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Sydney-Hobart Race 2017 – The Gift That Just Kept on Giving for Irish Sailing

3rd January 2018
The 1931-built Dorade at Tasman Island, navigated by Adrienne Cahalane to second in Class 4 in the Rolex Sydney-Hobart Race The 1931-built Dorade at Tasman Island, navigated by Adrienne Cahalane to second in Class 4 in the Rolex Sydney-Hobart Race

Few international sporting events gives a stronger sense of the cohesive nature of the Irish diaspora than the annual Rolex Sydney Hobart Race writes W M Nixon. For there were certainly sailors of Irish descent in the first race of 1945, which was largely inspired by offshore racing legend Captain John Illingworth of the Royal Ocean Racing Club, who happened to be stationed in Sydney as a naval officer as World War II drew to a close and new distance races were once again possible.

Since then, Irish crew either chartered complete boats, or were significant parts of crews. But the real breakthrough came with 1991’s Irish three-boat team’s overall winning involvement in the Southern Cross Series, of which the Hobart Race was the climax.

In the final inshore race, the boat being campaigned by Howth sailors Gordon Maguire and Kieran Jameson was dismasted in a collision with an Australian boat which was at fault. Points allocations were adjusted accordingly to the end of the series, but this led to personnel changes for the race to Hobart, in which Ireland now had only two boats.

atara 1991 sydney2John Storey’s Atara in Sydney Harbour, celebrated on the Afloat magazine cover after she took her place in history as overall winner of the 1991 Rolex Sydney Hobart Race, sailed by Harold Cudmore and Gordon Maguire.

One was the John Storey’s 43ft Atara, which was being skipppered by Cork’s Harold Cudmore, who promptly drafted Gordon Maguire into his helming lineup. Ireland got their first Hobart race overall win and the Southern Cross Trophy with it, while Gordon Maguire’s gradual progession towards becoming a leading Australian sailor got under way, though several years were to pass before he moved Down Under for good.

While he was always in the frame in any Rolex Sydney-Hobart Race he sailed, his next overall win didn’t come until 2011 with Steven Ainsworth’s Reichel Pugh 63 Loki. And now, after several years of successful partnership with Australian Sailing President Matt Allen in a number of boats all called Ichi Ban (it’s Japanese for No.1), Maguire has recorded one of the finest overall wins yet achieved, in the most demanding section of perhaps the most competitive fleet ever assembled.

When that was added to Jim Rooney’s super-maxi LDV Comanche being awarded the Line Honours prize with Justin Slattery as bow-man, it put the Irish links on the pinnacle of success. But this was only the start of it. For in addition to noted Irish-Australian names to be found at the front of several classes, four Irish sailors had travelled out to Sydney to take part.

The one who had got there by the longest route was of course Conall Morrison of Derry/Londonderry, skippering in the Clipper 70 Round the World race. The Sydney-Hobart’s inclusion in the Clipper programme has been good for the sailors of Lough Swilly, as Sean McCarter also won this leg when he was racing round the world. But while Sean McCarter was to be awarded international recognition for a rescue at sea in a different stage of the Clipper Race, Conall Morrison and his crew carried out a man-overboard rescue of a crewman from another boat racing to Hobart, and did it with such exemplary skill that eventually both boats were able to continue with the race, with’s redress of rescue time giving her a clear win in the Clippper Class.

Meanwhile at the front end of the fleet, international navigator Ian Moore, now Cowes-resident but originally from Carrickfergus, was calling the shots on the Cookson 50 Mascalzone Latino 32. In a races round which the TP 52s fitted perfectly, it was only occasionally that a Cookson 50 figured prominently in the rankings, yet somehow Moore placed Mascalzone to such good effect that at some stage she was in the top three, and at the finish was fifth overall and second in Class 0.

As for our general impression of the race, it is Ian Moore’s opinion that Ichi Ban was raced “exceptionally well throughout” which carried most weight. But meanwhile that second in Class 0 mustn’t obscure the fact that Class 0 was won by the American-owned former Volvo 70 Wizard (ex Giacomo) aboard which Dublin-born sailmaker Noel Drennan was sailing his 32nd Sydney-Hobart Race.

emmet kerin3Emmet Kerin of Limerick (centre) in Hobart with the Class 3 trophy won by Ariel

For Limerick GP Dr Emmet Kerin, who normally sails out of Kilrush on the family’s First 36.7, the jaunt to Sydney to race with Ron Forster on his First 40 Ariel is a yearly highlight, but 2017 will be remembered better than most – Ariel won Class 3.

A noted Irish sailor making his first foray to Hobart was Mini-Transat hero Tom Dolan. He shipped with a mixed Australian-Chinese crew on the veteran Jarkan 12.5 China Easyway, and they’d their best race yet, recording third in Class 4. But that was only the beginning of success in Class 4, as Offaly-born navigator Adrienne Cahalane was doing her 26th Sydney-Hobart, and she did it aboard a veteran-plus – the 1931-built Sparkman & Stephens Dorade, which won the Fastnet Race in 1931 and again in 1933, but has been so well restored by American owner Matt Brooks that she’s able for the rugged Sydney-Hobart Race, and not merely as a survivor – Dorade, at 86 years old, took second in IRC Class 4.

Briefly annotated, the achievements with Irish involvement are:

Line Honours and 19th overall: LDV Comanche (Jim Cooney and Justin Slattery).

First Class 1 and First Overall: Ichi Ban (Gordon Maguire).

First Class 0 and Fourth Overall: Wizard (Noel Drennan).

Second Class 0 and Fifth Overall: Mascalzone Latino 32 (Ian Moore).

First Class 3 and 34th overall: Ariel (Emmet Kerin).

Second Class 4 and 31st overall: Dorade (Adrienne Cahalane).

Third Class 4 and 32nd overall: China Easyway (Tom Dolan)

mascalzone latino 1The Cookson 50 Mascalzone Latino revelling in the stronger winds, on her way to second in Class 0 and fifth overall. She makes for a fascinating comparison with the TP 52 Ichi Ban (below). For although the Cookson 50 theoretically offers a cruising option with ample accommodation and the comfort of twin wheel steering, the TP 52 is total racing, crewed by bruised and battered athletes, and with massive tiller steering only for people who really know what they’re at.

ichi ban racing5

Published in Sydney to Hobart Team

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The Sydney Hobart Yacht Race

The Rolex Sydney Hobart Yacht Race is an annual offshore yacht racing event with an increasingly international exposure attracting super maxi yachts and entries from around tne world. It is hosted by the Cruising Yacht Club of Australia, starting in Sydney, New South Wales on Boxing Day and finishing in Hobart, Tasmania. The race distance is approximately 630 nautical miles (1,170 km).

The 2022 Rolex Sydney Hobart Yacht Race starts in Sydney Harbour at 1pm (AEDT) on Monday 26 December.

This is the 77th edition of the Rolex Sydney Hobart. The inaugural race was conducted in 1945 and has run every year since, apart from 2020, which was cancelled due to the COVID-19 pandemic.

88 boats started the 2021 Rolex Sydney Hobart, with 50 finishing.

The Sydney Hobart Yacht Race - FAQs

The number of Sydney Hobart Yacht Races held by the Cruising Yacht Club of Australia since 1945 is 75

6,257 completed the Sydney Hobart Yacht race, 1036 retired or were disqualified)

About 60,061 sailors have competed in the Sydney Hobart Race between 1945 and 2019

Largest fleets: 371 starters in the 50th race in 1994 (309 finished); 154 starters in 1987 (146 finished); 179 starters in 1985 (145 finished); 151 starters in 1984 (46 finished); 173 started in 1983 (128 finished); 159 started in 1981 (143 finished); 147 started in 1979 (142 finished); 157 started in 2019 (154 finished)

116 in 2004 (59 finished); 117 in 2014 (103 finished); 157 in 2019 (154 finished)

Nine starters in the inaugural Sydney Hobart Yacht Race in 1945

In 2015 and 2017 there were 27, including the 12 Clipper yachts (11 in 2017). In the record entry of 371 yachts in the 50th in 1994, there were 24 internationals

Rani, Captain John Illingworth RN (UK). Design: Barber 35’ cutter. Line and handicap winner

157 starters, 154 finishers (3 retirements)

IRC Overall: Ichi Ban, a TP52 owned by Matt Allen, NSW. Last year’s line honours winner: Comanche, Verdier Yacht Design and VPLP (FRA) owned by Jim Cooney and Samantha Grant, in 1 day 18 hours, 30 minutes, 24 seconds. Just 1hour 58min 32secs separated the five super maxis at the finish 

1 day 9 hours 15 minutes and 24 seconds, set in 2017 by LDV Comanche after Wild Oats XI was penalised one hour in port/starboard incident for a finish time of 1d 9h 48m 50s

The oldest ever sailor was Syd Fischer (88 years, 2015).

As a baby, Raud O'Brien did his first of some six Sydney Hobarts on his parent's Wraith of Odin (sic). As a veteran at three, Raud broke his arm when he fell off the companionway steps whilst feeding biscuits to the crew on watch Sophie Tasker sailed the 1978 race as a four-year-old on her father’s yacht Siska, which was not an official starter due to not meeting requirements of the CYCA. Sophie raced to Hobart in 1979, 1982 and 1983.

Quite a number of teenage boys and girls have sailed with their fathers and mothers, including Tasmanian Ken Gourlay’s 14-year-old son who sailed on Kismet in 1957. A 12-year-old boy, Travis Foley, sailed in the fatal 1998 race aboard Aspect Computing, which won PHS overall.

In 1978, the Brooker family sailed aboard their yacht Touchwood – parents Doug and Val and their children, Peter (13), Jacqueline (10), Kathryne (8) and Donald (6). Since 1999, the CYCA has set an age limit of 18 for competitors

Jane (‘Jenny’) Tate, from Hobart, sailed with her husband Horrie aboard Active in the 1946 Race, as did Dagmar O’Brien with her husband, Dr Brian (‘Mick’) O’Brien aboard Connella. Unfortunately, Connella was forced to retire in Bass Strait, but Active made it to the finish. The Jane Tate Memorial Trophy is presented each year to the first female skipper to finish the race

In 2019, Bill Barry-Cotter brought Katwinchar, built in 1904, back to the start line. She had competed with a previous owner in 1951. It is believed she is the oldest yacht to compete. According to CYCA life member and historian Alan Campbell, more than 31 yachts built before 1938 have competed in the race, including line honours winners Morna/Kurrewa IV (the same boat, renamed) and Astor, which were built in the 1920s.

Bruce Farr/Farr Yacht Design (NZL/USA) – can claim 20 overall wins from 1976 (with Piccolo) up to and including 2015 (with Balance)

Screw Loose (1979) – LOA 9.2m (30ft); Zeus II (1981) LOA 9.2m

TKlinger, NSW (1978) – LOA 8.23m (27ft)

Wild Oats XI (2012) – LOA 30.48m (100ft). Wild Oats XI had previously held the record in 2005 when she was 30m (98ft)

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