2023 Rolex Sydney Hobart Yacht Race Overall Winners Contenders Conference

Sam Haynes dismisses the notion that there is a target on his back as the owner/skipper of the defending overall Rolex Sydney Hobart Yacht Race champion boat Celestial.
 
Asked on Wednesday as he sat among a panel of contenders for this year’s race that starts at 1pm Tuesday – Boxing Day – he instead pointed to his right, at the Tattersall Cup.
 
“The target is there … we’ve got a beautiful trophy,” Haynes said at the Cruising Yacht Club of Australia in Sydney today.
 
“We’ve got the Rolex watch (awarded to both the overall and line honours winner each year). There’s the honour of winning the race … that is the target.
 
“We’re all trying for the same thing. I don’t think anyone’s going to set up their boat specifically to try and challenge my boat.
 
“We all know where boats have their strengths and weaknesses. And we all work on trying to improve the weaknesses and maintain strengths at the same time.”

Sam Haynes of Celestial | Andrea Francolini
Sam Haynes of Celestial | Andrea Francolini

The Tattersall Cup is one of the most coveted trophies in the world of ocean racing. Every skipper in the Sydney Hobart fleet dreams of holding it.

Celestial, a TP52, is one of a number of previous overall winners in this year’s race. Others include Alive, Bumblebee V, Love & War and the Farr 43 Wild Oats.

In a race riddled with so much uncertainty, pinpointing an outright favourite for the overall win is fraught with risk. No skipper will embrace the title as favourite.

That is certainly the case this year, with the long range weather forecast more uncertain than usual. This year’s 628 nautical mile race could see any number of boats win.

Celestial is a real contender: “We have had a lot of expectation from the last two years. To back that up is a massive challenge,” Haynes admitted.

“Since last year we have made some modifications to the rigging that could help in upwind conditions, but we do prefer hard downwind running,” he said.

One of Celestial’s big challengers is the Botin 52, Caro. It is a world class offshore campaigner that placed third to Celestial last year in its Sydney Hobart debut.

Skippered by Max Klink, Caro has won the Rolex Fastnet Race this year. On the Sydney Hobart, he said, “Maybe the forecast will show a bit more of a mix. That might be better for us.”

Hoping for tougher conditions is Anthony Johnston, owner of the Reichel/Pugh 72 URM Group, which has raced superbly this season.

“If it’s light conditions, it will favour the smaller boats and TP52s, but if it’s heavy, we will be in a very good position [to contend for the win] ,” Johnston said.

Owner and skipper of Atomic Blonde, Simon Torvaldsen | Andrea Francolini
Owner and skipper of Atomic Blonde, Simon Torvaldsen | Andrea Francolini

Given the right conditions, the small boats could also be in with a chance of challenging.
 
Simon Torvaldsen, owner/skipper of the newly built JPK 11.80, Atomic Blonde, said limited time on the water since its October launch may be its biggest threat.
 
“Under the right circumstances, if all goes well, it’s in with a chance,” Torvaldsen said. “But I have to admit … we just cannot be as well prepared as the guys who’ve been spending the last year or two tuning and testing their boats.”
 
Marc Michel, owner of the Kiwi two-handed Dehler 30OD, Niksen, said their boat is as well prepared as it can be. He and co-skipper, Logan Fraser, sailed it from New Zealand to Sydney for the race.
 
Launched two years ago and now with 5,0000 sea miles of racing to its record, Niksen also sailed in the CYCA’s recent Cabbage Tree Island Race.
 
Michel, as with most skippers, said the priority will be to finish first in the Two-Handed division and then see how they place overall in that division before assessing their overall prospects in the open fleet.
 
“We have to focus first on the two-handed division. For anyone who finishes, let alone place, that is an enormous achievement,” Michel said.

Written by Rupert Guinness | RSHYR Media

Internationally, the race will be available through YouTube on CYCATV or on Facebook Rolex Sydney Hobart page
For the full list of entries and more information about the race, visit rolexsydneyhobart.com.

Jeanneau SF30 OD
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