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#rshyr – Ireland will be racing in the Rolex Sydney Hobart Yacht Race that marks its 70th edition this year, a momentous achievement for an offshore race that has become an international classic since its creation in 1945.

Ireland's Barry Hurley, who was part of a winning crew in October's Middle Sea Race is heading for the Cruising Yacht Club of Australia's Sydney Hobart Yacht Race. More details on the Irish entry in the race here.

Over the course of its proud history, the Rolex Sydney Hobart has paid homage to feats of bravery, extraordinary seamanship, speed and endeavour; has witnessed adversity and overcome tragedy; and has attracted a diverse cross-section of people to contest this nautical rite of passage. The race has been conquered by both 30-ft Corinthian-crewed boats and imperious, professionally-sailed 100-ft Maxi yachts.

Rolex has sponsored the competition since 2002, an integral part of its triumvirate of 600-nm offshore classics also comprising the United Kingdom's Rolex Fastnet Race (first run in 1925) and the Rolex Middle Sea Race (dating back to 1968). The values of adventure, courage, determination, discovery and sportsmanship set these offshore races apart from other yacht-racing events, and reflect a rigorous sporting ethos with which Rolex is privileged to be associated.

Make a race of it

The original idea of sailing from Sydney to Hobart, Tasmania, was launched by members of the Cruising Yacht Club of Australia (CYCA) shortly after its creation in 1944. Originally planned as a cruise, history recounts that John Illingworth, a British Navy officer residing in Sydney who had competed in the Fastnet in 1937, only agreed to take part if the other participants would "make a race of it", which they did. Nine yachts – ranging from 30 to 63-ft – took part in that first race.

Compared to the sophisticated, high-tech equipment and information systems available to the crews in 2014, 1945 was a vastly different era: in the post-war years, materials were scarce and rudimentary. Safety measures were minimal by today's standards, navigation was by sextant and compass, some crews did not possess functioning radios and therefore remained ignorant of weather reports and storm warnings.

When Illingworth's yacht Rani arrived in Hobart on the evening of 1 January 1946, her crew had no idea of her position in relation to the rest of the fleet. Assuming his boat was last to arrive, Illingworth was astounded to learn that his boat, the second smallest yacht in the fleet, had beaten the competition as fastest finisher. Rani also proved to be the race's overall winner. As the first recipients of the prestigious Tattersall's Cup, both Illingworth and Rani have become two of the event's legendary characters.

Tales from that heroic, almost curious, first race inspired others to take part. It fast became a tradition and has taken place between Christmas and New Year every year since.

Challenging, compelling

Seventy years on, many of the values instilled by the race's founders are still prominent; the sense of adventure, the Corinthian spirit, the camaraderie, dedication, respect for the elements and the competition. Many of the values prevalent in offshore racing form part of Rolex's ethos and explain its close association with this component of the sport.

A sense of adventure and a determination to be the best have been integral to the history of Rolex. In 1926, Rolex invented the Rolex Oyster, the world's first waterproof wristwatch. To prove his invention, Rolex founder Hans Wilsdorf equipped Mercedes Gleitze with an Oyster when she swam the English Channel a year later. The Rolex watch emerged from more than 10 hours in the water in perfect working order. Through their robustness, reliability, precision and functions, Rolex watches are tools of human achievement. They have endured climbing the world's highest mountain (Everest, 1953) and greatest ocean depth (Challenger Deep, 1960). They offer freedom from many constraints, allowing attention to focus on the main objective and the obstacles to be overcome, all the while aware of the vital notion of time.

Overcoming challenges and pushing boundaries explain part of the Rolex Sydney Hobart's status as a classic. For most crews, the chances of winning are extremely low. The attraction lies in the many unknowns of racing 628 nautical miles, the exhilaration and the sense of accomplishment at the finish. The race has earned a fearsome reputation, justified by the route touching some of the toughest open waters on the planet. In 1998, a severe storm, similar in strength to a low-class hurricane, led to the sinking of five yachts and the deaths of six sailors in the Bass Strait. The response of the organizers was proactive: new safety measures and regulations were introduced immediately after the disaster.

Briton Mike Broughton, a regular competitor and highly experienced navigator, whose first encounter with offshore racing was the infamous 1979 Fastnet Race, has observed many finishes over the years: "There's a look in people's eyes when they get to Hobart; quite often it is bloodshot and tired, but there is an elation at having done the race. It means a great deal, a huge amount."

Competitors are drawn to the raw nature of testing themselves against the elements. The mix of hard physical challenges is well documented, and for some sailors there is fear to overcome; something Broughton is adept at explaining: "We start in Sydney where it is lovely and sunny, 26 degrees, and we're going on a yacht race. But, you turn right [south] out of the Heads [the exit from Sydney Harbour, giving onto open sea] and often on the first night you are straight into a southerly bringing much colder winds from Antarctica and the sea state can be pretty brutal. Fear is not something you want to talk about. It is kept in the back of your mind, but it is one of the challenges of this race."

Drawn to compete

The great names and characters who have competed have helped fuel interest and the legend. Throughout the years the race has attracted politicians, business tycoons, sporting legends and, naturally, the cream of sailing talent. Notable recipients of the Tattersall's Cup include British statesman Sir Edward Heath with Morning Cloud in 1969, media mogul Ted Turner and American Eagle in 1972 and American sailing stalwart John Kilroy and Kialoa II in 1977.

The first boat to finish the Rolex Sydney Hobart always receives a rapturous welcome in Hobart. Line honours winners have included famous participants like American business giant Larry Ellison with Sayonara in 1995 and 1998, French sailing legend Eric Tabarly and Pen Duick II in 1967, and German entrepreneur Hasso Plattner and Morning Glory in 1996. Over the past decade, the contest has been dominated by Australian wine producer Bob Oatley's Wild Oats XI, a 100-ft Maxi which has twice broken the race record and claimed seven line honours titles in the process.

Worldwide attention

In Australia, one of the world's most sport-conscious nations, the Rolex Sydney Hobart has carved out for itself a permanent place in the calendar of unmissable events. In Sydney itself, the start of the race draws crowds to the harbour during the height of summer and the end-of-year festivities. Its annual start the day after Christmas, the ever-growing folklore, the spectacle: all have an impact and the result is dramatic. "It would not be the same growing up in Australia not watching the Boxing Day Test [cricket match] followed by the start of the Rolex Sydney Hobart, one of the great sailing challenges," says Phil Waugh, the Australian rugby union star and crew member of the first boat to finish the 2011 Rolex Sydney Hobart.

Hundreds of thousands of people pack the foreshore and Sydney Harbour is congested with big boats, little boats, kayaks, dinghies. Everyone in Sydney who can get on the water does so, the rest watch from shore or join the international television audience. No other sailing event in the world commands such avid attention, bringing a nation to near standstill for an hour.

It is a remarkable fact that start and finish are both regarded as something to witness; something you would tell your friends: 'I was there'. Few sailing events in the world can truly claim to cross the boundary between niche sport and major attraction. In 2011, when the first two yachts to finish were separated by three minutes, 10,000 spectators were estimated to be on the dock in festive Hobart captivated by the moment.

Human endeavour

"The greatest lesson this race can teach you is humility. It doesn't matter what background you come from, what wealth you have or don't have, the sea doesn't discriminate. It's the purest thing a human can do: be propelled by the sea and wind to reach a destination," says Sean Langman who has competed in the race over 20 times.

Non-sailors may find it difficult to understand the intricacies of yacht racing and the handicap system that means the first to finish is not necessarily the winner. What they do comprehend is enterprise, courage and adventure. The element of personal challenge that inhabits this race plays a full part in attracting wider appreciation. "I keep coming back because I love the race: I love the challenge, the preparation, and I love the battle against the ocean and the battle against the other yachts. My grandfather sailed this race, my father sailed this race, it has passed down through generations. I feel like I am part of it – I hope later in my life my son will do it too," says Peter Merrington, who has finished the Rolex Sydney Hobart over ten times.

It is a challenge which has endured and enticed for 70 years and will continue to do so. Like climbing Everest or diving to the world's deepest point, the Rolex Sydney Hobart is a true test of human endeavour.

The 2014 Rolex Sydney Hobart commences at 13:00 AEDT on Friday 26 December.

Published in Sydney to Hobart
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#rshyr –  This will be my third year in a row racing 'Breakthrough' (a First 40) in the Rolex Sydney Hobart Race writes offshore sailor Barry Hurley, Afloat's October Sailor of the Month. 'Breakthrough' is a Sydney based boat owned and skippered by Mathew Vadas. He sails it with a local crew for much of the year, but I work with him remotely all year round in preparation for the Race. Come December, I normally bring some European sailors South for the event to complement the skillset of the regular crew based on experiences throughout the year. It's an arangement that works well for everybody.

Following the very stormy race last year and a busy local season, much of the boat's sail wardrobe was reaching end of life, so for this years campaign we have had the opportunity to plan a new sail inventory from scratch. We started working on this last January while last years race was fresh in our minds. By now many of the new sails have arrived and the boat is sailing regularly to gather data in different conditions which we can use to tweak the design of the last few sails in the coming weeks. We have also upgraded the standing rigging and headsail foil to reduce weight and windage up high since the majority of the competition in our class all have carbon masts and we used to suffer in heavier airs as a result. Right now we're going through all the iteratons to make sure that all the changes made actually work together, and that we haven't introduced any unexpectded weaknesses in varying conditions. So far so good though, and the boat seems to be responding as expected.

Sometimes it's the tiny little things that count however. Last year during the tough condtions crossing the Bass Straits we discovered that when the hull flexed in one particular manner it would somehow cause several of the lockers down below to open and eject their contents all over the boat. It didn't really slow us down, but it made a lot of unnessary work tidying and cleaning the inside of the boat, which was no easy task in itself in those conditions. It was a distraction, and could have caused somebody to slip and hurt themselves. Needless to say the locker catches have now all been made stormproof. My experience has taught me that it's this sort of attention to detail in boat prep that makes all the difference in an offshore race, but often the weaknesses don't show themselves until the boat gets pushed beyond it's normal routine. After crossing the Bass Strait four times on this boat we're only just getting to the stage where we feel like we're ready and fully prepared to keep pushing hard in every eventuality.


Breakthrough racing upwind in the Tasman Sea.  The Tasman River and the tide play a huge role, tactics change by the hour. Photo: Rolex

Apart from the final selections which are still coming together, it is looking like three of the crew will have done two prior iterations of the race with me, and another three have completed the race once with me before now. Continuity of crew helps immensely, and just like with the boat it's only after sailing many hard miles that you really appreciate and understand everybody's individual strengths. Myself and my good friend, Ben Hunter (Australia), will manage tactics and navigation between us. Ben sails the boat regularly and is invaluable in providing feedback during the year as well as organising all the logistics of modifications as our plans evolve. The two watches will be led by Adam Carpenter (Australia) and Kenny Rumball (Dublin), both of whom are extremely talented, experienced sailors, each with the right attitude to lead a watch and keep pressing the boat through the more difficult times. One unusual aspect of this race is the enormous amount of HF radio communications mandated by the race organisers. Catherine Halpin (Dublin) will distil hours of mandatory fleet radio chatter at the chart table into a few snippets of information that can help drive tactical decisions. She will also stand watch as a bowman opposite race veteran Tom Guy (Australia). With myself, Kenny, and Adam doing most of the driving, owner Mathew Vadas will concentrate on sail trim for one watch, opposite Alexander Rumball (Dublin).

Many of the tactical decisions for the race can be made during the week in advance, with the East Australian Current (of 'Finding Nemo' fame) quite well computer modelled, and the Southern Ocean weather systems excellently forecast. This makes life easier because your inital preferred route need only be impacted by the actions of your competitors and the need for defence or offence. That said, rounding Tasman Island where the weather is volatile, the Tasman River and the tide play a huge role, and the preferred tactics change by the hour. The last day of the race, sailing up that river is often the most tactically challenging, just when physical and mental strength are running low. It is also where the race is regularly won and lost. By now I have several cheat sheets prepared and laminated, reminding me from previous experiences what to expect and where losses and gains could happen at each state of the tide on the way up the river. This makes decisions easier and quicker allowing us to keep pushing for boatspeed and concentrating on our performance againt the boats around us. I like to think that I've figured out the fast way up the river by now, but history shows that the race often comes down to a little bit of luck with the weather over that last fifty miles. It is a piece of water that throws something new at you every time you sail it, and it's never an easy day on the water.

With Mathew being in his 70th year this year, as well as it being the 70th Rolex Sydney Hobart Race, a safe arrival in Hobart will mark one of our primary goals being acheived. Having improved our performance each year to date with this boat, and having taken massive learnings each time, it's fair to say we hope to at least cause worry to those on the leaderboard in our IRC class. Due to its almost straight line trajectory, this race can sometimes favour boats at either end of the rating spectrum. Being one of the smaller boats at just 40ft, our position in the overall standings will be somewhat a result of the weather patterns during that particular week, whereas our placing within our class will be a true measure of success.

Hopefully after so much prep work in advance and the careful combination of experienced crew ready to push everything to the limit, we can hold our heads high in Hobart, priveledged to have enjoyed another classic offshore race in great company. The afterparty in Hobart on New Year's Eve will more than compensate for any hardship experienced along the way.


Breakthrough arrives in Hobart. Photo: Carlo Borlenghi/Rolex

Published in Sydney to Hobart

#sydneyhobart – Ireland's Barry Hurley, who was part of a winning crew in last month's Middle Sea Race is heading next for The Cruising Yacht Club of Australia's 2014 Rolex Sydney Hobart Yacht Race. The 70th edition is bringing new, old, large and small together for the start on St. Stephen's Day.

Due to the large number and sheer size of some yachts, there will be three start lines this year. The last time numbers topped 100 was in 2004, when 116 boats started, though just 59 finished, the rest unable to withstand the punishing weather of the 60th race.

Sailing with Hurley, who was first in class one in IRC and ORC in the Med, will be INSS's Kenny Rumball along with some other Irish offshore crews on an Australian entry.

Five super maxis, 10 international entries, previous overall and line honours winners, old timers, record breaking boats and people - and the faithful.

One cannot go past two-time treble crown winner and reigning record holder and line honours champion, Wild Oats XI owned by Bob Oatley and skippered by Mark Richards, for line honours. In 2013 they won a protracted battle with Anthony Bell's Perpetual Loyal (former Rambler), allegedly the fastest super maxi in the world.

The two are constantly evolving, undergoing further modifications during the year. Their owners have recruited crews strewn with yachting identities and they will need everything they can muster to take on the other 100 footers in the frame.

Syd Fischer's new Ragamuffin 100. The modified deck of his previous yacht (it took line honours in 2011 under Anthony Bell's ownership) has received a new water ballasted hull. A canting keel completes the picture. Fischer, 87, will tick off his 46th Hobart this year.

Jim and Kristy Hinze Clark's new Comanche (USA) illustrates the latest technology and is the most talked about boat in the fleet. A second American entry is RIO 100 (previously Lahana). Purchased by Manouch Moshayedi, he has lengthened her to 100 feet.

Published in Sydney to Hobart
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#boatsforsale– The mini Maxi Loki in which Dublin Sailor Gordon Maguire won the 2011 Rolex Sydney-Hobart Race, a high point in his career as a leading international professional sailor based in Australia, is now for sale.  

Loki is a high performance racing yacht that has been professionally maintained and has a proven offshore and inshore track record. The advert for Loki is attached below.

The offshore pedigree of this yacht is second to none and offers a turn-key solution that will allow her new owner to compete to a high level in
both inshore and offshore regattas anywhere in the world.

The recent significant drop in the Australian Dollar makes Loki even more attractive especially when yacht designers Reichel Pugh say they have a motivated seller and all offers are to be considered.

No expense was spared in the build and upkeep of LOKI. Certainly one can build a new Mini Maxi design at a cost of three times LOKI's sale price and still not be guaranteed to win the next Sydney-Hobart, Bermuda Race or Fastnet, something that LOKI is well capable of, say Reichel Pugh.

Outfitted with a superb rig, sails and hardware, all LOKI needs is a new owner and team who want to Win Blue Water Classics or Inshore Races. Round Ireland anyone?

Published in Boat Sales

#rshyr – Royal St George Yacht Club offshore sailor Jerry Collins is no stranger to offshore racing having participated in four Fastnet races, two of which were on Sigma 38, Persistance. The Dubliner has also completed five Round Ireland Races, and is a three times Class winner in the Sigma Class on Persistance in 2008, 2010 and 2012 so it was easy to see why – having retired from the race in 2012 – the call of Australia's Sydney-Hobart race was hard to refuse this Christmas. Here Collin's describes the race onboard the Farr 40 Primitive Cool

In 2012 our RI bowman was Australian Matt Fahey (whose father is former Prime Minister of New South Wales and presently Chairman of the International Drugs in Sport Monitoring Body). Matt's grandparents were from Galway. Matt then invited me to do the 2012 Sydney Hobart on a Farr 40 which he was skippering/managing in Melbourne for the owner, John Newbold.
I did the Sydney Hobart in 2012 on the Farr 40, named Primitive Cool, as helm and navigator.

Three days into the race, having led our class by 14 miles at one stage, we suffered significant rig damage and were obliged to retire from the race and motor sail back to Eden , lest we lose the mast and rig and as the owner John Newbold was not on board, retiring was deemed the prudent, if unpalatable decision to make.

By the time 2013 rolled around it was decided to do the race again...we just had to finish what we had started !

Just 2 months before the race start on Stephens Day, John Newbold made the very bold decision to replace the Farr 40 with the new 'Primitive Cool', namely the old 'Secret Mens Business', a Reichal Pugh 51.

So, Primitive Cool, now with a crew of 15, 11 Aussies, 2 Brits, 1 Norwegian and 1 Paddy (myself), started the race with the primary objective of finishing the race this time, in view of last year's retirement.

It was clear in the first few hours, even in 5-10 knots of breeze that we would be competitive in our class and perhaps even overall. The first 24 hours was more or less a beat in 5-10/15 knots. The second day was mostly a reach in increasing wind strengths of up to 25 plus knots.( They say in Australia that they do not take down spinnakers until God actually takes them down and then they just put up a smaller one!)


Jerry Collins in Hobart

The last (3rd day) 24 hours was very much a beat in gale/storm force winds averaging 37/38 knots and gusting up to 58 knots. These conditions did not come as a surprise to us as they had been predicted very accurately by the Australian BOM (Bureau of Meteorology )in the days before the race start, to come in from S/SW as we beat down the Tasmanian coast.
In view of the horrendous conditions prevailing over the last 12 hours, Primitive Cool sailed in the lee of Tasmania to seek some degree of shelter. At the end of the day this however cost us 2/3 hours at a crucial time which may have prevented us from attaining a podium place by a relatively small margin, after 3 days plus of hard boot to the floor racing.

Ultimately Primitive Cool finished 4th on IRC in Class 1 (21 boats in class) and 15th overall ( 94 boats starting)...a great result in all the circumstances particularly when we were competing against mostly much much larger, faster boats crewed for the most part by full professional crews.

Now, if only we could transport Primitive Cool to Wicklow for the Round Ireland next June!

Published in Sydney to Hobart
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#rshyr – Around Sydney and the clubhouse of the Cruising Yacht Club of Australia, he's Dr Darryl, the living breathing embodiment of modern Australia writes WM Nixon. In a country moving on very rapidly from rough blokedom to smooth hyper-affluence, this man is the new world. Even when still a bit wind-blown and battered on the Derwent quayside after a rugged Sydney-Hobart Race, he still looks as though he has been sent out by Central Casting to play the role of a thoughtful plastic surgeon, which just happens to have been the career choice of Dr Darryl Hodginson.

Having made a success of that, he chose to go offshore racing. And he did so to such good effect that in 2011 he was Rookie of the Year. Then in 2012 he was Australia's Offshore Racer of the Year. There's only one peak to climb after that, so for 2013 he went for it. He sold his consistent First 45, and bought Chris Bull's Cookson 50 Jazz with the express purpose of winning the Rolex Sydney-Hobart Race within two years.

He bought the boat as a 65th birthday present for himself, telling his wife that it was nor or never for a Hobart win. Re-named Victoire, this beautifully-maintained example of what is indubitably one of the greatest all-round designs of contemporary offshore racing has come up trumps for him at the first shot, winning the famous Tattersall's Cup overall. On IRC, her corrected time of 3 days 18 hours 27 minutes and 43 seconds is a very convincing hour and five minutes ahead of the next best, Phil Simpendorfer's Elliott 44 Veloce.

Victoire is sailed by a crew of mates. "We don't fly in a lot of expensive people" says the Doctor. Key man after the owner-skipper is Sean Kirkjian, ace helm and tactician, and between the determined and visionary owner and the skilled all-round sailor, they trained their crew of weekend sailors into a formidable group who raced this demanding but rewarding boat to success.

Another success of the 2013 Rolex Sydney Harbour Race has surely been the IRC. Beforehand, it seemed a little odd that the vintage Wild Oats XI rated quite a bit higher on IRC than the other top hundred footer, Anthony Bell's Perpetual LOYAL. But although Perpetual showed her dazzling potential with speed bursts of 35 knots once the gale arrived, overall in what were genuinely average summer conditions, the overall performance abilities of Wild Oats were reflected by her IRC number, whereas Perpetual doesn't really sail up to her rating until winds get above 12 to 14 knots.

In any Hobart Race, just as in the Fastnet, boats of a particular size, or rather comparable boats of a similar rating, will tend to be favoured by the actual pattern of conditions experienced. This is demonstrated very forcefully in the Hobart results. Of the first six boats overall, five fall within the 1.250 to 1.381 rating band. The exception is Bruce Taylor's Reichel Pugh-designed Caprice 40 Chutzpah, which took fifth overall on a rating of 1.197, which puts her broadly in the same area, in which Victoire is at the top end with an attractively competitive rating of 1.350.

As for the Irish competitors, with Sean McCarter and Conor O'Byrne's runaway win with Derry-Londonderry-Doire in the Clipper fleet (it was four hours before the next boat finally finished), we've more than enough to b celebrating, but the Royal Irish crew led by Barry Hurley in the First 40 Breakthrough had a good showing to place 6th in Division 3 and 27th overall, putting them comfortably into the top third of the fleet.

The two very new girls on the block, Karl Kwok's 80ft Beau Geste and Matt Allen's 60ft Ichi Ban, will have some thinking to do. The fascination here is that each has been designed by former partners in the now defunct Botin Carkeek design team, with Marcelino Botin creating Beau Geste, while Shaun Carkeek mastered Ichi Ban.

This boat had to follow the all-conquering 63ft Loki, former mount of top helmsman Gordon Maguire. To this casual observer, Ichi Ban looks rather voluminous by comparison with the lean and swift Loki, and positively bulbous by comparison with Wild Oat XI, which carries all the excess flesh of a tinker's greyhound. Could it be that the new Ichi Ban has too much freeboard, too much hull buoyancy? You could understand why Gordon Maguire might be inclined that way, as he was at the helm of the Lawrie Smith-captained maxi Rothmans when she took a spectacular and much-publicised nosedive during a Sydney-Hobart, submarining for quite a long way. And then too, he was at the helm of Lough Derg YC's Jocelyn Waller's BH 41 Silk in Cowes Week when she deep-sixed in the Solent running before a squall above gale force. Nevertheless, you could be forgiven for wondering if all that buoyant hull up forward night be veering on too much of a good thing on Ichi Ban.

Published in Sydney to Hobart
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#rshyr – The Dun Laoghaire crew led by Barry Hurley of the Royal Irish Yacht Club have successfully completed a testing Sydney–Hobart race to finish 27th overall in the 92–boat fleet and take sixth place in IRC Division 3 in First 40, Breakthrough. Official standings here.

Racing since St. Stephen's Day the Irish crew consisted of Barry Hurley (Skipper), Kenneth Rumball (Watch Leader), Keith Kiernan (Navigator & Radio man), Catherine Halpin (Bow-Woman). 

The crew finished in the early hours of yesterday morning in Tasmania with an elapsed time of 4 days, 2 hours and 21 minutes. 

Day 5 and the remaining boats racing in the Rolex Sydney Hobart Race had a slight respite from prevailing weather conditions as the southwesterly moderated to 20 - 25 knots over night into this morning (December 30).

Unfortunately for Roger Hickman's Wild Rose, any chance of upsetting Victoire as overall handicap leader went by the boards with the diminishing breeze - at 4am AEDT when the boat needed to finish, it still had 35 miles to go.

By mid-morning the Cruising Yacht Club of Australia could confirm that Darryl Hodgkinson's Cookson 50, Victoire was the official Overall Winner of the 69th edition of the Rolex Sydney Hobart Yacht Race. At a dockside presentation, Hodgkinson the owner/skipper, was presented with the Tattersall's Cup and a Rolex timepiece.

Hodgkinson, a plastic surgeon from Sydney, bought the boat as a birthday present to himself and told his wife his goal was a two-year plan to win the Rolex Sydney Hobart Race -- he fast tracked the timeline, succeeding on his first try. This was Hodgkinson's third go at the race, having competed in 2010 and 2011 on his Beneteau 45.

Elated with the win, Hodgkinson said, "This is the culmination of a great campaign, it's a personal victory and one I share with all sailors who did the race. I feel somewhat humbled to have won."

The exuberant skipper was quick to praise his mostly amateur crew and put the win down to meticulous planning and preparation. He praised tactician and strategist Sean Kirkjian – a 17-time race veteran – and said, "He's a wizard, who is just playing 'ocean chess' all the time". As well he touted Danny McConville, who has prepared two or three Hobart winners before, and said "This boat was in marvelous condition before we left the dock. We had a fair bit of preparation, I'd say."

Victoire's navigator, Phil Eadie confirmed the meticulous preparation and 'leaving no stone unturned' approach and said, "A lot of work has gone into this with Darryl. He had meetings every morning for months, making sure everything works.

Eadie has sailed in 34 editions of the race, and used that experience to draw from, "I plotted the tracks of a lot of the ones we've won before or other people have won before, just to sort of get a feel of it – that we didn't step too far outside of the paddock.

"There was a lot of preplanning, mostly in the last 24 hours before the start – we planned the whole race what we would do in theory, based on the weather, and had that laid out – and balanced that against reality. We have a really good weather guy, Chris Buckley from Perth, and he gave us a lot of good input."

Hodgkinson recalled the key elements of Victoire's win, "It was a fairly tough race. When we got that heavy northeasterly, there were moments when we had to believe in ourselves, and our yacht. We knew this boat had won before, and so we let it run. We knew we were only going to win if we pressed really hard, and we couldn't let our foot off the pedal. And there were some moments when the foot was right down and it was like 'oh, this is a ride', and we were thrilled. Of course it was part terror! At one point, we had a Chinese gybe – which was pretty scary – but amazingly we got the boat up and going, and it worked out.

"But we changed our sail plan after that, and were quite surprised with the change from the A4 (headsail) to A6, how we could still maintain the speed. So I think we learned on the stick, as it were, on that one."

A steady stream of yachts crossed the line over the past 24 hours, and as of 6pm local time AEDT, there were 17 yachts still racing, 67 finishers, and 10 retired. The back marker was the 38-footer, Déjà Vu, which was expected at the finish early on the morning of January 1st.

Published in Sydney to Hobart
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#rshyr – A dream came true for Lough Swilly skipper Sean McCarter (31) at 1916 hrs this evening (Sunday December 29th) when he skippered the Irish Clipper 70 Derry-Londonderry-Doire across the elusive finish line at Hobart in Tasmania to win his class in the 628-mile Rolex Sydney Hobart Race writes W M Nixon

Although the Derry boat and Sean's crew (in which Garda Conor O'Byrne of Balrothery, Co Dublin is a Watchleader) had a lead of 17 miles over the next boat at the finish, the final stages up the Derwent Estuary to the line of the Hobart waterfront as the dawn came up were tense in the extreme. Their speed fluctuated between 2 and 8 knots in the flukey night winds, and they'd nightmares of becoming totally becalmed and then watching the opposition close up with the morning breeze.

To get there in 3 days 16 hours and 42 minutes from Sydney, the crew (of all levels of sailing experience including none at all) had to cope with everything ranging from the hectic start down Sydney Harbour, through frustrating light winds off Australia's southeast coast, and then a rising southwest to west gale as they battered their way across the notorious Bass Strait towards the final hundred miles along the Tasmanian coast and the challenging and wayward approaches to Hobart.

As the gale built, DLDD was neck and neck with Henri Lloyd, until then the boat which had been setting most of the pace in the Clipper series. But a rudder bearing problem aboard HL east of Cape Barren Island led to her eventual retiral from this leg, and Derry Londonderry Doire was left on her own to make the pace, with about ten miles in hand on the next group of boats.

It was a game of cat and mouse, and at one stage they'd opened out the gap to 14 miles, but at other times the tricky headlands and islands of Tasmania saw the pace slacken and the boats astern close up.

For a while nearing the Storm Bay approaches to the Derwent, it looked as if DLDD had it made, as they opened out their lead to nearly twenty miles. But the final miles in the dark were very tricky, "a real nail biter" as McCarter reported - from time to time they seemed to be virtually stopped ,while the boats still out at sea were making full speed. But onward they crawled towards the line, and at 05:42:28 am local time, they were there, the win in the bag, the race sailed in three days 16 hours 42 minutes and 28 seconds, an average of 7.1 knots. And to add a bit of cream on the cake, this remarkable performance has placed them 7th in Division 1 IRC, competing against some of the hottest boats in the fleet.

Published in Sydney to Hobart

#rshyr – Veteran owner Bob Oatley's Reichel Pugh 100 Wild Oats XI, skippered by Mark Richards, has taken her seventh line honours win in the Rolex Sydney Hobart Race, with an evening finish at Hobart at 19.07.27 hrs AEDT writes W M Nixon.

Up-dating our report from last night's midnight posting of Sailing on Saturday, the slim hulled fleet leader continued to build on her light airs lead over Anthony Bell's much beamier hundred footer Perpetual LOYAL, the former Rambler 100. The gap between the two became even greater when Wild Oats began to feel the benefits of a building nor'easter the further south she got, while Perpetual was virtually becalmed.

Thus the gap expanded to more than fifty miles. But then as Perpetual began to feel the breeze, she showed her potential and was zooming down the Tasmanian coast at speeds of up to 28.2 knots, closing the gap to 25 miles. However, by this time Wild Oats was shaping her way into the Derwent estuary and the often tricky final virtually inland stages to the finish. She was comfortably across the line in mid-evening in an easing breeze which had her speed down to 9-11 knots, though at one stage while in Storm Bay the power in the new nor'easter had her down to storm jib and heavily reefed main.

But as darkness closes in, the wind has gone in the Derwent, and while Perpetual LOYAL has only 18 miles to the finish, her current speed of 3 knots could make it a long and frustrating night, and though she has a lower rating than Wild Oats, it looks unlikely she'll beat her on handicap. But for now Wild Oats XI is the undisputed 2013 holder of the prestigious Illingworth Cup for first to finish, named in honours of the noted English offshore racing skipper Captain John Illingworth who, in 1945, suggested that a proposed post-Christmas cruise-in-company from Sydney to Hobart should be sailed as a race instead. He won it too, and the rest is history.

Now with the Tasmanian weather into a more volatile state, all sorts of possibilities arise for the new holder of the Tattersall's Cup for the overall winner under IRC. Wild Oats did the double in 2012, but under current placings and speed of those still racing at 1000 hrs Irish time, she lies at 69th overall, while the leader is Bruce Taylor's Reichel Pugh 40 Chutzpah.

Second place is currently held by the Farr 43 Wild Rose owned by Roger Hickman, which back in the day was the original Wild Oats, so it would make for a nice double if she could pick up that extra place on handicap.

Of boats of Irish interest, the First 40 Breakthrough, skippered by Barry Hurley of the Royal Irish YC, was at one stage third on handicap overall, but has currently slipped to 31st overall, which shows just how rapidly things can change. My apologies, by the way, to the two Irish owners of First 40s, one in Baltimore and the other based on the Algarve, for saying that we don't have any of these fine boats in the Irish fleet – as you'll gather, I've been very quickly put right on that one.

The Clipper 70 Derry-Londonderry-Doire skippered by Sean McCarter of Lough Swilly lies 42nd overall on IRC, but is first of the 12-strong Clipper fleet, so keep an eye on that, and keep fingers crossed too. Ich Ban with Gordon Maguire on the helm was 36th OA, but might get lucky in the final stages. It may be complex in the extreme, with the time lapse adding o the confusion, but this is turning out to be one specially fascinating Rolex Sydney-Hobart Race.

Published in Sydney to Hobart
Tagged under

#rshyr – It is developing into one of the most complex Rolex Sydney-Hobart Races sailed in many a long day. And as it's in the upside-down Southern Hemisphere, weatherwise everything moves in different ways. W M Nixon isn't sure he has a clue what's going on, but he happily throws in his pennyworth to add to the confusion.

One surefire way to get publicity is to keep things secret, just releasing tasty bits of info at the last minute. With the Rolex Sydney-Hobart Race providing a focal point of sailing attention at a time when most of the world is being distracted by minor matters such as celebrating Christmas, or simply getting through midwinter storms, the opportunities to make a show-stopping impact are magnified.

A dearth of maritime stories at home makes the saltheads leap at anything of cheerful sailing interest. For there are only so many ways that you can report that ferries aren't sailing at all, or are delayed. If we never hear the phrase "operational reasons" again, it will be too soon. And sad and all as we are about the huge whale in Achill, we were too far away to do anything about it. But give us something like the sudden appearance of Karl Kwok's startling new 80ft Beau Geste in Sydney just a couple of days before the race to Hobart begins, or the news on Christmas Day that a First 40 formerly thought of as just another Australian boat is actually an Irish entry in disguise and slipped in under the radar, then we come to life.

Naturally there'd been plenty of stories circulating about the new Kwok boat. However, as the other serious biggies in the Hobart fleet began to strut their stuff around Sydney harbour through December, inevitably they hovered up the attention. But then on Sunday, out of the blue, Beau Geste sailed into Sydney after a crisp and very satisfying four day test passage across from New Zealand, which is cooking with gas


Anybody mind if we come in? The brand new 80ft Beau Geste arrives in Sydney on December 22nd after her speedy maiden voyage from New Zealand. Photo: Rolex/Carlo Borlenghi

You can understand the reluctance of skipper Gavin Brady and the rest of Karl Kwok's team to seek the limelight. The previous much-admired Farr-designed 80ft Beau Geste, winner of many trophies, had suddenly as near as dammit broken in two off Norfolk Island during the 2012 Auckland-Noumea Race. The good folk of Norfolk Island did their best to help out, as did ships and fishing boats in the neighbourhood, but to this day nobody is too sure how the big boat stayed afloat long enough to be got to port.

There they were, all the gear intact, but the hull a write-off. They say that when you're unhorsed you should get back in the saddle immediately if the horse isn't injured. But this was one terminally injured nag. So they did the next best thing. They went to designer Mareclino Botin, he who created the Volvo 70 Camper which was the most radically different of the generally similar Volvo flotilla last time round, and ordered up a new canting keel 80 footer with debut planned for the 2013 Sydney-Hobart Race.

Built by Cookson in Auckland with beefed up engineering by comparison with the previous boat, but carrying some of her gear, the new boat is of interest every which way, as Botin used to be in partnership with Shaun Carkeek, who has designed the much-fancied 60-footer Ichi Ban for Matt Allen. And you can see (or maybe imagine) certain distant style resemblances between the two boats. But as the new Kwok boat follows Botin's enthusiasm for having the mast well aft (it was so far aft in Camper it was astern of the canting keel), it wouldn't be an exaggeration to describe Beau Geste as a one-masted schooner, though no more so than Volvo 70s like Giacomo.

Baptism of fire. The Sydney-Hobart 2013 is Beau Geste's first race – she'd barely been afloat for a month when it started on Thursday. Photo: Rolex/Daniel Forster

Nevertheless, the first time this slightly offbeat boat had a crack at the opposition was in that initial crazy eight minute drag race down Sydney harbour at the start of the race to Hobart on Thursday. Of which more anon. But meanwhile, what's this about an Irish entry disguised as a bog standard Australian one?

Well, they sprang it on us all with perfect timing on Christmas morning. There in the entry list is Breakthrough, a First 40, a boat type always of high interest - when the design was new, back in 2010, two of them took first and second overall in the Rolex Sydney-Hobart Race.

It was a marketing dream for Beneteau, for each race to Hobart will always produce a particular set of conditions which will suit one boat type to a T. In 2010, it was the very new First 40 which hit the spot, coming forward to step into the very big shoes so capably filled for years by the marvellous First 40.7.

They may have got everything right, but circumstances conspired against the new First 40 being a runaway marketing success. Primarily, it was the global recession taking hold big time, particularly in Europe. But then too, there was still plenty of life in the First 40.7, with thriving class associations, and one design racing in events like Cowes Week.

Whatever, we've only seen two First 40s in Irish ownership since the design appeared, one in Baltimore and used for cruising, the other based in the Algarve. But now the good news is that Barry Hurley is actually the skipper of Breakthrough on the race to Hobart. It must be true, as you read it here on on Christmas morning while talking to that fat white-bearded man in the red suit.....But enough. Even if the official CYCA listing suggests Mathew Vadas is the skipper, man in charge is Barry Hurley, already with two Hobart races notched, and with him he has brought Kenny Rumball, Keith Kiernan and Catherine Halpin, all of the Royal Irish YC, to sail in partnership with the Vadas team, and hoping to repeat that Hurley touch which brought a class win in the Middle Sea Race back in October.

As for the big boat start – well, it was eight minutes like we'd never seen before. Morning clouds had cleared to leave Sydney Harbour at its sparkling best in a brisk sou'easter, reaching start to the first mark, and the biggies went off first at max revs with Wild Oats and Perpetual LOYAL neck and neck for the lead, with Anthony Bell's Perpetual in the weather gauge.

The power of Perpetual LOYAL's hull is plain to see – but that power with its extensive wetted area comes at the expense of light weather performance.  Photo: Rolex/Daniel Forster

But the "old" Wild Oats never ceases to surprise, or maybe Mark Richards and his crew know her so well that they can hit top performance while others are still winding up to it. They simply held Perpetual up above the line to the first mark until they were able to peel away for a short run to the turn which left enough of a gap between them and the big black boat to allow Beau Geste to nip in between in second place.

The abiding memory of that eight minute sprint was the way the different boats had sudden bursts of acceleration. You'd to keep reminding yourself that the smallest craft in this flotilla were 70ft Volvos, for all were having speed bursts like dinghies on the plane.

So that was interesting, but then as they started the beat south in open water, it became clear that Wild Oats with a reef in the main was holding on very nicely ahead of the supposedly more powerful Perpetual, while the smaller Beau Geste was sagging to lee. But then, schooners never could point high, whereas Wild Oats' pointing ability in a lumpy sea was a wonder to behold.


The skinny one....thanks to her slim hull, in the light airs on Day 2 Wild Oats was able to re-take the lead from Perpetual LOYAL.  Photo: Rolex/Carlo Borlenghi

The Volvo 70s may have been developed for big winds in open water, but the former Groupama, now racing for New Zealand as Giacomo, has shown she can hang in when the breezes are light.  Photo: Rolex/Carlo Borlenghi

Through the first night, the wind went light, and things were further turned on their head by ace navigator Stan Honey taking Perpetual LOYAL well to the east, which did her a lot of good. By morning they'd worked out an eleven mile lead on Wild Oats, but through the second day of light winds, Wild Oats ground down the big black boat, and as they crossed Bass Strait yesterday evening it was the old dog for the long road, Wild Oats still in the lead and hoping to have the advantage of an afternoon/evening arrival up the Derwent to Hobart before tonight's freshening northerly is replaced by southwest to west winds which could reach gale force, stacking the odds against the little fellows.

By comparison with some of the boat shapes racing to Hobart, Matt Allen's 60ft Ichi Ban with Gordon Maguire on the helm looks almost traditional.  Photo: Rolex/Carlo Borlenghi

With the renowned Adrienne Cahalan as navigator, the 55ft Wedgetail is in with a shout. Photo: Rolex/Carlo Borlenghi

But meanwhile the top Irish hope, Gordon Maguire with Matt Allen's 60ft Ichi Ban , has been hanging in very nicely and things could fall sweetly their way. That said, while the 60ft Ichi Ban has been staying on the tails of the big boats ahead, not so far astern is the next size group with the lead held by Bill Wild's Reichel Pugh 55 Wedgetail. Formerly Yendys, this is one of Australia's proven all rounders. And for this first race to Hobart under the Wild command, Wedgetail's navigator is Adrienne Cahalan, who is renowned for seeing skippers on to the Hobart podium. But then, she was born in Offaly, and that makes all things possible.

Published in W M Nixon
Page 3 of 5

Coastal Notes Coastal Notes covers a broad spectrum of stories, events and developments in which some can be quirky and local in nature, while other stories are of national importance and are on-going, but whatever they are about, they need to be told.

Stories can be diverse and they can be influential, albeit some are more subtle than others in nature, while other events can be immediately felt. No more so felt, is firstly to those living along the coastal rim and rural isolated communities. Here the impact poses is increased to those directly linked with the sea, where daily lives are made from earning an income ashore and within coastal waters.

The topics in Coastal Notes can also be about the rare finding of sea-life creatures, a historic shipwreck lost to the passage of time and which has yet many a secret to tell. A trawler's net caught hauling more than fish but cannon balls dating to the Napoleonic era.

Also focusing the attention of Coastal Notes, are the maritime museums which are of national importance to maintaining access and knowledge of historical exhibits for future generations.

Equally to keep an eye on the present day, with activities of existing and planned projects in the pipeline from the wind and wave renewables sector and those of the energy exploration industry.

In addition Coastal Notes has many more angles to cover, be it the weekend boat leisure user taking a sedate cruise off a long straight beach on the coast beach and making a friend with a feathered companion along the way.

In complete contrast is to those who harvest the sea, using small boats based in harbours where infrastructure and safety poses an issue, before they set off to ply their trade at the foot of our highest sea cliffs along the rugged wild western seaboard.

It's all there, as Coastal Notes tells the stories that are arguably as varied to the environment from which they came from and indeed which shape people's interaction with the surrounding environment that is the natural world and our relationship with the sea.

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