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Gordon Maguire & Matt Allen in Race for Sydney-Hobart 'Three-Peat'

25th November 2020
Matt Allen, owner and skipper of 2019 overall winner Ichi Ban Matt Allen, owner and skipper of 2019 overall winner Ichi Ban Photo: Andrea Francolini

The 76th running of the Cruising Yacht Club of Australia’s Rolex Sydney Hobart Yacht Race will be different this year with COVID-19 restrictions in place around the world, however, organisers say it has not diminished the quality of the fleet; the chase for the Tattersall Cup as strong as it ever was and a new Two-Handed division has added a new element. This is despite the fact that some big names have bowed out of the race, as Afloat reported here.

A fleet of 89 (down from the originally forecasted 100) – representing NSW, Tasmania, Victoria, Queensland and South Australia is entered for the annual 628 nautical mile race.

The only international entry is the supermaxi, Black Jack, representing Monaco.

At the fast end of the fleet are two super maxis; Christian Beck’s InfoTrack joins Peter Harburg’s Black Jack. Meanwhile, eight TP52s, among them Matt Allen’s defending champion Ichi Ban, will join others in the 50-60 feet range vying for the Tattersall Cup.

Allen, of course, will be racing with his sailing master, Howth Yacht Club's Gordon Maguire (59) who is now recognised as one of Australia’s leading all-round professional offshore/inshore keelboat skippers. 

When asked about the possibility of a three-peat, Matt Allen revealed that his team “.. quite enjoys the pressure and looks to improve the boat’s performance year-on-year.” “In that 50 – 70-foot range, we have some of the best boats in the world.”

The weather may favour the larger end of town and the pressure will be on with so many grand prix yachts in the 60-80ft band. Phil Turner’s 2018 overall winner, the RP66 Alive (Tas) will lead the charge.

Alive’s adversaries are: Grant Wharington/Paul Heyes/Adrian Seiffert/Doug Sallis’ Botin 80, Thunderstruck (former Beau Geste), Jim Cooney’s Volvo Open 70, Maserati (both will be also chasing line honours), Sean Langman’s RP69 Moneypenny, David Gotze’s RP63 Triton and David Griffith’s JV62, Whisper – all from NSW.

Conditions may favour the smaller yachts. Greg Prescott’s modified Farr 40, 2 Unlimited (Tas); Bruce Taylor’s Caprice 40, Chutzpah (Vic); Shane Kearns’ S&S34, White Bay 6 Azzurro (NSW); Shaun Tiedemann’s Sydney 36 C/R, Philosopher (Tas) and the Sydney 38s, led by Tony Levett’s TSA Management, could benefit.

A new Two-Handed division has also been added to the race, and those entered have a chance to take out the inaugural line honours trophy, along with trophies for the overall winners under IRC and PHS.

Hot to trot for the inaugural line honours trophy is Rupert Henry’s Burning Palms. The NSW yachtsman will race his J/65 with Greg O’Shea, the friend who helped him sail his former yacht to a clean sweep of IRC, PHS and AMS wins, line honours and a new race record in the 2018 Melbourne Osaka Double-Handed Yacht Race. They are the benchmark and will be formidable.

Among those vying for Two-Handed IRC honours are Wendy Tuck/Campbell Geeves with the Beneteau 34.7, Speedwell. At 9.9 metres, it is the second smallest boat in the race, but Tuck has an enviable record. The only woman on the planet to win an around the world race and one of only two to twice win the Jane Tate Memorial Trophy (awarded to the first female skipper to finish the Sydney Hobart each year), she has done 13 Sydney Hobarts.

When asked why she chose to enter the two-handed division this year, Wendy acknowledged that she likes to continuously challenge herself but would need to remember to “.. stop walking after 33 feet or otherwise I’m going to get really wet”. She stressed the importance of looking after yourself and your partner in two-handed sailing. She even made up a new word to describe sailing for hours without sleep: “Slangry – when you’re sleepy,
hungry and angry”.

Tasmania’s Rob Gough/John Saul are also highly fancied. In his heyday, Gough was a windsurfing world champion and Moth Masters world champion, has major wins on the board in the SB20 keelboat and raced to Hobart with Saul on Oskana last year. Saul was also one of only 44 finishers in the 1998 Sydney Hobart with his boat Computerland.

James Murchison’s Abracadabra, Rod Walton’s Fontana, Chris Canty’s Galaxy III and David Suttie’s Pekljus are NSW contenders for the PHS Two-Handed trophy. Queenslander Michael Lazzarini (Samurai Jack) will be keeping them honest.

“In this unusual climate we are pleased with the number and quality of the fleet,” CYCA Commodore, Noel Cornish said.

“It will be as difficult as ever to win the Rolex Sydney Hobart Yacht Race and we have the new Two-Handed division, which adds another dimension to our Blue Water Classic. In 2020 we are also celebrating 75 years of women in the race and have an excellent representation across the board to mark the occasion,” the Commodore ended.

To that end, the oldest boat in the fleet, Anne Lawrence’s Solveig, adds something special.

The famous Halvorsen 36 was designed and owned by Trygve Halvorsen and built in 1950 by his brother Lars. Trygve and older brother, Magnus, raced her to Hobart five times from 1950. They took line honours in 1953 and finished second overall, then won the race in
1954.

Lawrence, a 15 Sydney Hobart race-veteran and respected navigator, has stripped the boat back and restored Solveig to her former glory.

Helping send Lawrence and the rest of the fleet on its way on Boxing Day are Vanessa ‘Duds’ Dudley and Gail Harland who will fire the five minute and 10 minute warning signals.

Dudley, a gifted helmswoman, has contested 23 Sydney Hobarts, her most recent on Wild Oats when it finished second overall in 2018. Harland has competed in 22 races as a trimmer and can claim the distinction of winning the 2003 race on First National.

Since 2003, the historic replica start cannon has been fired by someone who has won the race 50 years previously. This year that duty falls to Bruce ‘Gouldy’ Gould, who was aboard Pacha when it won in 1970. Gouldy was also aboard Vengeance for her line honours victory in 1981 and on Sovereign for the line and overall double win in 1987.

Smallest in the fleet with a budget to match, is the Army Sailing Club’s Gun Runner. At 9.2 metres, the boat is used to train its personnel and teaches the Army values of courage, initiative, respect and teamwork.

Full list of entries here.

Published in Sydney to Hobart
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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 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)

©Afloat 2020

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