Double-handers targeting 50th Melbourne to Hobart Yacht Race glory

Amid the double-handed entries already received for the 2022 Melbourne to Hobart Yacht Race, there are some serious contenders for the Heemskerk Trophy, awarded to the overall winner of the race each year.

Being the Ocean Racing Club of Victoria’s (ORCV) 50th anniversary race, everyone wants to win it and Ryujin’s owner, Alex Toomey and his co-skipper, Andrew Hibbert, are no different.

Like their double-handed opponents, they know it’s possible because it’s already been achieved. The first was Simon Kellett’s Bobby Dazzler, winner in 1990 with Chris Pullin.

In 1994, Kellett returned, one of three double-handed entries and took line honours and the Double-Handed Championship on Fast Forward with Ian Rushton.

Toomey is determined to give it a good crack. He owns the proven Sayer 12, Ryujin. He is racing with Andrew Hibbert, with who he won ORCV’s Apollo Bay Race in May.

“The 50th is a flagstone event. It’s nice to be part of something that only happens once,” Toomey concurs.

Sailed double-handed Ruyjin won the Apollo Bay race - Chris Furey pic
Sailed double-handed Ruyjin won the Apollo Bay race – Chris Furey pic

When the boat was Ryu-Jin–FGI, Murray Bucknall and the yacht’s designer-builder, Jon Sayer, finished the 2007 Melbourne to Osaka double-handed race fourth on line and won Open C division. This despite pulling up for repairs.

“I used to sail with Murray on the boat in Queensland. I bought it around three years ago. Andrew has the experience of doing the Melbourne Osaka (in 2013 with Tony Warren on Kiss Goodbye to MS).

“I’ve met Andrew since I moved back to Melbourne. We’ve been sailing together 12 months. We just click together on boat, we have a similar outlook to racing and we back each other up,” Toomey states.

“There is a competitive double-handed field. We weren’t built to handicap, the boat was designed for the Osaka, but if we get the right weather, we can give it a push. The Apollo Bay win was a good boost for us, to know the boat can win overall. We just have to work hard.”

Peter Dowdney, Australasian Sales Manager for Ronstan, a support sponsor of the ORCV, is another example. He will co-skipper Joker on Tourer with her owner, Grant Chipperfield.

Peter Dowdney and Grant Chipperfield on Joker on Tourer - pic courtesy Peter Dowdney
Peter Dowdney and Grant Chipperfield on Joker on Tourer – pic courtesy Peter Dowdney

“We’ve done the Melbourne to Devonport and Sydney Hobart races two up. Grant and I have done enough miles to work our systems out and throw the boat around in any conditions, except the Gold Coast Race this week. We were found wanting in the light air!

“We enjoy each other’s company and sail well together,” says Dowdney, adding, “There’s plenty of Ronstan on the boat for whacky ideas during the race…”

The Victorian sailed his first ‘Westcoaster’ in 1983: “It was my first major race. We got line honours on the 38 foot Freelance against 60 plus footers. The cards went our way and it forged my passion for ocean racing. Forty years on, we’re doing it again. And 50 years for the race; it’s big one.

“The other reason we’re doing it is the magnificent and dramatic scenery. It feels like there is no more isolated place in the world.”

Also lining up as a Double-Handed entry is ORCV Commodore, Grant Dunoon, whose co-skipper is a past ORCV Commodore and Life member, Neville Rose. Stalwarts of the Club, their boat is Dunoon’s beautifully appointed Moody 54 Ds, Blue Water Tracks.

The Commodore is under no illusion as to their chances of winning, his yacht is 28 tons, but that is not the point.

“Blue Water Tracks is a cruising boat not a full-on racer. We won’t be able to compete on handicap, but it is the perfect boat for double-handed sailing, it’s set up nicely.

“I quite enjoy the challenge of short-handed sailing. It’s a little bit less stressful than fully crewed. You have to train and get crew up to speed for the boat to perform well. Short-handed presents a series of different challenges, such as sail changes. I enjoy that side of it and the fact Neville is an experienced short-handed sailor.”

The Melbourne to Hobart Yacht Race, organised by ORCV with the cooperation of the Derwent Sailing Squadron, starts off Portsea Pier at noon on 27 December.

For Entry, Notice of Race and List of Entries, please visit: www.melbournehobart.com

Di Pearson/ORCV media

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