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The stage is set for the return of the Rolex Sydney Hobart Yacht Race, with a fleet of 112 boats confirmed for the 2021 edition of the prestigious race. There's Irish interest too in the race as hopes are raised COVID entry restrictions to Australia will be lifted in time for the St. Stephen's Day race.

Afloat is aware of several crews lining up for duty in the 628-miler despite the fact Australia's borders are currently closed to everyone except citizens.

Among the hot entries is Matt Allen's Botin 52 Ichi Ban, (with regular sailing master Gordon Maguire, originally of Howth Yacht Club on board), the 2017 and 2019 winner of the Tattersall Cup, which honours the overall winner on handicap.

Three super maxis are tipped to battle for the John H Illingworth Challenge Cup as line honours winner, with Peter Harburg's RP100 Black Jack, Seng Huang Lee's Dovell 100 SHK Scallywag and Christian Beck's Juan-K 100 which will soon be rebranded (formerly Infotrack and winner of line honours in 2016 as Perpetual Loyal) part of the line-up.

The introduction of shorthanded racing for the 2021 race has proved popular as 24 crews of two look to be crowned as the inaugural winner of the Two-Handed Division.

Published in Sydney to Hobart
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Excitement is building for the return of the historic Rolex Sydney Hobart Yacht Race, with entries now open for the 77th edition of ocean racing’s ‘Everest’.

The Cruising Yacht Club of Australia (CYCA) has launched the Notice of Race and is now welcoming eligible crews from across Australia and abroad to secure their place in the fleet.

The eyes of the world will once again turn to Sydney Harbour on Sunday 26 December.

Following the disappointing cancellation of the 2020 Rolex Sydney Hobart due to the COVID-19 pandemic, CYCA Commodore Noel Cornish AM is looking forward to the Great Race.

“It is my great pleasure to announce the 2021 Notice of Race as the first step in our build-up to the 77th Rolex Sydney Hobart Yacht Race,” said Commodore Cornish.

“It is our hope that the Great Race will once again bring together a large group of dedicated and passionate sailors from across Australia and around the world.

“We look forward to working with our many long-term partners to bring the race to life this year and extend special thanks to our close friends at Rolex and The Royal Yacht Club of Tasmania in particular for their extraordinary contributions.

“Thank you to everyone who supported the CYCA during 2020.”

The Sydney Hobart Yacht Race was first conducted from the CYCA in Rushcutters Bay in 1945 and has become an icon of summer sport in Australia.

The CYCA has enjoyed a rich partnership with naming rights sponsor Rolex since 2002 and is pleased to again be supported by the Swiss luxury watch manufacturer.

For the first time in its history, the 2021 Rolex Sydney Hobart will feature two-handed crews. The increasingly popular division joined the CYCA’s sailing calendar in 2019 and was due to be included in the 2020 Race.

The Notice of Race and online entry are now available, and entries will remain open until Thursday 29 October.

Published in Sydney to Hobart
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While the 2020 Rolex Sydney Hobart Yacht Race has unfortunately been cancelled, sailors and fans alike can still take part in the Great Race through Virtual Regatta.

The Official Game of the Rolex Sydney Hobart is forging on which means you can take on the epic journey from the comfort of your own home. Virtual Regatta is an engaging, online sailing simulation game which replicates the 628-nautical-mile racecourse in real-time, experiencing current weather and sea conditions.

Last year, the 2019 Sydney Hobart Yacht Race Virtual Regatta attracted more than 41,000 competitors playing across PC, Mac or from their mobile device via the app.

This year, the highest-placed 2020 Rolex Sydney Hobart Yacht Race competitor will win a wonderful prize pack including an RSHYR20 Sardinia BR1 Jacket, Race Map tee and Fast Dry Brim Hat worth over $460. Additionally, the highest placed Cruising Yacht Club of Australia Member will receive a great prize pack of an RSHYR20 Corsica Microfleece, Boat Map Tee and Fast Dry Crew Cap worth over $260 (view prizes here).

Getting involved is easy, simply head to or your favourite app store, sign up for free, then set up your boat and select your sails.

The race commences 1300hrs Saturday 26 December – see you on the start line!

The successful partnership between Virtual Regatta and the CYCA has made the Rolex Sydney Hobart Yacht Race increasingly popular with the online sailing community as well as making it more accessible for the public to join the fun.

Published in Sydney to Hobart
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The Cruising Yacht Club of Australia has announced its 76th Rolex Sydney Hobart Yacht Race will not be proceeding in 2020.

The impact of COVID-19 that has disrupted sporting events around the globe for so much of the year has added the Great Race to its list.

CYCA Commodore, Noel Cornish AM said, “We are bitterly disappointed to cancel the Race this year especially considering the plans and preparations we had put in place to have a COVID Safe race”.

“We were so well prepared to run the race and we’re only six days from the start. This is the first time in 76 years that the race will not be conducted”.

The primary consideration for the Club continues to be the safety of competitors, Members and staff along with the health and welfare of the people of NSW and Tasmania.

Following the announcement by the Tasmanian Premier, Peter Gutwein, this afternoon, it is now impracticable for the CYCA to conduct the Race under prevailing COVID-19 restrictions.

Yesterday, the Northern Beaches local government area of Sydney had been classified a “High Risk” zone which would prevent any residents from travelling to Tasmania. This afternoon, Greater Sydney was defined as “Medium Risk” whereby people entering Tasmania from Sydney are required to quarantine for fourteen days on arrival. As this restriction would apply to all competitors, families, race management and staff, it is unrealistic to proceed further with planning for the Race.

It is unlikely the restrictions and advice will lift in the immediate future. As such the immense logistics involved in reorganising and running a significant sporting event such as the Rolex Sydney Hobart Yacht Race, as well as the planning and preparation required by crews, precludes the Club from postponing the race.

Alternative races had been carefully considered by the Club. However, in line with the NSW Premier Gladys Berejiklian’s request that all NSW residents limit their non-essential travel and interactions with others, it was felt that there were no other options that would allow for a COVID Safe replacement race.

“On behalf of the CYCA, I’d like to express my gratitude to our Competitors, Members, Volunteers, The Royal Yacht Club of Tasmania, New South Wales & Tasmanian Governments, and other stakeholders for the very close working relationships we’ve developed through the year to make the race a possibility”.

“A special thank you to our partner Rolex for their support of the race and our Club”.

“This race has a long and proud history and we look forward to continuing this exciting tradition next year”.

On behalf of the CYCA, I’d like to express my gratitude to our Competitors, Members, Volunteers, RYCT, the NSW & Tasmania governments, and other stakeholders for the very close working relationships we’ve developed through the year to make the race a possibility.

Published in Sydney to Hobart
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InfoTrack owner Christian Beck and his crew continue to firm as the ones to beat for line honours in this year’s Rolex Sydney Hobart Yacht Race after they produced a near-perfect performance to win the 2020 Grinders Coffee SOLAS Big Boat Challenge last Tuesday in Australia.

Just don’t try telling InfoTrack’s Tony Mutter that. He will flatly reject the notion.

InfoTrack was first across the line in 52 minutes, 35 seconds. In second place was Peter Harburg’s Black Jack from Monaco in 53 minutes, 29 seconds. Third was the David Griffith-owned Whisper in 1 hour, 5 minutes, 59 seconds, while fourth was Sean Langman’s Moneypenny in 1 hour, 7 minutes, 22 seconds.

Moneypenny twice had issues with their spinnaker allowing the smaller Whisper to sail through her on the second lap of the course.

But asked if the win and their win in last weekend’s Cabbage Tree Island Race had a bearing on their Rolex Sydney Hobart odds, InfoTrack’s Mutter said: “We obviously like where we have been going so far.

“But no, the answer is no. We know that we have an incredible competitor in Peter [Harburg] and Mark [Bradford, Black Jack skipper]. We think it is going to be a real hard ask for us to beat them to Hobart. It is going to be one hell of a match race.”

Pressed on his crew’s confidence for the Rolex Sydney Hobart after the win, Mutter said: “It’s a great feeling for the team. It reinforces all the hard work that the guys have been doing. But we can’t let it go to our heads. Their team is an immaculately prepared team and we are somewhat different. We just don’t have the resources to emulate that.

“We have enough stuff to be able to compete with these guys. If we get the right conditions, we are in with a chance. We are just hoping we get at least a dead even wind speed. As you saw out there today, we had a fantastic race; and we had a fantastic race at Cabbage Tree with these guys within sight of one another which is always good. We’re looking forward to the battle.”

Asked about Mutter’s view that Black Jack is better resourced, Bradford replied: “What both boats are running off the back of is, last year was a really, really competitive Hobart. I think both boats were prepared to a reasonably high level last year, and with this COVID thing, it was [about] digging back into the boat and getting out of the mothballs.

“The timing of that probably shows up in the appearance of it,” he continued. “They have a pretty well-resourced team. We have a huge amount of respect for them. So, I would say no … I don’t agree with that.”

While Tuesday’s Sydney Harbour race only had four entries, what it lacked in numbers it made up in excitement. InfoTrack and Black Jack were the only super maxis in the race to line up against two smaller boats, the JV62 Whisper and the Reichel/Pugh 69 Moneypenny.

David Griffith's Whisper flew home for the IRC handicap honoursDavid Griffith's Whisper flew home for the IRC handicap honours. Credit: Andrea Francolini

The race started at 12.30pm in sunny conditions in a 12-15 knot southerly wind that increased to 15-20 knots. Black Jack jumped to an early lead over InfoTrack, the two super maxis quickly distancing the two smaller boats of which Moneypenny was the quicker of the two.

Black Jack held the lead racing downwind in a brilliant display of champagne sailing to the first mark at Manly. However, InfoTrack remained doggedly in touch and soon after the mark moved into first place. Heading upwind towards the city skyline, InfoTrack consolidated her lead, then extended it turning the second mark at Shark Island and over a second lap to the Manly mark and back to Shark Island and the run to the finish near the Opera House.

For the InfoTrack crew it was the ideal sign-off on preparation for the Rolex Sydney Hobart that included an impressive line honours and overall win in the Cabbage Tree Island Race last weekend.

InfoTrack, a wide berthed 100-footer suited for heavy conditions, won line, IRC and PHS honours – but in lighter winds. Beck’s super maxi’s latest victory today was equally as impressive considering the conditions should have suited the lighter and skinnier Black Jack much better than his boat.

All the InfoTrack crew needs do now is stay healthy, happy and importantly hungry to make best of the opportunity that awaits them in the 628 nautical mile Rolex Sydney Hobart starting on Boxing Day. If they don’t, they know very well that their rivals on Black Jack will be ready to pounce and win.

Published in Sydney to Hobart
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Ever wonder how much work goes into preparing a yacht for the Cruising Yacht Club of Australia’s Rolex Sydney Hobart Yacht Race – never mind a big boat that has just returned from Europe amid the COVID-19 pandemic?

Peter Harburg had not planned on Black Jack’s return to Australia when he put the 100-foot supermaxi on a ship bound for her new home in Monaco, but COVID-19 arrived, with Europe hit extremely hard.

Harburg’s skipper Mark Bradford says, “We weren’t planning on coming back to do the race. We thought last year was to be the last one."

However, just after the ship left Australia, the virus struck.

“We had a squad of five ready to go to Europe to take care of the boat. But then the virus risk increased, so got we got a team to unload it and put it on a ship back to Australia.

"It’s a bonus we got to come back and have another go.”

On readying the yacht to race, Bradford explained, “Loads and engineering are such a big part of preparing - you have to go through it all again; you have to be as safe as you can; you need to understand loads and that takes a long time because it involves a lot of different equipment that can break if you don’t get it right.

Black Jack leads Comanche as they close in on the 2018 Rolex Sydney Hobart finish lineBlack Jack leads Comanche as they close in on the 2018 Rolex Sydney Hobart finish line. Mandatory photo credit: ROLEX/Studio Borlenghi

“You also have to learn the changes that have been made to the boat. The bow modification was pretty significant. You have to keep up with the others - Wild Oats XI got better and better - so you learn how to sail the boat again. The fortunate thing is that last Christmas the level we prepared to was pretty high.”

Bradford concedes they are also missing some of their key crew. “Of the Kiwi guys who usually sail with us, Scott Beavis was the only one who could join us.”

The replacements include America’s Cup-winning Olympic gold medallist and world champion sailor, Tom Slingsby. Slingsby was in the afterguard of Perpetual LOYAL (now Christian Beck’s InfoTrack) when it took line honours and broke the race record in 2016.

And if the conditions are right, Black Jack, which took line honours as Alfa Romeo in 2009, could make it a second victory in a year where there is just one other super maxi entered: InfoTrack.

The two boats haven’t much in common. Black Jack is a 2005 Reichel/Pugh design, while InfoTrack was built in 2008 and comes from the drawing board of Juan Kouyoumdjian. Regular updates keep the boats fast and interesting.

“Black Jack is still the boat to beat in lighter wind. Our big advantage is in eight knots. Theirs (InfoTrack) is 20 plus knots,” Bradford said of the boat that bears both Monaco and Queensland on its transom to reflect Harburg’s homes. It is based at Sydney City Marine as it awaits the 628 nautical mile race to Hobart.

“We kicked off training yesterday; the start of two weeks of pretty solid sailing. Racing-wise we’re doing the Cabbage Tree Island Race (Friday 4 December), Big Boat Challenge (Tuesday 8 December) and CYCA Trophy Race (Saturday 12 December).

The two ‘supers’ will have slightly smaller but fast yachts keeping them honest: Thunderstruck, the Botin 80 formerly known as Beau Geste (owned by AUS 80 Pty Ltd and led by Grant Wharington) and Jim Cooney’s Volvo Open 70 Maserati.

“For sure those two could take line honours, but it would probably take some break downs on the 100s, or if it’s a traditional race (hard upwind), but the stars would need to align.”

Bradford admits that if it blew 25 knots the VO70 should be able to do it. “But then the risks go up in that breeze too. You can’t discount them though.” Giacomo (a VOR 70) finished second over the line to Perpetual LOYAL in 2016 when the record went, so it can happen,” he said.

“We’re sailing again with a full crew. We haven’t done it all year, so we’ll have to remember how,” he said with a laugh. “We’ll do more training and we’ll be rusty for sure, but it’s pretty much standard procedure. In 2005 we had no idea how to sail these types of boats, but we’ve had the best part of 15 years’ experience now.

“I’ve been pretty vocal in ‘don’t call the race off until you have to’, and I think it is the right path. It’s great for us, but more so for the event’s history. And it brings money into the marine industry – so I’m happy about that because it’s been tough for so many.

“Right now, I’m just happy to see there will be a good fleet on the start line.

“It’s disappointing not having Wild Oats XI in the race, but I understand the reasons why. We’ll miss the competition. And for Scallywag to get the owner and entourage in from Hong Kong makes it very hard. It’ll be quite different with just two 100s. The two have been close for a long time though, so it’ll still be a great race. InfoTrack’s just got better and better.”

Published in Sydney to Hobart
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While this year’s Rolex Sydney Hobart has been given the go-ahead after lengthy consultation, at least two big names won’t be joining the 100-strong fleet next month.

Sailing Anarchy reports that the legendary 100-footer Wild Oats XI will remain in storage for the start on 26 December — the first time in 16 years that the Reichel-Pugh won’t compete in the annual blue water classic.

And Wild Oats’s arch rival Scallywag has withdrawn from the race, reportedly because owner Sen Huang Lee and a number of crew were unwilling to meet the mandatory two-week quarantine for all racers entering Australia from abroad.

With these two giants of the race now out of the picture — leaving only two 100-footers, Black Jack and InfoTrack in contention — could this spell the end of the dominance of the supermaxis? Sailing Anarchy has more on the story HERE.

Published in Sydney to Hobart

A strong Rolex Sydney Hobart fleet is set to light up Sydney Harbour again this Christmas. 

The prestigious, world-renowned 628-nautical-mile blue water classic will go ahead after a lengthy period of consultation with state governments, health authorities and other key stakeholders. The opening of Tasmania’s borders to New South Wales travellers this coming Friday 6 November has made the race a reality.

CYCA Commodore Noel Cornish AM was delighted to confirm that the event would be going ahead: “We are thrilled to have so many yachts participating this year, particularly given the general uncertainty and necessary restrictions placed on many sporting events in Australia over the past six months. The size of the fleet has exceeded all our expectations and is a tremendous show of support for the Race. We are excited that we can host the Rolex Sydney Hobart Yacht Race in this challenging year.”

“Whilst 2020 has been a very difficult year for all Australians due to the impact of COVID-19, we feel that it is important for the Cruising Yacht Club of Australia and the sailing world to help support the various Governments goals to assist economic recovery and help communities return to some sense of normality within strict health and safety guidelines.”

“We would like to sincerely thank the Governments of New South Wales and Tasmania, their associated health, police and maritime departments, events and tourism authorities, local councils and all our media and corporate partners for their continued support.”

Entries officially closed last Thursday 29 October with 100 boats looking to head south.

Unfortunately, representation from many international competitors has not been possible this year due to ongoing global restrictions. The CYCA’s thoughts are with the offshore sailing community around the globe and the Club looks forward to welcoming all sailors, families and support crews back in 2021.

An array of returning yachts are amongst likely contenders for the Tattersall Cup which honours the overall winner on handicap, including previous winners Ichi Ban (2017 and 2019), Alive (2018) and Quest (2008 and also 2015 as Balance). Competition from a sizeable fleet of other yachts in the 50- to 70-foot range will be strong.

Should this year’s conditions favour smaller yachts, the likes of Solveig (overall winner in 1954), and Noakes Sydney Gold Coast Yacht Race winners Chutzpah (2018) and White Bay Azzurro (2017 as Komatsu Azzurro), will give the bigger boats a strong nudge for podium placings.


The super maxis, InfoTrack (line honours 2016 as Perpetual Loyal) and Black Jack (2009 as Alfa Romeo) will do battle for line honours to claim the John H Illingworth Challenge Cup.

Importantly, there are an impressive number of yachts entered to compete in the newly introduced Two-Handed division of the Rolex Sydney Hobart, with a perpetual trophy being introduced to honour the division’s overall winner.

75 Years of Women sailors in the Sydney Hobart Race

This year will also celebrate the 75th year of participation by women sailors in the Sydney Hobart Yacht Race. Female crews will be significantly represented across all divisions, including six skippers: Wendy Tuck (Speedwell), Tiare Tomaszewski (Maris), Annie Lawrence (Solveig), Sibby Ilzhofer (Dare Devil), Genevieve Warlow (Dodgeball) and Jiang Hui Lin (Min River).

The safety, health and well-being of all participants, families and broader communities has always been the major focus for the CYCA and its race partner, the Royal Yacht Club of Tasmania.

Digital coverage

A number of significant changes will be made to the event this year. More focus will be on enhanced digital coverage of the race and all team briefings will be undertaken online. The social events and parties usually held at the CYCA in the lead up to the race in December will not be taking place this year and there will be restrictions imposed across the Clubhouse and marina, spectator fleets and gatherings at public vantage spots for the race start on 26 December. The Hobart Race Village and its associated festivities will be restructured in line with the best practice recommendations from authorities with the Village and marina closed to the general public.

New guidelines and regulations regarding COVID-19 safety, tracking and social distancing are being constantly reviewed and appropriate measures will be strictly adhered to as required.

With only 54 days remaining to the Rolex Sydney Hobart start, the Club wishes crews and support teams all the very best in preparation for the Great Race.

Published in Sydney to Hobart
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This year's Rolex Sydney Hobart Race, the 76th running of the Australian race, welcomes a new division of boats and sailors to the world-renowned racecourse with the Two-Handed division included for the first time.

After witnessing the worldwide increase in popularity of two-handed sailing, culminating in the inclusion of two-handed sailing in the Paris Olympics, the Club decided that the inclusion would be a great progression for offshore sailing in Australia. In 2019 this new and exciting division joined the Club's sailing calendar with the Two-Handed Pointscore, with many embracing and undertaking the challenge.

In 2019, with the announcement of the Two-Handed Pointscore, the Cruising Yacht Club of Australia also announced that a Two-Handed division would be included in the 2020 Audi Centre Sydney Blue Water Pointscore including the annual Sydney Hobart Yacht.

However, the inclusion of the new division, and the way in which the teams compete, brings a new complexity of sophisticated sailing technology with the use of Autopilot units.

The Club acknowledges further understanding needs to be gained to appreciate the full capacity and range of technology available to two-handed competitors, and how these are accommodated within different handicap rating systems. "With hindsight, because of our enthusiasm in embracing two-handed sailing, we may have acted too quickly allowing two-handed boats to be eligible to compete for one of sailing's most prestigious trophies, the Tattersall Cup," said Commodore Noel Cornish.

As such, the Club has amended the 2020 Rolex Sydney Hobart Notice of Race to reflect those two-handed entrants will be scored within their own handicap category divisions and not be eligible to compete against fully crewed boats in divisions or for the overall race win.

This decision to separate two-handed and fully-crewed divisions will also be reflected across other point scores including the Audi Centre Sydney Blue Water Pointscore.

The inclusion of the Two-Handed division is an important step forward and as such the Club will honour it with a new perpetual trophy for the IRC Two-Handed overall winner.

Published in Sydney to Hobart
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People have been unobtrusively getting on with sailing in many places during the pandemic, determinedly maintaining social distance afloat and ashore, reducing their interaction with outsiders to such a minimum it's almost non-existent, and doing it all thoughtfully, with properly-located face coverings.

Where racing has been held, it has been kept low key, and the traditional après sailing became so restrained that many folk, having got in their evening race or mini-cruise or whatever, simply decided to go straight home rather than use the carefully-planned compliant catering which the clubs have worked determinedly and with vision to provide.

Amongst club officials meanwhile, the central thinking is that each club should keep to itself, each boat should keep to itself, and each sailing family should stay within family limits. It's the complete opposite, in other words, of the Hockey Union, which seems to have been penalising clubs because some team members have refused for health reasons to travel to matches at other clubs.

Michael McCann's Etchells 22 on her way to winning the Royal Cork's evening raceThe sense of well-being and feelings of good health induced by evening racing like this is beyond measure. Michael McCann's Etchells 22 on her way to winning the Royal Cork's evening race of Thursday, July 9th 2020. Photo: Robert Bateman

Who got Covid-19 through sailing?

Fortunately, the nature of our sailing is such that a comparable situation doesn't arise. The result is that the sailing community has managed to maintain such a high level of good health that incidences of COVID-19 within it seem very rare indeed, often to the point of non-existence. But instead of making such sweeping assessments based on personal observation and hearsay, would like to put the record on a more substantial footing, so if you know of anyone in sailing who currently has, or has experienced, COVID-19, then please let us know.

Of course, we don't want names – that would be a gross intrusion on privacy, and probably illegal. But if we could get some sort of ballpark figure (if it exists), it would give substance to the arguments of many club officers, who feel that the National Authority has gone too far in declaring that even the humblest club racing is now verboten, and who feel instead that our beloved and exceptionally healthy sport – of which club sailors are the backbone – deserves much the same treatment as that meted out to golf.

The problem, of course, is that while sailing is a peaceful and often solitary pursuit without paying spectators, it is a high visibility activity. Even the smallest boats popping out for a quick race in the bay will be seen – albeit with scant genuine attention – by very many people. And if one sector of the population is finding its activities restricted in the severest possible way, it's only human to strike out and make sure that everyone else has to endure the same restrictions, and preferably worse.

Dun Laoghaire Water Wags on Lough ReeDun Laoghaire Water Wags on Lough Ree. Casual observers will not be aware of the details of sailing, but they'll certainly know it's going on. Photo: Cathy Mac Aleavey

Despite all this, we've had a truncated but interesting sailing season in Ireland in 2020, and at the time of writing this it's still developing, with Pam Lee and Cat Hunt in the process of setting a new women's two-handed round Ireland record (Record established in a time of 3 days 3d 20h 29m 28s subject to ratification - Web editor). Looking ahead, if allowed there are also prospects of late Autumn and early Winter leagues among people who have come to a fresh realisation of just how much sailing means to them.

It's all controllable within a very defined club bubble, but special challenges arise when a major international event comes up on the agenda, and those involved think they can just about run it provided the countdown and the participants have all been careful beyond diligent in preparing themselves and their crews.

Middle Sea Race's impressive turnout

Today's Royal Malta Rolex Middle Sea Race really has bent over backwards to be pandemic-fit. But even in Malta, there are Middle Sea-proven boats and crews who wouldn't dream of taking part. Despite that, the entry of 71 boats with crews from 21 countries is an impressive turnout, and there seems to be a basic underlying feeling that the race must take place as scheduled at 11 o'clock local time today (Saturday), not least for the morale of Malta and the good of world sailing.

This may all sound a bit high-flown for a specialised sporting event, but the Middle Sea Race can happen with no detrimental effect on preventing the spread of COVID-19, it will further improve the health of those taking part, and it will do us all no end of good simply to know it's taking place.

The Podesta family's First 45 Elusive 2The Podesta family's First 45 Elusive 2 on her way to winning the Rolex Middle Sea Race 2019. Photo Rolex/Kurt Arrigo

So we find every bit of Irish interest that's going. Even the defending champion. the Podesta family's First 45 Elusive 2, has a tenuous connection to us. The late Arthur Podesta, the father of the remarkable Podesta siblings Maya, Christoph and Aaron, took a best result of third overall in the Middle Sea Race with the first Elusive, which was an earlier First 45 – a sister-ship of Cormac Twomey's Sarah J which won the Dingle Race in 1997 and 1999 – which had originally been taken out to the Mediterranean by John Sisk of Dun Laoghaire.

Thus we need to claim a bit of Elusive 2, as our key offshore sailors in Malta - Barry Hurley and Brian Flahive who have many outstanding offshore achievements between them - are sitting this one out, though they have been getting in a spot of sailing by both being at the sharp end of SB20 racing in Malta.

Another serious contender that rings a bell is the hugely individualistic Lombard 45 Pata Negra, the vehicle of dreams for many Irish offshore successes. She's chartered this time round by Andrew Hall of Pwllheli and the Irish Sea Offshore Racing Association.

Jean-Pierre Dick's JP 54 The Kid took line honours in the Malta Coastal Race on Wednesday, and placed third overall Jean-Pierre Dick's JP 54 The Kid took line honours in the Malta Coastal Race on Wednesday and placed third overall

And though Honorary Irish Sailor Jean-Pierre Dick (he was up at The Park, don't y'know) put down a marker for line honours with his JP54 The Kid in Wednesday's 30-mile Malta Coastal Race, the formidable talents of Nin O'Leary of Crosshaven have been shipped aboard the Dutch-owned Maxi 72 Aragon, a Reichel-Pugh design. And there's nothing Nin enjoys more than making a luxury performance cruiser sail much faster than anyone thought possible.

So there's an Irish lineup of sorts, and doubtless once the fleet finally crosses the start line, we'll find that there are others of us among the crews, for there's also representation in the multi-hulls with northerner Mikey Ferguson crewing on the MOD 70 Mana

Nin O'Leary's Middle Sea contender AragonNin O'Leary's Middle Sea contender Aragon - her CV already includes winning the RORC Transatlantic race.

Vendee Globe in November

The pace is then ratcheted with the Vendee Globe getting underway in November. Theoretically, it’s the perfect lockdown event, as it's all about isolation. But there is the problem that if anything happens to one of the contenders, they might have to put into some remote little island which would be just rife for infection from all sorts of novel viruses and bacteria. But that’s an unlikely enough scenario, and either way we can be sure that Marcus Hutchinson, much involved in recent days with the Magenta Project Female Two-Handed Round Ireland Record, will be right in the thick of things in Les Sables d’Olonne, even if they are going to try and run the legendary village oo socially distanced lines.

 The hundred footers make their start in the Rolex Sydney-Hobart Race. Until the pandemic struck, three of them had hoped to be racing in European waters this summer. Photo: Rolex/Carlo BorlenghiThe hundred footers make their start in the Rolex Sydney-Hobart Race. Until the pandemic struck, three of them had hoped to be racing in European waters this summer. Photo: Rolex/Carlo Borlenghi

Sydney Hobart holds out

Beyond that, the focus will swing to the southern hemisphere, where the Cruising Yacht Club of Australia are determinedly holding out on being able to stage the annual Sydney-Hobart race on December 26th. If it does happen, defending overall ace is our own Gordon Maguire, and the likelihood of top navigator-tactician Adrienne Cahalane – originally of Offaly – being in some key role in the fleet can be taken as read.

America's Cup selection stages

Meanwhile, December will see the first selection stages of next year's America's Cup being raced in New Zealand. New Zealand has of course been the poster-girl for national avoidance of COVID-19, so the anti-viral tests which boats and crews being shipped out to Auckland have had to pass are of the most demanding and rigorous type.

New Zealand has been under almost total outsider-exclusion for quite some time now. Thus the chink of light which may be allowed in by the America's Cup is surely welcome, as the prolonged period of virtually total isolation seems to have resulted in the distinctive Kiwi accent becoming even more different from English as she is spoken elsewhere than it was already. Unless some outsiders get in there quite soon, it's only a matter of time before there won't be anybody who can understand a word they say……..

Auckland, the City of a Thousand SailsAuckland, the City of a Thousand Sails, where the total pandemic isolation of New Zealand is resulting in the development of a strange new dialect of English

Published in Middle Sea Race
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