Launceston to Hobart Race Wrap

Words: Liz Rountree
Photos: Shaun Tiedermann

Porco Rosso wrapped up the win on all fronts in the 17th annual Willie Smith Launceston to Hobart Race, but the drama was yet to start. The team skippered by Paul McCartney pulled in the wee hours of Day 3, while the bulk of the fleet was only just clearing Banks Strait.

Fork in the Road and Jazz Player clung to her coattails, avoiding the variable breeze that gridlocked the fleet off the East Coast between Schouten and Maria Island.

Heatwave Fish Frenzy were the first to punch out of the doldrums, leading Kraken 42S and Sundowner around Tasman Island before sunset, leaving the rest of the fleet the decision to pull out, or buckle down and face the 40-kt Southwesterly front hitting at midnight.

The combination of the looming forecast and spending the day in a lolling sea with no breeze meant seasickness struck most boats, not ideal for the upcoming conditions that would require all hands-on deck. About a third of the fleet retired into Triabunna.

Peter Haros and his Wings Three, match raced both Prion and time to get to Tasman before the front. “We got there right at the change of the breeze, we came round in 20 kts, and by the time we were off Cape Raoul it was 28 and building.” On board was one of the fleets under-18 competitors Fletcher Lumb and, “He was sensational. He stepped up to every single request, every detail that needed to be done. I can’t speak highly enough about him.”

Brian Walpole’s Invincible was just behind. “We had a 20-minute meeting off Fortescue Bay. We thought it may be unsafe, but when we got the coastal station readings from Tasman Island it was only reading 15 kts.” The team decided to go for it, and as Walpole says, “Being wet and cold and tired and sick – isn’t that what sailing’s all about?”

Big Pup reported sailing through 6m swell off Tasman, with breeze in the 30s, gusting to 38, “and lightning all around,” adds Teresa Badrock. Co-skipper Anton Bezemer said the team did a lot of planning to get the right amount of sail before turning the corner, “There was no need to break any records, just need to get the boat home.” The team skated through with a 2nd reef and a No 4 and a calm experienced crew.

According to Just Farr Love skipper Scott Lovell it was “A bit of an eye opener for the first timers.” And as most on board discovered, “The hard dodger was worth it’s weight in gold the last night!” Ultimately, though it wasn’t the big seas and the front that tested the team.

“The worst part [of the race] was the first night – we just didn’t go anywhere,” says Lovell. Just one of the ways the seas will test you, and this race had it all.

One way to guaruntee you have it all is to be one of the smallest boats in the fleet.  Footloose skippered by Stewart Geeves soldiered on despite it all for a well-deserved finish to a long hard race.

Teams have a few days to take in the new year before hitting the line again for the King of the Derwent on the 2nd of January.

For full results, see the event web page Derwent Sailing Squadron’s 2023 Launceston to Hobart Yacht Race (l2h-dssinc.org.au)

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