Matt Allen not dissuaded by missing out on back-to-back wins in Rolex Sydney Hobart

Falling short of back-to-back overall wins in the Rolex Sydney Hobart Yacht Race has certainly not dissuaded Matt Allen from coming back to race his TP52 Ichi Ban in next year’s 75th edition of the great race.

“For sure …,” Allen said after he skippered Ichi Ban across the finish line at 11.30pm on Friday. “We’ll bring this boat again next year.

“We’ll probably do the Transpac race (from California to Hawaii) in the middle of the year and miss out on some of the winter sailing at home, and then do the Blue Water Pointscore. We built this boat for two reasons – the Rolex Sydney Hobart and the Blue Water Pointscore.”

Had Ichi Ban won the Tattersall Cup for the overall win in the Cruising Yacht Club of Australia’s 628 nautical mile Sydney Hobart, she would have been the first to win it two years in a row since Freya between 1963-65.

Nevertheless, the boat has won just about everything she has entered in the last year, prompting the Royal Ocean Racing Club in the UK to name Ichi Ban ‘Yacht of the Year’.

It was not to be; but Allen, the president of Australian Sailing, said despite his ambition and the conditions that prevailed, he always understood how big the challenge was.

They had no boat problems. The only damage was a broken carbon hatch caused by a crewmember stepping on it the wrong way.

“We never underestimated how challenging it is,” Allen said. “You can be in really good shape but you have to get everything right. The moons have to be aligned. That’s what makes it such a huge challenge to win this race.”

The conditions went against Allen, on more than one occasion; but certainly on Friday night when their lead crumbled.

“We were always worried that we were going to chase the shut down and the 60 footers would wriggle through in the afternoon and would be there in the evening,” Allen said. “Around Tasman Island we had time on the rest of the fleet and a reasonable margin, but we always knew that was going to be a bit of a challenge going into the last bit of the race.

“We had a good margin on all the boats and plenty of room up our sleeve but you lose a lot of time when you get that shut down. And then it’s ‘kinda’ game over … After really leading the race from that afternoon and pretty much the whole way.”

The race tracker showed Ichi Ban sailing as if they were in a games of snakes and ladders, as they fell from the top to 32nd place at one point before rising back up to first place on the leader board; only to lose it again.

However, until Ichi Ban’s final demise, Allen said the crew’s own algorithms always showed them in the lead.

“We were pretty confident that we were leading the race,” he said. “The tracker has its own algorithms, but we do our own.

“We were very comfortable that we were leading. There was no boat ahead of us on the water until we slowed down into Storm Bay.”

On holiday on the Central Coast in NSW, former TP52 owner and 2015 Rolex Sydney Hobart winner Paul Clitheroe (Balance) was nervously watching Allen’s progress on the race tracker, “My hair went even greyer “watching” Matt Allen sitting at 0.00 knots so close to the finish line… for what seemed like eternity.

“Never thought I would get stressed about a Hobart race while relaxing at Avoca. We’ve all parked for hours in the Derwent, but not usually when you could swim for the finish line (and hear other crews in Customs House). I’ll have to buy him a big scotch when he gets home…”

By Rupert Guinness, RSHYR media

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