speed depending on where you are relative to the coast and the jumping off point for Tasmania, where you might need to go down again, before needing to go up again as you make your way down the Tasmanian coast. Did someone mention a sail change? Be a few souls sleeping in party pants, me thinks…

It is very likely to be quite light at the bottom, so getting there earlier is best, if you have the boat speed to do so. Going out early, and coming in late is another of the great Sydney Hobart truisms, but this time you may want to be in well early, because there’s not likely to be a lot to party with, and you could be distinctly isolated, too.

All of which brings us to yet another oft quoted line, thanks Dorothy Dix, and that is to win the race, first you have to win your division. The rest is entirely up to Huey. The bit you may be able to control will be crew work, helming, and just how much information the navigator and Tactician can ingest, in order to devise the best plan of attack. Good thing is, it would seem you’ll have at least a couple of nights to see if you can slip away from the opposition.

COVID has not hit the fleet as hard as it might have, nor the cancellation of flights due to staff having to isolate, and they are both worth celebrating the upside.

Stay safe, thanks for tuning into, and all the best for 2022.

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