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The 76th Sydney Hobart Yacht Race Wrapped Up

2nd January 2022
Three-time Sydney Hobart Yacht Race winner, Matt Allen’s Ichi Ban, off Tasmania with a strong Irish crew onboard including Gordon Maguire of Howth as Sailing Master and Sean O’Rourke and Dublin-born Noel Drennan
Three-time Sydney Hobart Yacht Race winner, Matt Allen’s Ichi Ban, off Tasmania with a strong Irish crew onboard including Gordon Maguire of Howth as Sailing Master and Sean O’Rourke and Dublin-born Noel Drennan

Without doubt, the 76th Rolex Sydney Hobart Yacht Race delivered on the event’s formidable reputation. It was a race of two decidedly different halves. The first was a punishing test of physical endurance and perseverance. The second questioned mental resilience and tactical judgment. Organised since 1945 by the Cruising Yacht Club of Australia, with the support of the Royal Yacht Club of Tasmania, the race has been partnered by Rolex since 2002.

The lead up to the 2021 race was overshadowed by the prospect of a brutal first 24 to 48 hours of strong southerly wind combining with opposing current to build a threatening sea state. The exacting conditions probed for weakness in equipment and mindset. Despite all the intense and detailed preparation within the 88-boat fleet, so unrelenting was the scrutiny that over a third would be forced to retire.

Smuggler off Tasman Island during the 2021 Rolex Sydney Hobart Yacht RaceSmuggler off Tasman Island during the 2021 Rolex Sydney Hobart Yacht Race

For those that made it through, any sense of relief was short-lived with the final stages of the race setting a more cerebral challenge. A shifting weather pattern required crews to piece together a complex three-dimensional on-the-water jigsaw puzzle. When sailing, the shortest course between two points is rarely a straight line. This was never more true than during this year’s Rolex Sydney Hobart.

The three 100 foot (30.5 metre) maxis lead the fleet out of Sydney HarbourThe three 100 foot (30.5 metre) maxis lead the fleet out of Sydney Harbour

The overall win on time correction was eventually secured by Matt Allen’s 52 foot (15.85 metre) Ichi Ban. The win had a special Irish dimension to it with Gordon Maguire of Howth as Sailing Master and Sean O’Rourke and Dublin-born Noel Drennan.

Previously winners in 2017 and 2019, the Australian crew joined two other yachts within the legend of the race to achieve three victories and is the first, since Freya in the 1960s, to lift the Tattersall Cup in back-to-back races. According to the winning owner, Matt Allen:

“It is amazing to be part of the history and fabric of the Rolex Sydney Hobart Yacht Race.”

With 31 races under his belt, the first back in 1980 aged 17, Allen has plenty of experience to draw upon. He felt this edition had provided a full and extensive examination of seamanship:

“Most races to Hobart do test the entire boat and crew, but I think this year’s probably more than ever. The wave conditions we saw through the first 24 hours really caused big issues for the boats. Then to have that very complicated tactical situation for the rest of the race really [meant] decision-making was absolutely critical.”

Tasman Island is the southernmost point on the 628nm courseTasman Island is the southernmost point on the 628nm course

The contest to be first to finish was no less enthralling, with three 100ft (30.5m) maxis dogfighting virtually the length of the 628 nautical mile racecourse. SHK Scallywag 100 led out of the harbour, but a sail-handling issue let her rivals slip past. LawConnect then traded the lead with Black Jack, until Peter Harburg’s Monegasque flagged and Australian-crewed entry acted decisively in the light winds to build an advantage that survived a nail-biting drift up the Derwent River to Hobart.

Matt Allen (L), owner of the overall winning yacht Ichi Ban, and Benoit Falletti (R), Rolex AustraliaMatt Allen (L), owner of the overall winning yacht Ichi Ban, and Benoit Falletti (R), Rolex Australia

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 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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