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Kinsale's Cinnamon Girl and Dublin Bay's Cian Guilfoyle on Caro are Big Irish Hopes in Competitive Sydney Hobart Yacht Race Fleet

22nd November 2023
Kinsale's Cian McCarthy and Sam Hunt, who have been cutting a successful swathe through Irish offshore racing for more than two years now, are making a tilt at the Sydney Hobart Two-Handed title this Christmas
Kinsale's Cian McCarthy and Sam Hunt, who have been cutting a successful swathe through Irish offshore racing for more than two years now, are making a tilt at the Sydney Hobart Two-Handed title this Christmas Credit: Afloat

A diverse fleet, including multiple former winners and some key Irish offshore interests, will take on the 628 nautical mile Rolex Sydney Hobart Yacht Race on St. Stehpen's Day.

One hundred and thirteen boats are entered for the 78th running of Cruising Yacht Club of Australia’s (CYCA) famous race, which begins on Sydney Harbour at 1 PM on Tuesday, 26 December.

Sydney-Hobart winners 2022 - Callaghan, Henry, Haynes, Winning Jr., Williams, Hall gather behind the Rolex Sydney Hobart trophies Photo: Andrea FrancoliniSydney-Hobart winners 2022 - Callaghan, Henry, Haynes, Winning Jr., Williams, Hall gather behind the Rolex Sydney Hobart trophies Photo: Andrea Francolini

There are ten international entrants: from New Zealand (Allegresse, Caro, with Dun Laoghaire's Cian Guilfoyle on the crew, and Niksen), Hong Kong (Antipodes and SHK Scallywag), New Caledonia (Eye Candy), USA (Lenny), France (Teasing Machine), Germany (Rockall 8), and Ireland (Cinnamon Girl).

Dublin Bay's Cian Guilfoyle is on the crew of Caro again for this year's Sydney Hobart RaceDublin Bay's Cian Guilfoyle is on the crew of Caro again for this year's Sydney Hobart Race

Australia is represented across all six states, with New South Wales home to 60 entries, while Queensland fields 18, Victoria 15, Tasmania 7, Western Australia 2, and South Australia 1.

Dublin Bay Fastnet Race winner Guilfoyle is back aboard the Botin 52 Caro again this year for the Sydney-Hobart and is 'looking to best last year's result' he told Afloat, a reference to Caro's third-place finish in 2022.

There is other Irish interest, too, the National Yacht Club's Will Byrne, who just completed the Middle Sea Race on Conor Doyle's XP50 from Kinsale, is racing on Sean Langman's Reichel Pugh 69, Moneypenny. Denis Power of RStGYC is racing the 2023 Sydney-Hobart aboard the Radford/McIntyre 55 Arctos and Kinsale's Steph Lyons in action at the sharp end of the Cookson 12, Calibre 12.

Four 100-foot maxis will likely vie for Line Honours this year – four-time winner Andoo Comanche, which took Line Honours in 2022 and holds the race record of 1 day, 9 hours, 15 minutes, and 24 seconds as LDV Comanche for Jim Cooney and Samantha Grant (2017), Law Connect, which placed second last year and won the John H Illingworth Challenge Cup as first across the line back in 2016 as Perpetual LOYAL, SHK Scallywag, and Wild Thing 100, the recently modified Botin 80 Stefan Racing.

On his competition, Andoo Comanche skipper John Winning Jr. said, “Scallywag [didn’t race last year] is an unknown quantity, but I believe Witty [David Witt] has the boat in the best shape ever. Law Connect broke the record in 2016 [as Perpetual LOYAL], so they have a phenomenal boat.”

“Grant Wharington’s Wild Thing is another unknown. Wharo is working around the clock to get the boat finished. He is a determined man, so I’m sure he will have the boat ready to go.”

Sam Haynes and the crew of his TP52 Celestial are back to defend the coveted Tattersall Cup awarded in 2022 as the Overall winner under IRC on corrected time.

On whether he can win the race again or not, Haynes said “TP52s seem to fit the race, then you need skilled sailors with the personalities to match. You need confidence too, and I’m going to put my best foot forward”.

The competition for the major prize will be hotly contested this year with eight mini maxis and nine TP52s and other 52-foot racers as well as a range of smaller boats across all divisions, including two-handed, that could be up for the challenge if conditions favour them.

Five other past Overall winners are racing this year:

  • Alive (2018)
  • Bumblebee V (2001)
  • Love & War (1974, 1978, 2006), one of only three yachts to have won Overall on three separate occasions (Freya, Love & War, and Ichi Ban)
  • Christina, winner of the 1946 Sydney Hobart
  • Wild Oats/Wild Rose, won in 1993 and 2014 respectively

Celestial - the winner of the Rolex Sydney Hobart Yacht Race 2022 Photo: Andrea FrancoliniCelestial - the winner of the Rolex Sydney Hobart Yacht Race 2022 Photo: Andrea Francolini

Twenty Two-Handed entries are competing. Rupert Henry returns as the 2022 Two-Handed Division winner with his Lombard 34 Mistral, and Ireland's Cian McCarthy and Sam Hunt, who have been cutting a successful swathe through Irish offshore racing for more than two years now, are also making a tilt at the big Australian title.

Henry describes sailing Hobart two-handedly, “We only manage around 4 hours max of sleep each. We know when each other needs to crash, so we do it then.”

“I don’t prefer two-handed sailing, but I’m just enjoying trying to reach my full potential with just two people racing it.”

Jules Hall, who won the inaugural Two-Handed Division in 2021 with Jan Scholten on Disko Trooper_Contender Sailcloth, will be campaigning the J/99 fully-crewed this year and has put together a strong team comprised of CYCA’s Youth Sailing Academy sailors – a mix of both experienced and first-timers.

Once again, there will be a large number of women sailors competing.

Lisa Callaghan, who owns the Sydney 38 Mondo with Stephen Teudt, returns to the race in 2023 with unfinished business after retiring Mondo last year with a broken gooseneck.

Of the 113 entrants, seven were only built this year, and 33 were constructed before 2000. The oldest entrant is Ena Ladd’s Christina, built in 1932. She is returning after 77 years, having done just the one race in 1946.

One of the older boats, Robert Williams’ 1960-built Sylph VI, makes a return to the Sydney Hobart for the first time in 51 years after having competed five times back in the 1960s and early ‘70s.

From the four 100-foot maxis through to the three 30-footers - Currawong, Niksen and Gun Runner, the fleet will take the line on Boxing Day to add another chapter to the race’s rich history. They will join the 6,407 boats that have competed since 1945 when nine boats took on the challenge to race to Hobart from Sydney Harbour.

Williams, with his cat Oli, on Sylph VI Photo" Andrea FrancoliniWilliams, with his cat Oli, on Sylph VI Photo" Andrea Francolini

CYCA Commodore, Arthur Lane, took the opportunity to thank Rolex, Race Finishing Partner the Royal Yacht Club of Tasmania and the event’s many partners for their continued support.

Internationally, the race will be available through YouTube on CYCATV. For the full list of entries click here 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)

©Afloat 2020