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There’s something about the annual 628-mile Rolex-Sydney Hobart Race that lends it to endless angles of speculation and re-analysis long after the event. We’re already a fortnight clear of the final postings of the results, yet the real anoraks and dedicated armchair admirals are continuing to go through it all in loving detail, a process that often ends up by reaching whatever conclusion you’re having yourself.

The fact that it takes place in the midst of our winter at a place which is so far away on the other side of the globe that you’re in summertime, and your way home again, by the time you reach it – and in an almost precisely inverted day-and-night time-zone too – only adds to its otherworldly fascination.

In the depths of winter in the Northern Hemisphere, the annual start of the Rolex Sydney-Hobart Race makes for a powerful imageIn the depths of winter in the Northern Hemisphere, the annual start of the Rolex Sydney-Hobart Race makes for a powerful image

Then too, because it gets so much popular and media attention, with good weather starts attracting tens of thousands of actual people - rather than screen watchers - to the best vantage points around the outer stretches of Sydney Harbour, means the image is further skewed when the vids start appearing.

Because the fact is your ordinary global viewer is interested first in seeing interesting talking heads, secondly in vivid images of any disasters which might have occurred, and only thirdly in steady chopper or drone footage of a successful boat making the best possible progress through a windy and awkward seaway, which is what dedicated sailing analysts want to watch.


Thus while for many the abiding image of the race is the mind-blowing fleet with its four-line simultaneous starts sweeping seawards down the harbour towards Sydney Heads, when it’s all wrapped up much of its reporting focuses on the faces of those characterful talking legends of sailing telling their story on a preferably sunny Hobart dockside.

With their positive and relaxed presence, it somehow obscures the fact that within the previous 24 hours, they’d been thrashing to windward in a white-water seaway under a lowering grey sky. And when they have closed the coast, it appears as cliff and rock formations so weird and awe-inspiring - and plain scary- that you’d have to tone them down if they came up in CGI imagery.

If the cliffs of Tasmania in the outer approaches to Hobart were to be created by CGI, they’d have to be toned down for viewer acceptanceIf the cliffs of Tasmania in the outer approaches to Hobart were to be created by CGI, they’d have to be toned down for viewer acceptance

So the most sensible and relatable way to make sense of it all when watching from Ireland is to identify anyone from here who may be taking part in whatever capacity, and then throw the net even wider to include people of Irish descent who are now very Australian, but usually their names are a giveway. And then beyond that, we might find people who once owned boats that had Irish connections.


The problem is that we’re trying to live up to the very high Irish standard that was set from a standing start in the 1991 race. An Australian very proud of his Irishness, John Storey had put out feelers to the sailing fraternity in the Old Country about possible Irish involvement in the Southern Cross Series, a sort of Australian Admirals Cup that culminated in the Hobart Race.

Back then, when the world was young, we sent forth a team led by Harold Cudmore and including the likes of Gordon Maguire, Joe English, Kieran Jameson and many other rising stars. John Storey had prepared the ground well, with his own Farr 43 Atara being a stellar boat. With smaller competitive craft like Beyond Thunderdome – Mel Gibson’s Mad Max was all the rage in the movies at the time – Ireland was very much at the races from the get-go, winning the Southern Cross series, with Atara - Harold Cudmore and Gordon Maguire on board - winning the Hobart Race overall.

The 40ft Beyond Thunderdome being sailed by Gordon Maguire and Kieran Jameson to a good race for Ireland in the 1991 Southern Cross Series. After Thunderdome had been seriously damaged by another boat in a collision, Maguire was moved to become Harold Cudmore’s lead helm on Atara for the Sydney-Hobart Race, which they won overallThe 40ft Beyond Thunderdome being sailed by Gordon Maguire and Kieran Jameson to a good race for Ireland in the 1991 Southern Cross Series. After Thunderdome had been seriously damaged by another boat in a collision, Maguire was moved to become Harold Cudmore’s lead helm on Atara for the Sydney-Hobart Race, which they won overall


But while Ireland may have exploded like a cheerful starburst on the Australian offshore sailing scene more than 30 years ago, not all the bits from that starburst landed back home. The experience set Gordon Maguire on track to become a leading Australian professional, such that when the listings of Australian sailing pros were formally launched some time later, he was #1. Nevertheless when he won yet another Hobart Race – it became something of a habit – it was and is still regarded as an Irish triumph back here.

Gordon Maguire settling in as a significant part of Australian sailingGordon Maguire settling in as a significant part of Australian sailing

As for Harold Cudmore, it was another step in a remarkable career which, in 1983, had seen him brought in to provide intense game-changing coaching in aggressive starting techniques for helmsman John Bertrand, at a time when the eventually successful Australian first-ever capture of the America’s Cup from the US had seemed to be flagging.


He’s done it again. Gordon Maguire with the Tattersall Cup after winning it yet again, this time with Ichi Ban in 2018He’s done it again. Gordon Maguire with the Tattersall Cup after winning it yet again, this time with Ichi Ban in 2018

It was yet another illustration of the fact that, in other very different circumstances for Ireland, Cudmore himself would have been that America’s Cup-winning helmsman. But we’ve learned to make the best of these things, so in analyzing the 2023 Hobart results, we homed in on the fact that Adrienne Cahalan (Lough Derg) navigating the RP 66 Alive was guiding the overall winner, while Will Byrne of Dun Laoghaire was on the third-placed OA RP 69 Moneypenny at the sharp end as bowman, as was Steph Lyons of Kinsale on the Cookson 12 Calibre placing fourth in Div 3.

In fact, Kinsale was there big time, as the key Irish entry was the Sun Fast 3300 Cinnamon Girl-Eden Capital raced in the Two-Handed division by Kinsale YC’s Cian McCarthy and Sam Hunt, which placed fourth in class – of which more anon.


But meanwhile among the white hot 52-footers, Gordon Maguire (now of Sydney but really from Howth) and Cian Guilfoyle of Dun Laoghaire took line honours in class aboard Fastnet Race overall winner Caro, but were third on CT to the veteran Smuggler ex-Celestial. She went straight down the middle while Caro and the new Celestial (Sam Hynes) flailed around to the east. They were trying to find the better wind which had favoured the Mini-Maxis racing through to overall success earlier, but that good breeze had since left town.

Work in Progress. The Reichel/Pugh-designed 66ft super-successful Alive is an excellent example of how a yacht can continue to develop with dyanmis interaction between designer, owner, builder, skipper and crewWork in Progress. The Reichel/Pugh-designed 66ft super-successful Alive is an excellent example of how a yacht can continue to develop with dyanmis interaction between designer, owner, builder, skipper and crew

Adrienne Cahalan with the Tattersall Cup, and not for the first time. This is Hobart at the end of December 2023Adrienne Cahalan with the Tattersall Cup, and not for the first time. This is Hobart at the end of December 2023

To round it all out, we had Denis Power of Royal St George in Dun Laoghaire who decided to keep it simple by renting a berth aboard the 55ft charter sloop Arctos - a sort of Oz version of the classic Bill Lee Transpac sled - which finished 11th in the PHS Division. And stretching links even further, we noted that Chris Opielok of Hong Kong and Germany took second in Class 4 with his JPK 10.80 called Rockall, because as we know, when he caused Rockall III to emerge from Roy Dickson’s Corby 36 Rosie back in the day, Rockall was and is the family name for his boats, as an ancestor spent a lot of time under water in the Rockall area in command of a U Boat on a series of Das Boot missions.


But in focusing largely on Irish links - however stretched - we end up not being able to see the wood for the trees. For in this case, the trees are our intensely focused “Irish” entries, but the wood is the bigger picture of overall results trends. So Liverpool-born Jim Pugh of distinguished nautical design studio Reichel/Pugh in San Diego dropped Nixon Verbiage Industries plc a friendly email the other day to point out that RP designs took many of the best placings, what with Alive winning and others summarised here:

  • 1st - 2023 Sydney Hobart - Reichel/Pugh Design No. 162 66' Alive
  • 2nd - 2023 Sydney Hobart - Reichel/Pugh 72' URM Group
  • 3rd - 2023 Sydney Hobart - Reichel/Pugh 69' Moneypenny
  • 3rd IRC Div. 2 - 2023 Sydney Hobart - Reichel/Pugh 40' Chutzpah

"The result also seals a terrific performance for Reichel/Pugh in the race, as the top three overall came from their design board, with the Reichel/Pugh 72' URM Group finishing third over the line for second overall and Reichel/Pugh 69' Moneypenny taking third place overall. Reichel/Pugh designs are proving to be a pretty lucky for many of these races," said Duncan Hine, skipper of Philip Turner’s Tasmanian entry Alive.

Reichel/Pugh Design No. 162 66' Canting Ballast Alive was the fourth yacht to cross the finish line — ending with a time of 2 days, 2 hours, 19 minutes and 4 seconds. She becomes the second Tasmanian yacht to win dual Tattersall Cups, joining Westward, which won back-to-back Sydney to Hobart races in 1947 and 1948. The Tattersall Cup is a symbol of supremacy in one of the toughest races in the world.”

Jim Pugh has come a very long way from LiverpoolJim Pugh has come a very long way from Liverpool


But what we noticed here in Howth is that many of these successful boats listed go back a very long way indeed in time, but they show the willingness of Australian owners and builders to interact with an innovative designer to keep the boats up to pace, sometimes over a decade and more:


Reichel/Pugh Yachts have won been awarded the coveted Tattersall Cup seven times as the overall winner of the Rolex Sydney-Hobart Race in 2005 Wild Oats XI, 2010 Secret Men's Business, 2011 Loki 63', 2012 Wild Oats XI, 2014 Wild Oats XI, 2018 Alive 66', 2023 Alive 66'.

  • Since 1996 80' Morning Glory, Reichel/Pugh Maxis have taken Line Honors 13 times; with 100' Wild Oats XI taking Line Honors a record nine times in thirteen years (2005-2008, 2010, 2012-2014, 2018), 90' Alfa Romeo in 2002, 100' Alfa Romeo in 2009 and 100' Black Jack in 2021.
  • Reichel/Pugh designs have reset the course record three times in 1996 Morning Glory 80', 2005 Wild Oats XI and 2012 Wild Oats XI.
  • 1996 Reichel/Pugh designs took Line Honors 1st Morning Glory 80' and 2nd Exile 66'.
  • 1996 Reichel/Pugh design Exile took 2nd Overall and 1st Class A, 2nd place Class A Morning Glory 80'.
  • 2012 Reichel/Pugh designs took 1st WOXI, 2nd Loki 63' and 3rd Black Jack 66' Overall.
  • 2018 Reichel/Pugh designs took Line Honors 1st WOXI and 2nd Black Jack 100'.
  • 2018 Reichel/Pugh designs took 1st Alive 66' and 2nd Wild Oats X 66' (all-female crew) Overall.
  • 2023 – 66' Alive – overall IRC - Race WINNER 1st - winner of the Tattersall Cup. 1st overall IRC Div 0. – Phil Turner.
  • 2023 – 72' URM – 2nd overall IRC taking 3rd place Line Honours. 2nd overall IRC Div 0. – Anthony Johnston.
  • 2023 – 69' Moneypenny – 3rd overall IRC. 3rd overall IRC Div 0. – Sean Langman.
  • 2023 – 40' Chutzpah – 3rd overall IRC Div 2. – B. Taylor.
  • 2018 – 100' Wild Oats XI – 1st to Finish, 6th ORCi Overall, 4th ORCi Division 1 – Oatley Family
  • 2018 – 66' Alive – 1st Overall, 1st IRC Div 0, 1st ORCi Overall, 1st ORCi Division 1 – P. Turner
  • 2018 – 100' Black Jack – 2nd in Line Honors, 4th ORCi Overall, 3rd ORCi Division 1 – P. Harburg
  • 2018 – 66' Wild Oats X – 2nd Overall, 2nd IRC Div 0, 2nd ORCi Overall, 2nd ORCi Division 1 – 11th Hour Racing / Oatley Family
  • 2018 – 63' Voodoo – 3rd Overall, 1st IRC Div 1, 3rd ORCi Overall, 1st ORCi Division 2 – H. Ellis
  • 2018 – 40' Chutzpah – 2nd IRC Division 2, 3rd ORCi Division 2 – B. Taylor
  • 2017 – 100' Black Jack – 3rd in Line Honors – P. Harburg
  • 2017 – 40' Chutzpah – 3rd Division 2 (IRC) and 8th overall corrected time – B. Taylor
  • 2017 – 66' Wild Oats X – 4th Division 0 & 7th in Line Honors – The Oatley Family
  • 2014 – 100' Wild Oats XI – 1st to Finish and 1st Overall – B. Oatley – 8th Line Honors Win In 10 Years
  • 2014 – 40' Chutzpah – 1st Class 2 (IRC) and 2nd Overall corrected time – B. Taylor
  • 2014 – 52' Scarlet Runner – 1st Division 1 ORCi and 2nd Division 1 IRC – R. Date
  • 2013 – 100' Wild Oats XI – 1st to Finish – B. Oatley
  • 2012 – 100' Wild Oats XI – 1st to Finish & First Overall (Trifecta Win and Course Record Set: 1 day 18 hours, 23 minutes and 12 seconds) – B. Oatley
  • 2012 – 63' Mini Maxi LOKI – 2nd Overall & 1st IRC Division 1 – S. Ainsworth
  • 2012 – 66' Mini Maxi Black Jack – 3rd Overall IRC & 1st Overall ORCi – P. Harburg
  • 2011 – 63' Mini Maxi LOKI – 1st Overall – S. Ainsworth
  • 2010 – 100' Wild Oats XI – 1st to Finish – B. Oatley
  • 2010 – 51' Secret Men's Business 3.5 – 1st Overall – G. Boettcher
  • 2009 – 100' Alfa Romeo – 1st to Finish – N. Crichton,
  • 2009 – 100' Wild Oats XI – 2nd to Finish – B. Oatley
  • 2008 – 100' Wild Oats XI – 1st to Finish (Record 4th Consecutive Line Honors Win) – B. Oatley
  • 2007 – 100' Wild Oats XI – 1st to Finish – B. Oatley
  • 2006 – 100' Wild Oats XI – 1st to Finish – B. Oatley
  • 2005 – 100' Wild Oats XI – 1st to Finish & Overall Winner Corrected Time (Trifecta Win and Course Record Set: 1 d, 18 h, 40 m and 10 s) – B. Oatley
  • 2005 – 100' Alfa Romeo – 2nd to Finish & 2nd on Corrected Time in Fleet – N. Crichton
  • 2002 – 90' Alfa Romeo – 1st to Finish – N. Crichton
  • 1996 – 80' Morning Glory – 1st to Finish (Course Record Set: 2 d, 14 h, 7 m, 10 s) – Dr. H. Plattner
  • 1996 – 66' Exile – 2nd Place Line Honors & 1st place Class A – Warwick Miller

Alive's Winning History

  • 2023 Rolex Sydney-Hobart – 1st Overall, 1st IRC Div 0
  • 2023 Hamilton Island Race Week - IRC Overall
  • 2023 Brisbane to Hamilton Island Race - IRC Overall
  • 2023 Bruny Island Race - IRC Overall
  • 2023 King of the Derwent Regatta – Line Honours
  • Currently holds the race record for the TasPorts Launcheston to Hobart Yacht Race
  • 2019 Rolex Sydney-Hobart – 1st IRC Div 0, 1st Overall ORCi and 1st Division 1 ORCi.
  • 2019 SoCal 300 – First to Finish
  • 2019 Coastal Cup – First to Finish & New Course Record Set of 13h 48m 28s
  • 2019 Spinnaker Cup – First to Finish
  • 2019 Newport-Ensenada – 1st Overall
  • 2018 Rolex Sydney-Hobart – 1st Overall, 1st IRC Div 0, 1st ORCi Overall, 1st ORCi Division 1
  • 2017 Line Honors in the Veolia Bruny Island Race and missed setting a new course record by 12 minutes, but the performance earned the team both IRC and PHS corrected time victories.
  • 2017 Second on line and third overall in the Brisbane to Gladstone Race
  • 2017 Third on line in the Brisbane to Keppel Race
  • 2016 Overall IRC winner and ORCi winner in the 10th Anniversary Edition of the Club Marine 348nm Brisbane to Keppel Tropical Yacht Race
  • 2016 Overall winner of the Royal Langkawi International Regatta
  • 2016 Line Honours in the Rolex China Sea Race, setting a new record for the race of 47h 31m 08s, 11 minutes and 59 seconds inside Beau Geste's record, set back in the millennium edition
  • 2015 Took line honors and won IRC Division 0 in the Hong Kong Vietnam Race
  • 2015 Back-to-back champion of the Sail Paradise Regatta for 2015 and 2014 inaugural regatta
  • 2015 Line Honours in the Brisbane to Keppel Race
  • 2014 First place ORCi and IRC overall in the Brisbane to Gladstone Yacht Race
  • 2014 Smashed the record for the 1885 nautical mile Melbourne to Vanuatu ocean race. Winning Line Honours and IRC as well as cementing a new race record of 5 days, 23 hours, 52 minutes and 45 seconds
  • 2014 Second overall IRC Division 1 at Hamilton Island Race Week
  • 2014 First IRC overall in Sail Paradise Regatta
  • 2012 (As Black Jack) Rolex Sydney-Hobart Race – 3rd overall in IRC and 1st overall in ORCi.
  • 2012 (As Black Jack) First overall in the Brisbane to Gladstone Yacht Race
  • 2012 (As Black Jack) Second fastest time in the Sydney Gold Coast race, behind Wild Oats XI
  • 2010 (As Black Jack) Line Honours in the Brisbane to Gladstone Yacht Race
  • 2009 (As Black Jack) Line Honours in the Brisbane to Gladstone Yacht Race
  • 2007 (As Stark Raving Mad) Line Honours in the Newport to Cabo San Lucas Yacht Race
  • 2006 (As Stark Raving Mad) Line Honours in the Ida Lewis Distance Race

The most notable example has to be the Oatley family’s Wild Oats XI, which started as a 72 footer or maybe she was an 80 footer, but that’s neither here nor there, for she is now a relatively skinny hundred footer.


We might like to think that Jim Pugh is in that almost-forgotten line of great Liverpool yacht designers headed by Alexander Richardson in the 1800s, as Richardson created the hyper-successful Irex for Dublin whiskey magnate John Jameson in 1884, and then in 1897 produced his gem, the beautiful Myfanwy which restorer Rob Mason brought to Dublin Bay in 2017 for the Dun Laoghaire Bicentennnial Regatta, and very deservedly win the Boat of the Regatta Trophy.

John Jameson’s legendary Richardson-designed Irex in 1884John Jameson’s legendary Richardson-designed Irex in 1884

The lovely Myfanwy on her way to success in Dublin Bay in 2017. Photo: O’BrienThe lovely Myfanwy on her way to success in Dublin Bay in 2017. Photo: O’Brien

But it seems that Jim’s family went from Liverpool to live in Somerset when he was ten, and then went on to live in the hotbed of yacht creation which was and is Lymington when he was 16, and soon he was so hooked on the global sailing game that it seems utterly logical that in 1983 he should end up in San Diego in California setting up Reichel/Pugh in partnership with John Reichel, originally of Oyster Bay New York.

The successful RP-designed Melges 15The successful RP-designed Melges 15

Their now substantial organisation creates everything from the super-successful Melges 15 (a “Boat of the Year 2022” when first introduced in America) right up to Mega-Yachts hundreds of feet long. But behind it all there is still the great game of interacting with Australian racing owners who are willing to experiment, and they’re good and tough with it too, as Cian McCarthy and Sam Hunt found with their recent Australian expedition, which Sam recalls here:


We really enjoyed the Rolex Sydney-Hobart Race 2023, a brilliant but quite brutal experience for us. We found it considerably more challenging than expected, with some particularly intense moments in the closing stages – 45+ knot gusts, 6 mtr swells breaking over the boat, a large volume of water down below, swamped and broken electrics, and one functioning life jacket between two brow-beaten sailors.

The predominance of upwind (~90%) was not what we had hoped for, and meant our chances of a great result were limited but we knuckled down and enjoyed the challenge. We want to come back in the future and give it another red-hot crack.

PREPARATION: One of the largest challenges for competing in the Sydney Hobart is the pre race admin, particularly the personal safety requirements. We both had to do a High Frequency Long Range Radio Course as the CYCA insist on HF radios being used with all competitors participating in 2 radio scheds every 24 hours. We found this one a little difficult to comprehend, seeing as we had both Yellow Brick Trackers and AIS, but we respected the CYCA requirements and worked hard to meet them, for if you missed a Sched you can be disqualified.

Naturally, we also had to meet the standard Cat 2 requirements (Sea Survival and First Aid etc.) The CYCA run a very impressive admin operation in this regard, I think we had to answer 80+ emails from various admin people in the 2.5 months building up to the race.

The required first aid kit included 40+ items with many items under prescription. Without having a local assisting with collating these items, it would have been very challenging. The CYCA run a great event though and were very helpful, including assigning us a local member contact to help with things.

BOAT: We chartered a Sunfast 3300 from Lee Condell of Performance Yachting at Pittwater, NSW. He was exceptionally helpful from start to finish, and we would strongly recommend him to others considering taking on this challenge. Without his support, I don't think we would have managed to navigate the vast amount of pre-race requirements.

The “back home” Cinnmon Girl, showing her extra-long bowsprit at the start of the Dun Laoghaire-Dingle Race 2023, in which she placed second overall and first in the Two-HandersThe “back home” Cinnmon Girl, showing her extra-long bowsprit at the start of the Dun Laoghaire-Dingle Race 2023, in which she placed second overall and first in the Two-Handers

SAILS: We predominantly use Doyle sails and shipped ours from Cork to Sydney via air freight. We received great support in the build-up from Nicholas O'Leary at Doyle Ireland, along with his colleagues in Doyle New Zealand. Cian commissioned a new No 3 for the race that could reef to a No 4. It was delivered at short notice, along with a new A2.

The No 3 jib is reefable to a No 4 via a zip and heightened tack and clew position. It was simple to action and worked very well. The A2 we found fast and stable, a better setup we believe than the symmetrics flown by many of the other double handed entries. The A2 helped us sail into first in two handed and 6th overall in the first 12 -18 hours of the race, but unfortunately it hardly got any use after that as beating to windward was the modus operandi thereafter.

WEATHER: The initial race start went well. We were on the Third Start Line, and it was a reaching start very similar to a Kinsale start in a SW, where we rolled out the Code 0 on the gun. Despite receiving some surprising unsolicited verbal abuse from a competitor in the moments before the gun (which shocked us a little and gave them the advantage), we were 4th boat to Mark 1 from a busy line of +25 boats. However, the amount of spectator wash and dirty air from the Maxis and other bigger boats after Mark 1 made it tough going, and we seemed to slide backwards fast in the chop and variable wind as we sought to exit the Heads to Mark 2.

The first 8 hours were predominantly downwind and we went particularly well connecting the dots of breeze lines and sailed through a good portion of the fleet until the thunderstorms (constant lightning and heavy rain) sucked all the wind away around 2am on night 1. By that stage we had lined ourselves up quite well to sit in the south going current circa 30km offshore. It was running at about 3 knots – often more than the wind strength – for an uncomfortable but effective means of making miles south.

The Sydney-Hobart Course may look straightforward, but it gets colder with every mile, and the weather changes more quickly than it does in IrelandThe Sydney-Hobart Course may look straightforward, but it gets colder with every mile, and the weather changes more quickly than it does in Ireland

The bearing to Tasman Island waypoint ~ 600 miles south - is 183. Due to unpredictable weather and the fact that many of the weather models were not aligning, we had bow out on the long tack imprinted into our strategy for many portions of the race. This seemed to work well due to the unusual weather systems and predominance of southerly winds in this year’s race. For strategy we used Predict Wind Pro, some Expedition routing, and race specific weather briefings from Roger “Clouds” Badham and Peter Isler. This year's weather was pretty unstable and hard to get your head around. Thre’s a good article here on the challenges in the build up.


Unfortunately, the majority of the race transpired to be upwind, and without water ballast and carrying the higher rating for our bigger kites, we were up against it. The Bass Strait was okay, a tight reach/fetch, but with some breeze exceeding 40 knots for 4 – 6 hours, we got a more-than-reasonable kicking there.

The weather is just more extreme and faster to change than in our local waters of Ireland and Europe. In all fairness, the Aussies are a hardy bunch and well-practiced at putting up storm sails. Seamanship skills for those conditions are rarely required or practiced in Ireland. In 20 years of offshore racing in Europe and US, neither Cian nor I have seen conditions close to the weather we “enjoyed” off Tasman Island on Day 4 -5 0 knot gusts, large breakers, and 6mtr swells.


Thankfully the water breaking over the boat is warm ~18c around Sydney. But the constant wetness takes its toll, and temperatures drop as you head south. Despite drysuits and HPX, we were both suffering cold fatigue by end of Day 3, and with the boat totally sodden below deck, sleeping on day 4 became a bit inadvisable due to likelihood of going hypothermic as a result of body temp dropping while asleep. But at that stage, with less than 24 hours to go, you can manage without the sleep.

ISSUES: At Tasman Island (furthest southerly point of race) , we had one major issue. The main cockpit hatch seal was not keeping water out throughout the race and breaking waves on deck were seeping down below. This ramped up by Tasman Island with the breaking seas, and we had circa 350 litres of water down below deck, which was helping to send the boat more sideways than forward in the bigger gusts.

The electric bilge pump was not working, and much of the water was below floor boards that were screwed down, so you couldn't get a pipe in to pump it out. Unfortunately with no windward water ballast to counteract this, it meant we lost a lot of time to other competitors going to windward, most of whom had positive righting water ballast unlike us.


The water issue became more severe in that it caused a minor fire with the electrics going out altogether, 2 miles north of Tasman island. Simultaneous with this, 2 of our lifejackets auto inflated due to the constant water, we had 1 spare but it left Sam without a lifejacket in 45+ knots and 6 mtr breaking waves.

Cinnamon Girl at sea – the further south they went, the colder and greyer it becameCinnamon Girl at sea – the further south they went, the colder and greyer it became

In some ways, it felt like a wild day surfing/kitesurfing in Garretstown Beach more than a boat race for a while - this is fine if you are happy to be out there and feel confident, but not so much if you don't, are sleep deprived and very cold.

The Red Bulls were cracked open, and we chose to bend our mindset to embrace the extreme conditions and the water/electrics issue. Condition description language was changed onboard from 'horrendous' to 'next level', and we just cracked on, making slow but steady progress to windward up to and around Tasman Island.

Luckily it was bright with good visibility. There was considerable relief when we finally got well to windward of Tasman and tacked onto port and put some north into our course to head on a tight reach for Iron Pot and the Derwent River. With no instruments we locked visuals of a few boats ahead, and kept a bearing on them. Unfortunately, with so much water onboard we continued to lose ground to competitors on the downwind final leg, as we were not surfing under our Code 0.

“ANCILLARY CHALLENGES”: During the race we also had ancillary challenges reefing the main with the bolt rope pulling out - this meant we were constantly concerned that in putting the 4th reef in during extreme breezes we would risk losing the main altogether, and so stayed under 3 reefs which was just too much for 6-8 hours in the final beat to Tasman. The mainsail had already sustained considerable damage with a number of puncture holes appearing in the mid leech due to flailing reefing lines as we struggled with the bolt rope during a reefing exercise on the 3rd night.

Kinsale in Hobart – Sam Hunt, Stephanie Lyons and Cian McCarthy in the Tasmanian sunshine. Only a day earlier, Sam and Hunt had been living with hypothermia risks in pemanently wet conditionsKinsale in Hobart – Sam Hunt, Stephanie Lyons and Cian McCarthy in the Tasmanian sunshine. Only a day earlier, Sam and Cian had been living with hypothermia risks in pemanently wet conditions

CONCLUSIONS; Post the race, we have now made a decision to use sliders on the mainsail going forward, and are in the process of designing an offshore hatch for Cinnamon Girl so “downstairs” stays protected and dry in big seas.

RESULT: All in all we were happy enough with the way we sailed. On reflection we probably only made one self-inflicted mistake with a wrapped kite in a gybe, other than that we don't believe we made any significant errors that cost us time. While we had moded the setup of the boat for downwind, the race had the most upwind in approximately 15 years (~90%), and having spoken to a number of veterans of 20+ races, it was one of the toughest for the smaller boats in their memory.

While 2nd Corinthian IRC overall and 3rd in our class and 4th double handed was respectable, we would love to come back and see if we can improve on that,

Huge thanks to our families for supporting us on the mission, to Cian for his brave ambition and being the real driver of the campaign, and to Eden Capital for their support and flexibility, which enabled Sam to participate.

Overall results here

Published in W M Nixon
Tagged under

We cast the net wide in assessing just who might be thought of as Irish in the hundred crews still contesting the 2023 Rolex Sydney-Hobart Race as it emerges from its first night at sea. So even though navigator/tactician Adrienne Cahalane is reckoned one of Australia's
leading yachtswomen, the fact that she was born in Offaly and has direct links to Lough Derg YC sailors makes her very welcome on board all things Irish. For she brings with her - in addition to being one very able sailor - a law degree and a Masters in Applied Meteorology.

Thus with sometimes weird sailing conditions as the fleet settles into winds which are now mostly from the eastern arc, it's maybe no surprise to see that the 66ft Tasmanian-based Reichel Pugh-designed Alive which she is navigating is fourth on the water. This was after some time snapping at the heels of the leading Super-Maxis, but more importantly Alive leads the fleet overall on IRC.

Next best of the Irish squad overall is Will Byrne of the National YC on Sean Langman's RP 69 Moneypenny, currently 5th OA. This suggests it is a big boats' race for now, and indeed the hottest contender, Max Klink's Botin 52 Caro, with Gordon Maguire and Cian Guilfoyle on board, is back in 11th OA, but for now she has very firmly shaken off the challenge of Sam Haynes' TP52 Celestial.


Steph Lyons of Kinsale YC connections is currently having the race of her life as bowman on Richard Williams' Cookson 12 Calibre 12, as they continue to lead Division 3 overall, while fellow Kinsale sailors Cian McCarthy and Sam Hunt remain very much in the frame in the Two-handed Division with the Sun Fast 3300 Cinnamon Girl-Eden Capital, though having been in the lead initially, they are currently a close second and sometimes third to Rupert Henry's Lombard 34 Mistral and the Tasmanian boat Kraken III (Rob Gough & John Saul).

Mickey Martin's veteran TP52 Frantic with a strong Irish contingent on the strength in Trevor Smyth, Conor Totterdell and Cillian Ballesty has had her ups and downs but as we close for the night in Ireland, Frantic is definitely on the up in the Tasman Sea, as she lies 7th in Division
1, and behind them in 8th is the formidable Celestial.

Race Tracker here

Published in Sydney to Hobart
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#Sydney-Hobart - Irish-Australian sailor Jim Cooney is expected to defend his line honours in the 2018 Rolex Sydney Hobart Yacht Race, the Notice of Race for which has been released by the Cruising Yacht Club of Australia.

Entries are open till 5pm on 26 October for the annual post-Christmas offshore challenge that will see more than 90 yachts set sale along the east coast of Australia.

Among them super-maxis like Cooney’s Comanche as well as smaller, more nimble contenders — perhaps including a return for Howth’s Gordon Maguire and crew on last year’s overall winners Ichi Ban?

Published in Sydney to Hobart
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The runaway success of Irish-Australian sailors in the Rolex Sydney-Hobart Race 2017 ended the year on an unprecedented high. Gordon Maguire of Howth may already have had two overall wins under his very experienced belt, but his third with the TP 52 Ichi Ban was perhaps the toughest and best of all. And Jim Cooney – whose people hail from County Meath – saw his sportsmanship rewarded with line honours for his super-maxi LDV Comanche, providing Ireland with a unique double

Published in Sailor of the Month
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They say that winning a sailing race is a matter of making fewer mistakes than anyone else, and then knowing when to go for it writes W M Nixon. Fourteen hours into the contest, and the annual 628 mile Rolex Sydney-Hobart Race 2017 - the 73rd to be staged - has been giving us object lessons in knowing when to avoid trouble even if it means short term loss, and then putting the foot to the floor when the road is clear and straight.

When you’ve the biggest boat in the race, a mighty machine which only needs clear seas and a bit of real bite to the breeze to do a horizon job on everyone else, then you stay conservative when a messy start is shaping up in a crowded harbour.

Jim Cooney and his team on their magnificent monster LDV Comanche knew that once they got clear beyond Sydney Heads and into the freshening east to northeast breeze, then their powerful extra-beamy hundred foot machine would be in business. But the in-harbour starboard-tack start – admittedly in a lightish breeze – offered all sorts of opportunities to get into a tangle.

rshr course2The Rolex Sydney-Hobart Race may mostly be open water sailing, but the tricky bits at start and finish get much of the attention

So they elected to play it safe and use the less favoured pin end. Then, even though helmsman James Spithill was beginning to get the big boat up to speed, the acknowledged light air flyer of the hundred footers, Peter Harburg’s Black Jack (ex Alfa Romeo), simply rolled over them, and took the lead in the tacking procession towards open water.

That brief upwind tacking session was in lumpy seas and still
lightish breezes, which LDV Comanche doesn’t like at all, so although Mark Richards in command of the Oatley Family’s legendary hundred footer Wild Oats XI had made a hames of the start, he was sailing like a man possessed in conditions his boat enjoys.

As they approached the exit from Sydney Harbour, he looked to be about to cross LDV Comanche on port, although it would be nip and tuck. But in the end it was something which rhymes with nip and tuck, but isn’t, Richards had to throw a tack, and as the photo shows, there’s now a protest riding on it, as so far Wild Oats has admitted no intention of taking a 720.

wild oats comanche3One for the sea lawyers? Wild Oats on port tacking ahead of LDV Comanche on starboard

Getting clear of the harbour, Black Jack was first up with the big Code 0, and zoomed straight south down the coast, while Wild Oats XI favoured the time-honoured tactic of getting further offshore, meanwhile piling on the knots. But for a few horrible moments which seemed like hours, LDV Comanche was going nowhere with a sail ballooning in the water. But after that has been sorted, they were in business and then some.

Once she’d got ahead of the other two, with every mile sailed LDV Comanche lengthened even further away, as the very favourable winds were fresher to the south, and she was first to reach them. Hour after hour, she was logging 24, 25 knots and sometimes even better, while the others were around 22 to 23. After a while, that begins to show significant gaps, and as of writing time, she was all of 17 miles ahead of Wild Oats XI, while Black Jack had gone back to fourth as Christian Beck’s Infotrack (ex Perpetual Loyal, the course record holder), has found her speed to move into third.

Race tracker here

With speeds like this for the hundred footers, any talk of “settling into the race” scarcely makes sense – LDV Comanche is at Bass Strait, and they’ll soon be at the halfway stage while working out how those pesky Derwent night breezes are going to affect their finish.

But among the “real” boats in the middle of the fleet, there’s a genuine distance race contest shaping up, and the pace is being set by the TP 52s, where Gordon Maguire doesn’t seem to have put a foot wrong with the new Ichi Ban (Matt Allen). They’re leading overall on both IRC and ORC, and are six miles ahead of Quest, the next TP, and eight miles ahead of the third, Christopher Opielok’s Rockall.

A bit of a wild card in all this is the American former Volvo 70 Wizard (David & Peter Askew), which last year as the New Zealand Giocomo was overall winner, and at times has been on top of the leaderboard this year. Dublin-born Noel Drennan is in her crew, so we have another favoured boat.

Another option is Vincenzo Onorato’s Cookson 50 Mascalzone Latino 32, currently lying 12th overall, and with Ian Moore as navigator, never out of the equation. As ever, the Rolex Sydney-Hobart race is just the job to shake us out of the post-Christmas torpor.

Published in Sydney to Hobart
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Former Howth sailor Gordon Maguire, who began a long and successful relationship with Australian sailing in 1991 when the Irish team won the Southern Cross series, is currently leading overall on IRC in the Rolex Sydney-Hobart Race 2016, playing the key role aboard Matt Allen’s JV52 Ichi Ban writes W M Nixon

If Maguire can hold onto his current placing in a fast-moving race, it will be the third time he has taken overall honours in the Australian classic, as he won at the first attempt teamed up with Harold Cudmore on the Farr 43 Atara in 1991, and subsequently won with Stephen Ainsworth’s Loki in 2011.

But in a hugely competitive field with the final stages up the Derwent River to Hobart almost inevitably flukey, the Rolex Sydney-Hobart is notorious for frustrating even the best campaigns at the last hurdle. However, in open water Ichi Ban has been setting a blistering pace, significantly out-pacing similarly-sized boats such as defending champion Paul Clitheroe’s TP 52 Balance, and racing neck-and-neck with much larger craft as the fleet leaders close in on the finish today in sight of a new course record.

Published in Sydney to Hobart
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The 2016 Rolex Sydney Hobart Yacht Race, featuring an international fleet of 88 yachts – with several key Irish crew involved – commenced at 13:00 local time on a perfect Sydney summer’s day. The combination of excellent weather conditions, the sight of the competing yachts sailing full force under spinnaker on the passage through Sydney Heads, and shorelines packed with spectators, set the scene for one of the more memorable race starts in recent times.

Race Start

The fleet comprises four 100-ft Maxis – CQS, Perpetual LOYAL, Scallywag and Wild Oats XI – all harbouring the ambition of arriving first in Hobart and claiming line honours as fastest finisher. Their hopes have been boosted by the promise of strong conditions. “We are excited by the forecast and that records may be challenged,” revealed John Markos, Commodore of organisers the Cruising Yacht Club of Australia (CYCA).

Fourth to pass the Heads was eight-time line honours winner Wild Oats XI who recovered impressively after an uncharacteristically sluggish start. Given the heavy conditions forecast and need for extra weight on board, Wild Oats XI is carrying a record crew of 22 sailors. “All four Maxis are going to have their moments,” explained Wild Oats XI skipper Mark Richards. “We don’t know the history of CQS as she is new with a radical design. The Scallywag team have done a lot of yachting this year, their teamwork is good, and they are a different animal to what we have raced against in the last few editions. Perpetual LOYAL are a great team with more talent onboard this year.”

While the focus during the early hours of the race is on line honours, the contest for the race’s most significant prize, overall victory on race handicap, is the principle target for the competing yachts. Andrew Saies, owner of the 40-ft Two True, won the Rolex Sydney Hobart in 2009 and is returning this year after following the last few editions from the comfort of dry land. “The weather forecast points to a great sail, but perhaps not ideal for our size of boat. To win this race you need a set of particular conditions to come together for your boat to win. It’s extremely hard to win this race.”

The fleet is rich and diverse, featuring yachts as small as 30-ft, seasoned campaigners setting personal records and those like the predominantly Swedish-crewed Matador, taking part for the first time. “It has taken a year of preparation and a great challenge getting everything sorted,” revealed owner Jonas Grander. “This is a legendary race and one we’ve read about so many times. It’s my dream to take part.”

The final number of starters was confirmed as 88 following the late withdrawal of Jason Bond’s Beneteau 47.7, Enigma.

Published in Sydney to Hobart
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Eight days out from the start of the Rolex Sydney Hobart race, a race in which a number of Irish sailors are participating, and there is no solid indication as to what weather pattern the 91–yacht fleet will experience.  The race begins in six day's time on Boxing Day from Sydney Harbour.

Barry Hurley and Kenneth Rumball from Dun Laoghaire will sail again on the Beneteau First 40 Breakthrough, a fourth time for Hurley.  The pair will join an Australian crew  and were 11th overall in the 2014 race, the best result yet for Hurley.

This morning, Australia's internationally acclaimed yachting meteorologist, Roger Badham, had one message for all crews in the 628-nautical mile classic: "In the past two days the two main long range weather models have swapped their outlooks. That's come about because of the complexity of the developing weather. All I can say is, don't read too much into it yet because things are certain to change again."

However, Badham added that the one likely scenario at this time was that race record holder, Wild Oats XI, or one to the three other supermaxis in the fleet, could set a record for the course. "Today the indications are that there will be a solid north-easterly wind at start time, so the yachts should enjoy fast sailing south from Sydney. However there is the chance for an explosive frontal low to develop in the Tasman Sea the first afternoon. But it would only be short-lived; the big boats would be back on record pace very quickly."

The Oatley family's Wild Oat's XI will this year be going for her ninth line honours in 12 starts in the Hobart race. The 30-metre long "Silver Bullet" has broken the course record on two occasions, her latest mark being 1 day 18 hours 23 minutes and 12 seconds, which was set in 2012.

Badham's current projections indicate the first of the big boats will reach the finish line on Hobart's Derwent River in about one day 15 hours

Published in Sydney to Hobart
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As anticipated here a week ago, the annual 629-mile Rolex Sydney Hobart Race kept offshore racing and nautical entertainment addicts all around the world enthralled through the Christmas period. And it has produced a story to suit almost all tastes. The crowded windward start in Sydney Harbour was exciting – too exciting for some. Then out in the Tasman Sea there was an on-the-nose gale, as expected. There were calms towards the end, as seems inevitable. And the big beamy 100ft American girl Comanche (Jim & Kristy Hinze Clark skippered by Kenny Read) finally got her coveted line honours win.

The hotly-sailed TP 52 Balance, owned and skippered by Australian financial guru Paul Clitheroe, took the Holy Grail (aka the Tattersall’s Cup) for the overall IRC win. And second place went to Fastnet Race 2015 overall winner Gery Trentesaux with one of the all-conquering JPK 10.80s. But the Trentesaux silver medal was only won by a whisker ahead of the restored veteran S&S 34 Quikpoint Azzurro (Shane Kearns).

In all, it has been quite a story, though admittedly Irish hopes were disappointed in that Gordon Maguire, reckoned to be among the Tattersall’s contenders at mid race aboard Matt Allen’s Carkeek 60 Ichi Ban, had to be content with eighth overall on IRC at the finish. But he was second in IRC Div 0, and sixth in line honours. As for the new Mark Mills-designed 45ft Concubine (Jason Ward), she was right in the middle of the rating range which did least well, but still managed a sixth in Division 1. W M Nixon casts an eye over a vintage staging of a great race.

We’re tempted to introduce a new acronym in reporting – IANMTU. But as such a word probably couldn’t exist in any language, we’ll make it IANTU so long as everyone understands that it means: I Am Not Making This Up. And it will have to do, as there was IANTU rampant before the Hobart fleet had even got out past Sydney Heads.

Things were potentially sticky as the forecast north to northeast breeze for the first day of the race actually had much less east in it than expected, making it a tight-packed beat out of an already crowded harbour.

But it’s one very major highly-publicised event. So instead of using their trusty old workhorse of a regular committee boat, the organising Cruising Yacht Club of Australia planned to fire the starting signal cannons from a class of a superyacht appropriate to the presence of celebrities and sponsors aboard to honour this premier sailing event of the Australian yachting calendar. And IANTU, but didn’t the superyacht start taking on water as the countdown began? And she took on water with such superyacht-style speed that the great and the good on board had to be hastily landed two miles up the harbour at a pier called (IANTU) Zoo Wharf.

Fortunately the club’s trusty workhorse committee boat was out and ready to take over starting duties. But there wasn’t time to transfer the official starting cannons from the immersing superyacht which was looking sleeker by the minute up at Zoo Wharf. However, the regular boat did have a horn of sorts, so the 71st Rolex Sydney-Hobart Race started not with a bang, but a toot, which we’ll suppose was a sort of nautical whimper.

It very soon became a proper start to a great race nevertheless, but getting out of the harbour was a bit of a melee, and of course with a fleet which included an unprecedented visiting 26 nations, wasn’t it one of the highest profile visitors – the Chinese TP 52 Ark323 whose tyro crew has already sailed thousands of often rugged miles just to be there – which came out on the wrong side of some shunting among the group of TP 52s and similarly-sized craft, and was so damaged that she had to retire before getting to the open sea?

Later in Hobart, it was adjudged that another TP 52 was at fault. This was the famous Syd Fischer’s Ragamuffin 52, which was being raced by his grandson Brenton, as Syd himself – now aged 88 – was racing aboard his super maxi Ragamaffin 100. That gives you some insight into the depth of involvement the great Australian sailing families have with the annual Hobart thrash. But the fact that the grandson and his crew were penalized, after an otherwise quite good race, was scant consolation for the Chinese crew, who saw more than a year of effort and intense training go straight down the tubes in one short sharp incident.

There was nothing at all amusing in it. But before the fleet had cleared the harbour with one or two other less damaging scrapes, there was entertainment on the sidelines among the spectator fleet. There, a little old motorboat – definitely not a superyacht – decided to emulate the official start boat by leaking so much that her doughty skipper with his motley crew headed pronto for the nearest beach which (IANTU) happened to be a popular nudist bathing venue. The resulting much-photographed scenes of some rescuers in the nip led to the 71st Rolex Sydney-Hobart Race getting more publicity in the worldwide popular press than it has done since the tragic events of the ultra-stormy race of 1998.


It could only be Sydney Harbour. One of the spectator boats found she was sinking off a nudist beach.

But meanwhile there was a proper serious race taking shape. In the short sharp beat to the harbour mouth, amongst the maxis Anthony Bell in command of his hundred foot Perpetual Loyal (ex Rambler 100) found himself in a minority of one by holding to the starboard side in the rising breeze, but he’d made the right call. Perpetual was at the harbour-exiting turning mark clear ahead - but only just. Comanche and the much-altered Wild Oats XI were right behind her, and out in open water with plenty of breeze and freed sheets, Comanche simply became a different sort of animal altogether. She roared away into the lead, while among those trying to hang onto her coat-tails, it was notable that George David’s smaller Rambler 88 was punching way above her weight - she was dealing with the Tasman Sea’s rough and irregular waves as though she was sailing in smooth water.

ho3Clear the way…..having reached open water, Comanche is seen here streaking away from Perpetual Loyal, Wild Oats XI, Ragamuffin 100, and Rambler 88. Photo: Rolex

Wild Oats XIWhen the going was good……the new-look extra-skinny Wild Oats XI making knots on Day 1 when the wind was fair. But that night’s Southerly Buster shredded her mainsail, and she retired. Photo: Rolex

This was all splendid mile-eating stuff while it lasted, tearing along on port with every stitch set and water flying all over the place. But everyone knew only too well that the first night would bring a classic Southerly Buster, gusting to 45 knots bang on the nose.

The underlying south-going stream was in fine form, so this would inevitably create horrendous wind-over-tide conditions when the new wind arrived. Except that a regular tidal cycle changes every six hours. The worst of normal wind-over-tide conditions will last only 4 to 5 hours. But this south-going stream continues regardless of the local state of the tide. Thus everyone prayed that the front at the heart of the Southerly Buster would go through in a reasonable time. It didn’t. The ferocious slugging match lasted around 18 hours. It was boat-breaking, gear-wrecking, crew-bashing stuff.

The litany of damage was comprehensive. The remarkable thing is that only 30 boats felt they’d no option but to pull out. The highest profile exit was by Wild Oats XI. The sudden nature of the change in conditions is indicated by the fact that as night drew on, one of the most experienced crews in the race were so suddenly hit by a squall of 40 knots-plus, and from the opposite direction to the day’s wind, that by the time they’d got things back under some sort of control, their mainsail was torn beyond all use and repair, and Wild Oats XI soon retired.

sydney hobart course 2015By heading south the Sydney-Hobart course takes the fleet into ever more rugged waters

Ragamuffin 100 was likewise taken totally aback, but though she lay completely on her ear over to port with the canting keel deployed in the totally wrong direction for fifteen minutes, somehow they got it all back together again with the mainsail still intact and nobody lost over the side, though some of them had spent rather longer in the Tasman Sea than they might have wished. Their troubles weren’t over, as they soon broke off a daggerboard. But they managed to get it clear and drilled a hole in the foot of the other daggerboard to take a line so that they could haul it up again when it was needed to move it to the other side.

Meanwhile Perpetual Loyal “sailed fast straight off a cliff”, and landed with such a bang that she sustained sufficient hull damage to make urgent retirement a necessity while she could still look after herself. Rambler 88 also had damage to both daggerboard and rudder, yet reckoned she still had enough bits hanging on to get to the finish with a bit of nursing. However, up ahead Comanche had sustained so much damage to a daggerboard and rudder she was for a while officially recorded as being retired. But then Kenny Read and his crew took another look at it and decided that as they’d come so far to do the race, and as it wasn’t that far to Hobart, they’d limp along to the finish somehow or other, though any chance of a record was out of the question.

With the fleet order taking shape, special interest focused on the Carkeek 60 Ichi Ban and Rupert Henry’s Judel Vrolik 62 Chinese Whisper, as the pundits reckoned this was the boat size best suited to the forecast pattern of wind conditions. Indeed, so firmly had this prediction become that Matt Allen – having kept his options open by also having an entry in for his TP52 Ichi Ban I – chose between his two boats by going for the Carkeek, with the TP 52 staying behind in dock.

ho5A long way to go, and a lot of southerly wind to get through – Ichi Ban slugs it out in open water. Photo: Rolex

The low-freeboard JV 62 Chinese Whisper was originally the successful day racer Spirit of Jethou, but she seemed to cope more than reasonably well with rugged offshore stuff. Photo: Rolex

The irony of this decision in light of the final overall result cannot be denied. But it should be pointed out that though the TP 52 Balance won overall, of seven TP 52s starting, only three finished, the other being the penalized Ragamuffin 52, with the third one Damien Parkes’ Duende aboard which Tony Cable was doing his 50th Sydney-Hobart Race. So who knows whether Ichi Ban I would have made it, whereas the hefty Carkeek 60 came through with style.

But as has been remarked before, maybe the 60ft Ichi Ban is just a bit too hefty. Certainly she is markedly different from Chinese Whisper, which in the end beat the Allen-Maguire team by an hour and nine minutes. The Whisper is one interesting boat. Originally she was Spirit of Jethou, designed in 2009 by Judel Vrolik and built by Green Marine to be a 60ft day racer – hence her low freeboard - for Peter Ogden. In 2012, with input from Brad Butterworth, she was lengthened by two feet and optimised for the Mediterranean circuit, in which she swept all before her.

The TP 52 Duende (Damian Parkes) placed 7th in the PHS Division, while it was the 50th Sydney-Hobart Race for crewman Tony Cable. Photo: Rolex

That this “inshore racer” has now won her class in the toughest Sydney-Hobart race since 2004 speaks volumes for her basic qualities. And though she has become 2ft longer than Ichi Ban, somehow she manages to rate 1.489 to Ichi Ban’s 1.501. That tiny margin makes for a huge difference when the two boats are racing neck-and-neck for much of the course, and particularly when, in the latter half of the race, Chinese Whisper tended to be always around a mile nearer the finish.

As for the eventual overall winner Balance, while she may have started with the prospect of boat-for-boat racing against other TP 52s, by the finish she was very much alone, but fortune was with her, and she’d a splendid sail in a private breeze making 16 knots and better for the final approaches to the Derwent and the tricky last few miles to the Hobart waterfront.

Even once she was in, so many other boats were still out racing with a good chance to beat her on corrected time that crew members who hadn’t signed up to sail the boat back to Sydney flew back home to spend the last of Christmas with their families. But within a couple of days, their skipper was on the phone to get them to fly south again for the prize-giving, as they’d won the Tattersall’s Cup.

Overall winner Balance with her much-repaired mansail finds smoother water in under the Tasmanian coast. Photo:Rolex

It had seemed a long wait for a boat which, as Quest, had been overall winner of the 2008 race. At first Skipper Clitheroe could only give out about the sheer roughness of the sail, and wonder why he did this sort of thing at all, and how his crew had miraculously kept his very damaged mainsail in one piece “using every last bit of stickyback on board”.

But then as each challenger failed to make the necessary finishing time, Balance’s position looked firmer than ever. The Reichel Pugh 51 Primitive Cool (John Newbold) was a contender, but missed. For a long time, Eric de Turckheim’s Archambault 13 Teasing Machine from France looked very good indeed, but she too missed the slot. Then for some giddy hours the great Gery Trentesaux, overall winner of the Rolex Fastnet Race 2015, looked as though he might complete an astonishing double, but he too fell short.

Good in all conditions – Gery Trentesaux, overall winner of the Rolex Fastnet Race in August, on his way to second place overall in the Rolex Sydney-Hobart Race in Courrier Leon. Photo: Rolex

So then as the clock ticked on, the only boat left to push Balance off her perch was the veteran S&S 34 Quikpoint Azzurro (Shaun Kearns), by which time the story was writing itself. Paul Clitheroe is, among other things, a financial guru with a TV programme on money management, while Shane Kearns broke all the rules on prudent money management by buying an old semi-derelict S&S 34 with his credit card, and then splashing out further with the plastic by optimising the boat such that with her Australian coachroof and bowsprit, you’d be hard put at first to guess this was an S&S 34 whose design dates from 1969.

Quikpoint Azzurro (Shaun Kearns)Little old boat that nearly made the top title. The beautifully-restored veteran S&S 34 Quikpoint Azzura (Shane Kearns) for some hours looked like being the overall winer but the flukey winds of the Derwent saw her slipping and she placed third, just six minutes behind second-placed Courrier Leon. Photo: Rolex

Yet even Quikpoint Azzurra, rating way down at 0.926, failed to make it. Indeed, so excruciatingly slow were her final miles that she finally lodged in third overall behind Gery Trentesaux, who was sailing a sister-ship of the boat with which he won the Fastnet, This was a JPK 10.80 which happened to be cruising the Pacific, but was re-routed to Sydney for the Trentesaux team to turn up with a new suit of sails, including a specially reinforced mainsail.

That special mainsail proved to be one of the veteran skipper’s best decisions - and he has made many good ones. And we now also know that all the questions after the 2015 Fastnet win, wondering just how good the incredibly successful JPK 10.80 design would be in a real breeze of wind, have been very satisfactorily answered out in the rough Tasman Sea.

The corrected times of the top ten boats in the Rolex Sydney-Hobart Race 2015 say everything about the remarkable diversity of the fleet. And the IRC has given a reasonably good account of itself, with just 52 minutes covering the seven boats between 2nd and 7th in a difficult race.

Rolex Sydney-Hobart Race 2015 IRC Overall:

1st Balance (2008 TP 52, Paul Clitheroe, NSW) CT 04:07:27:13;
2nd Courrier Leon (2013 JPK 10.80, Gery Trentesaux, France) 04:10:02:53;
3rd Quikpoint Aazzura (1973 S&S 34, Shane Kearns, NSW) 04:10:09:01;
4th Primitive Cool (2010 Reichel Pugh 51, John Newbold, Victoria) 04:10:36:19;
5th Chinese Whisper (2009/2012 Judel Vrolik 62, Rupert Henry NSW) 04:11:39:18;
6th Wild Rose (1987 Farr 43, Roger Hickman, NSW) 04:11:41:53;
7th Teasing Machine (Archambault 13, Eric de Turckheim, France) 04:11:54:47;
8th Ichi Ban (2014 Carkeek 60, Matt Allen NSW) 04:12:48:46;
9th Mayfair (2010 Beneteau First 40, James Irvine, Queensland) 04:14:29:56;
10th Imagination (2004 Beneteau First 47.7, Robin Hawthorne, NSW) 04:14:58:17.

Published in W M Nixon

Overnight, light winds brought a steady stream of competitors up the Derwent River to the finish line, filling the Rolex Sydney Hobart race village in time for the New Year’s Eve celebration.

An Irish chance of an overall victory fizzled out when Ichi Ban with Howth's Yacht Club's Gordon Maguire on board was second in IRC class zero.

All eyes were on Quikpoint Azzurro, the dark horse and smallest boat in the fleet, and for most of Wednesday afternoon Shane Kearn’s Sparkman & Stephens 34 raced towards the finish on pace to potentially claim the overall win on handicap. The 34-footer needed to reach the finish line by 0443 AEDT Thursday.

Paul Clitheroe, owner of TP52 Balance, was on tender hooks, checking the race tracker constantly to chart their progress.

Commenting on the impressive achievements of his closest competitor, Clitheroe said that after such a long and challenging race it would be unfair for Quikpoint Azzurro to sit just metres from the finish line should the wind die. Yet at the mouth of the river, the hopes of Quikpoint Azzurro were dashed.

Clitheroe realised that he and his team had clinched the title upon calculating that Quikpoint Azzurro had half an hour left to finish, yet several miles to cover.

“We knew it was a great little boat, but we just couldn’t see them doing 22 nautical miles, with just four knots of wind, in half an hour,” so Clitheroe asked his crew to hop back on a plane to Hobart to help claim their prize.

The 60-year-old financial consultant and TV presenter known as the ‘Money Man’, Paul Clitheroe has been advising Australians for decades on sound, long-term investment strategies. Not unlike his approach to yacht racing, where planning and thorough preparation are key. Yet when it comes to winning, he adds passion, teamwork and pure dedication to make the difference.

Elated about his win, Clitheroe commented: “They kept me up all night! In what sport are you going to get a modern, carbon 52-footer up against an old 34-footer bought on a credit card. Either of us could have won it within five minutes. It’s crackerjack!”

Paul Clitheroe and his crew were presented with the Tattersall’s Cup and engraved Rolex Yacht Master timepiece onboard Balance and following at a public prizegiving on Constitution Wharf.

At time of press, 75 yachts have finished, 31 retired and two yachts are still racing but expected to arrive in time for the official Rolex Sydney Hobart Yacht Race prizegiving will take place Friday, 1 January 2016 at 1000 AEDT at the Grand Chancellor Hotel in Hobart.

Published in Sydney to Hobart
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