After a gruelling last 24 hours of sailing in winds gusting greater than 40 knots and battling 4 to 5 metre seas along the South Coast of Tasmania, Alien, skippered by Justin Brenan from the Royal Yacht Club of Victoria, was victorious in the intense battle for the prestigious Heemskerk Perpetual trophy while the multihull Peccadillo took line honours in the 51st Melbourne to Hobart Yacht Race.
Justin Brenan, and his seasoned ocean racing crew, flew under the radar for the first part of the race but positioned themselves well for the final run home to Hobart to win the coveted Heemskerk Perpetual Trophy for the overall winner determined on AMS handicap.
The modest skipper and his crew sailed Alien into the record books by winning the Melbourne to Hobart Yacht Race (Westcoaster) on AMS handicap for the fourth time, a record that will take a long time to beat. Brenan also won the Melbourne to Hobart Eastcoaster Race in 2008.
The battle for AMS honours was on in earnest on the second day of sailing with Ryujin, skippered by Alex Toomey, last year’s runner-up Ginan, skippered by Nigel Jones and Cam McKenzie, and Lord Jiminy, skippered by Jimmy Oosterweghel, primed for a three-way battle for the AMS win, but three-time winner Alien picked up speed overnight and had a great race into Hobart.
Skipper Justin Brenan, twice-crowned the ORCV Offshore Champion, reflected upon the 51st race to Hobart.
“The winds were warm all the way, we didn’t get any cold weather at all.
“It was an interesting race. Normally we have a beat and then a reach and then we’re running under spinnakers but this year there were no spinnakers really.
“We had good breeze. A 50-knot gust went through and at that stage we only had a double reefed mainsail and a small headsail up and doing 19 knots which was good.
“It’s not every day you can go sailing in the Southern Ocean, in warm conditions and go fast.
Coming across the bottom of Tasmania presented the most significant challenge to Brenan and his crew.
“There was enough wind to make it interesting. Most of the time we had 35 knots and a bit of rain…going through the islands in the dark meant you had to watch your navigation a bit because in the rain you just couldn’t see them.
Brenan has won the race each time on the Lidgard 36 designed boat, which he affectionately describes as an evergreen yacht, which was designed in 1990, built in 1996, and, according to the winning skipper, “still beats some of the most expensive ones around”.
The remarkable achievements of this humble crew bear testament to what can be achieved with a combination of a well-designed boat, a skilful and experienced crew, and excellent seamanship.
“The other good thing about this race was how close it was. Ourselves, Vertigo [retired] and a few other boats were all within a couple of minutes of each other.
“Coming up the River [Derwent] we knew we had about an hour and forty minutes if we wanted to win so it was pretty close and a good fleet,” said Brenan.
Peccadillo, skippered by Charles Meredith in his first Westcoaster, was thrilled with his win and relished the heavy conditions.
“Blowy was good for us, we enjoyed that, it was the long upwind legs down to the bottom of Tassie that were not really our favourite, but across the bottom [of Tasmania], in a nice 30 knot breeze, that’s what this boat likes.
“We don’t point the same as a monohull, so we tended to sail bigger angles than the rest of the fleet, but we also wanted to get out further west after King Island so we could get a better angle when the wind came around from the west which worked for us.
“Lord Jiminy followed us after a while as that type of boat sails somewhat similarly to us. It was a good place to be with a nice set of angles coming down the West Coast.
Meredith, a seasoned ocean sailor, was enthralled by the stunning West Coast of Tasmania.
“Travelling the West Coast of Tassie is always something special, whether it’s a cruise, racing or whether you are bushwalking on the land.
“As we came in closer to the Coast around Maatsuyker [Island] and the rock stacks – it’s just such a spectacular place, with big seas, and it looks like you are in the Southern Ocean because you are. I’ve never sailed that far South before – that was certainly a highlight,” said Meredith.
Meredith is keen to defend his multihull record in 2024.
“The ORCV has done the hard work in making it possible for multihulls to enter the race, but because it’s so new, we really need to get the word out a year ahead, and I think there’s potential overseas interest – this really is one of Australia’s great ocean races,” said Meredith.
Peccadillo smashed the previous multihull record set by Bagatelle in 1988 by almost 10 hours, with an elapsed time (which included a time penalty for a course-sailed error leaving Port Philip Heads) of two days, 18 hours, four minutes and one second.
Bagatelle’s previous record on elapsed time was three days, three hours, 35 minutes and 23 seconds.
Rod Smallman and Leeton Hulley, from the Sandringham Yacht Club, co-skippered their Jeanneau Sunfast 3600 Maverick, to win the double-handed division and the overall race on performance handicap.
Ginan was the first monohull into Hobart and was the winner on ORC handicap.
Official presentations for the 2023 Melbourne to Hobart Yacht Race will be held at Race Village, Elizabeth Street Pier at 5pm on Sunday 31 December 2023.
The race is run with the cooperation of the Derwent Sailing Squadron. For Entry, Notice of Race and List of Entries, please visit: https://www.orcv.org.au/hobart .
Jane Austin/ORCV media
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About ORCV: A leading authority on ocean sailing, racing and training in Australia, the Club was formed so that ocean races in Victorian waters could be efficiently developed and run by an organisation focusing specifically on the needs of ocean racers.
About the race:
The Westcoaster, as the race is affectionately known, is one of the world’s great ocean races, covering 435 nautical miles from the start in Port Philip Bay to the finish line in the River Derwent in Hobart.
The Melbourne to Hobart Yacht Race is one of the world’s great ocean races providing fierce competition against a backdrop of extraordinary scenery and abundant sea life.The race starts with a 125 nm passage across Bass Strait before the fleet sails 200 nm south down the West Coast of Tasmania, past Maatsuyker Island, east to South East Cape then turning northeast towards the more sheltered, but equally challenging waters of Storm Bay and the River Derwent.