THE FICKLE HOBART
Yachting World|March 2020
THE 75TH ROLEX SYDNEY HOBART RACE WAS A MENTALLY TAXING AFFAIR FOR ALL COMPETITORS IN THIS ANNIVERSARY YEAR OF THE OFFSHORE CLASSIC, REPORTS CROSBIE LORIMER
CROSBIE LORIMER

Had any of the crew of the nine yachts that finished the inaugural Sydney Hobart Yacht Race in 1945 been able to comment on the race’s 75th edition, the phrase ‘walk in the park’ would probably have featured, such was the contrast in weather, and time spent at sea, between the first and most recent editions of this ocean racing classic.

The 628-mile ‘Hobart’, as it’s commonly abbreviated, is renowned for its challenging phases and varied moods. The first priority for any competitor is just getting safely out of Sydney Harbour, awash with an armada of spectator craft. Then comes the navigator’s first dilemma heading south: inshore for breeze or offshore for current?

If all is well you enter the fearsome Bass Strait in good order. You’ll need to; seasoned circumnavigators describe its seas as the worst in the world on a bad day. It’s boat-breaking stuff if you’re unlucky, as many were in the tragic 1998 storm.

Then somewhere down the line you’ll be running out of breeze, maybe on the Tasmanian east coast? But it’ll be back soon enough, just pray that a big southerly doesn’t catch you trying to round Tasman Island, as the seas will be immense and the rounding interminable. Into and across the usually aptly named Storm Bay – although quiet as mouse for most in 2019 – the course takes you finally past the Iron Pot at the entrance to Derwent River.

With only 11 miles to go, you’re nearly there; except you’re not if you’ve arrived early evening for a classic Derwent ‘closedown’. Many a race has been lost here within a sniff of the race’s famous ‘QLD’ (quiet little drink) at Hobart’s Customs House Hotel.

Despite its rugged reputation, for all but the tail end of the fleet in this anniversary race the greatest challenge in the uncharacteristically light to moderate running conditions to Hobart was to pick the best route through two large and complex light air transitions.

That the race got away at all on Boxing Day was something of a relief, the lead-up SOLAS Big Boat Challenge had been cancelled when thick smoke from the bushfires raging on Australia’s east coast blanketed Sydney Harbour like dense fog, leading to talk of postponing – or even cancelling – should such conditions recur on start day.

But Boxing Day dawned bright, with only a slight smoke haze and the promise of a building north-easterly sea breeze to send the 157-strong fleet southward under spinnakers to the first of those light air troughs off the New South Wales south coast.

Those two transitions (the second off Tasman Island) were to tax the navigators of yachts large and small.

“We were mentally in agony for about three days trying to make the right decisions,” said Ed Psaltis, skipper of the Sydney 36 Midnight Rambler.

And the mental anguish is never worse than in the tormenting 11 miles it takes to sail up the Derwent River to the finish line, as the line honours winner was to find.

Jim Cooney and Samantha Grant’s 100ft Comanche had passed the famous Iron Pot at the entrance to the Derwent River at dawn on the third day, holding a steady 12 knots boat speed, with a healthy eight-mile lead over Christian Beck’s InfoTrack in the battle of the 100ft maxis.

But the breeze on this notoriously fickle river suddenly evaporated, leaving the super-beamy maxi yacht flat on its bottom, stock-still and surrounded by a large, equally stationary spectator fleet. As Comanche’s anxious crew looked south, InfoTrack could be seen on the horizon, entering the river with breeze.

“It looked like a bad movie that we’d seen before,” recalled Comanche’s navigator Stan Honey, who has seen this river in its many capricious moods.

After agonizing minutes with a spotter aloft searching for any zephyrs, the collective exhalation aboard Comanche was almost audible as a light breeze returned and she crossed the finish to take line honours in 1d 18h 30m – nine hours outside her own record from 2017.

Continue reading your story on the app

Continue reading your story in the magazine

MORE STORIES FROM YACHTING WORLDView All
RELATED STORIES

Elements of Style

Renowned interior designer Kelly Wearstler finds inspiration in nature.

3 mins read
ELLE
April 2022

SETH W. CHANDLER

LIFE-LONG COIN COLLECTOR AND CHIEF NUMISMATIST OF WITTER COIN

6 mins read
COINage Magazine
April-May 2020

MIDTOWN HOBART CALLING

With locally sourced artisan pieces and inviting furnishings in autumnal hues, The Rox apartments have been tastefully realised by Tess Newman-Morris

1 min read
Real Living Australia
June 2022

DINNER THEATRE

Food and art collide in Mona's new "revolving restaurant" concept for Faro

2 mins read
Gourmet Traveller
May 2022

UFO encounters are simply twincredible

SIBLINGS SAY ALIENS KEEP TURNING UP

1 min read
Daily Star Sunday
March 27, 2022

A PLACE TO REMEMBER

Set high above the Derwent river in Tasmania, this amazing home is truly one of a kind

5 mins read
Homes & Gardens
March 2022

Oz bowlers destroy Eng again to win Ashes 4-0

Australian team celebrate after winning the fourth Test

2 mins read
The Times of India Hyderabad
January 17, 2022

Khawaja to open for Oz in Hobart

Double Sydney centurion Usman Khawaja will move up to open the batting for Australia in the final Test beginning in Hobart on Friday, captain Pat Cummins confirmed on Thursday.

1 min read
The Times of India Mumbai
January 14, 2022

FIGHTING TALK! Root calls for spirit in final Ashes test

JOE Root has called for his England team to show the same fighting spirit that saw them salvage a draw in Sydney and apply it from ball one of the final Ashes Test.

2 mins read
Manchester Evening News
January 13, 2022

Four killed, many trapped in landslide at Hry mining site

NEW YEAR BEGINS WITH TRAGEDIES

1 min read
The Times of India Mumbai
January 02, 2022