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Irish in Big Boats Hitting The International Sea Road For Hobart

24th December 2023
Sean Langman's Will Byrne-crewed Reichel Pugh-designed Moneypenny may be 69ft long, but she seems to sit as light as a feather on the sea
Sean Langman's Will Byrne-crewed Reichel Pugh-designed Moneypenny may be 69ft long, but she seems to sit as light as a feather on the sea

Although the only totally Irish entry in Tuesday's Rolex Sydney Hobart Race 2023 is the Kinsale YC duo of Cian McCarthy and Sam Hunt with the chartered Sun Fast 3300 Cinnamon Girl-Eden Capital, further Irish representation has emerged at the top end of the fleet, even though - as the reality of starting gets nearer - the number cleared to race has now been whittled down to 113 boats from an original 120.

Of these, only ten are from overseas with just three from Europe, the other two in addition to Cinnamon being the exuberant Eric de Turckheim from France with the 54ft NYMD Teasing Machine, and Chris Opielok of Germany with the JPK 10.80 Rockall. There's a name that will ring a bell, as an earlier Rockall was the Corby 36 which was originally Roy Dickson's Howth-based Rosie.


Of course, the owner of hot favourite Caro, the Botin 52 where Gordon Maguire is on the strength, is Max Klinck from Switzerland. But as Caro is registered under a Cayman Islands sail number, it puts her into a different category, and in fact she sails as a New Zealand entry - one of only three Kiwi participants - as she was built in NZ by Mark Turner.

 Grattan Roberts Jnr of the Royal Cork is racing to Hobart on the 100ft Scallywag, one of the favourites for line honours Grattan Roberts Jnr of the Royal Cork is racing to Hobart on the 100ft Scallywag, one of the favourites for line honours

As briefly mentioned in the preview in Sailing on Saturday, Grattan Roberts Jnr of Royal Cork YC is with a numerous cast, crewing Seng Huang Lee's Hong Kong-registered Dovell 100 SHK Scallywag. A 2014 boat which has been much modified through the recent "winter" months in Australia, Scallywag is now fancied for line honours as she sallies forth with an improved hull and a larger rig.


The irrepressible Sean Langman, having done the Fastnet Race in July this year with Gordon Maguire on the up-graded vintage gaffer Maluka, is bringing another of his boats out of the stable with the Reichel-Pugh 69 Moneypenny. And at the sharp end is Will Byrne of the National Yacht Club, now one of top-level international offshore racing's elite group of bowmen. With south to southwest winds currently forecast for the start, he may well be busy in Sydney Harbour before the fleet settle down to slug to windward bound for Hobart, but even then with Moneypenny's multi-choice foresail arrangements, the bowman's job is no sinecure.

With this foretriangle arrangement, Moneypenny's bowman Will Byrne of the National YC is almost always busyWith this foretriangle arrangement, Moneypenny's bowman Will Byrne of the National YC is almost always busy

Published in Sydney to Hobart
WM Nixon

About The Author

WM Nixon

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William M Nixon has been writing about sailing in Ireland for many years in print and online, and his work has appeared internationally in magazines and books. His own experience ranges from club sailing to international offshore events, and he has cruised extensively under sail, often in his own boats which have ranged in size from an 11ft dinghy to a 35ft cruiser-racer. He has also been involved in the administration of several sailing organisations.

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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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