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2023 Rolex Sydney Hobart Race: Mistral has what it takes to win race

by Rupert Guinness/RSHYR Media 29 Dec 2023 19:44 PST 30 December 2023

Rupert Henry believes his two-handed boat, Mistral, can one day win the Rolex Sydney Hobart Yacht Race overall after he sailed the Lombard 34 to an impressive finish today.

Mistral, co-skippered by Henry and French based Australian, Jack Bouttell, was the first two-handed entry to finish the 628 nautical mile Cruising Yacht Club of Australia's race.

That performance currently has Mistral in an amazing sixth place overall and has all but assured her victory in division and a successful defence of the two-handed division win from last year. It is an astonishing result considering the race's conditions and the company it finished in.

Alive, an RP66, was confirmed as the overall winner shortly before Mistral finished. Behind Alive overall is URM Group, Moneypenny, the two maxis LawConnect and Andoo Comanche, currently followed by Mistral and the third 100-footer, Wild Thing 100.

Henry, who placed 29th overall last year, said, "I am surprised we did that well. I am really happy with that. Top 10 is great. It's pretty fine company."

Bouttell agreed: "Seeing the calibre of the fleet and how many boats, it's a really nice finish."

Asked if Mistral could one day win overall, Henry said: "It can win, for sure. That's our goal; but 24 hours before the start, the forecast didn't look like it was going to go our way.

"The race was pretty much true to forecast weather wise. It was slower than we would have liked. It was good sailing, demanding with the way the transitions were - there were several - and quite a strong breeze at times, a lot of upwind. It was a good sailor's race."

Asked about the first night when the fleet sailed into rain, thunderstorms and lightning, Henry said: "The first day and night was weird, with thunderstorm activity coming off the NSW coast. It made things interesting. We handled the cloud movements pretty well. We got becalmed a couple of times. The lighting was scary but we managed to keep moving.

"We were pleased with the way we went through that first 24, 36 hours. We had a good lead by the time we got to Green Cape, over 30 miles on the other double-handers, but then we parked for half a day. It was like a restart. Everyone regathered... then off we went."

The second half of the race threw up its challenges to Henry and Bouttell as well.

"There was a lot of upwind," said Henry. "We thought it was just a matter of pushing it hard, trying to get every ounce out of the boat, not stuffing everything up. Just keep building, rebuild the lead that we thought we'd got the first day and a half. Hopefully we did enough."

Henry said the third and last night was: "Freezing... pelting rain that damages your eyes." Bouttell concurred: "It was a pretty full on night. Especially at the end of a race."

This was Bouttell's fourth Sydney Hobart, having sailed on the Ker 46, Daguet 3, in 2019, the Cookson 50 UBox in 2016 and the RP78, Lupa of London in 2015.

However, this year was his first with Henry. While Bouttell had crewed with Henry in France beforehand, more recently he had sailed in the single-handed Figaro class or the bigger foiling IMOCA class.

"This was quite a quite a change," said Bouttell. "I haven't sailed on a little boat for a while.

"It was really nice, a very technical race course, big areas to get it wrong and not many areas to get it right. I was just trying to stay consistent, not make any race-ending issues.

"There was just always something to do. In double-handed, it's important to really talk through the strategy and tactics. You don't get too much rest.

"Each of us pushed when it was needed, and let the other one have a rest when it was needed. That was good. We got through that pretty well and had good communication."

For the full list of entries and more information about the race, visit rolexsydneyhobart.com.

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