Mark Griffith is not shy when it comes to staking his claim as a contender for overall victory in the Rolex Sydney Hobart Yacht Race.
Yacht owners can often be coy about their chances of winning the Cruising Yacht Club of Australia’s 628 nautical mile race. But Griffith oozes confidence for his Ker 40, Showtime. The yacht is the former Midnight Rambler which he bought from previous owners, Ed Psaltis, Bob Thomas, and Michael Bencsik who launched her in 2011.
“She has since been modified and is a faster better boat, and arguably with one of the best all-amateur crew in Australian offshore sailing. She will be one to beat in this year’s race,” Griffith says of the yacht that is registered with the Royal Prince Alfred Yacht Club in NSW.
Griffith’s optimism is understandable considering Showtime’s record that places her as one of the major favourites among the 40-footers in this year’s fleet that now numbers 85. She was seventh overall on IRC in the 2018 Noakes Sydney Gold Coast race, and in 2017 she was third overall in the Brisbane Keppel Island race, 17th overall for second in Division 2 in the 2017 Sydney Gold Coast race and third in the Flinders Islet Race.
“Any chance of a 40-footer like Showtime winning the Tattersall Cup for finishing first overall should not be dismissed,” warns Matt Allen, who is the owner of the defending champion TP52 Ichi Ban.
Allen also said at last Friday’s overall contender’s press conference that he is “putting my best bet on the mid-size range” boats, he said: “I wouldn’t write-off the smaller boats either (for the win) – the fast, downhill boats will have a chance.” Like Bruce Taylor’s Chutzpah – specifically built for fast downwind racing.
For her fifth Sydney Hobart start, Showtime has undergone a comprehensive makeover. It includes a deeper lighter keel, a longer sprit and an enhanced sail wardrobe.
However, before Griffith bought Showtime, the previous Psaltis-Thomas-Bencsik ownership team raced her well. Her last Hobart appearance was in 2015 as Midnight Rambler when she finished 26th overall, but before she was later sold to Griffith, she won the CYCA’s Ocean Pointscore, beating record nine-time OPS winner, About Time.
In the 2014 Hobart, she finished 18th overall, and in 2013 she was 17th for second in IRC Division 2 off the back of a second place in division in 2012 when she was 20th overall. In her Sydney to Hobart debut in 2011 she was fourth in her division.
Showtime is one of 52 NSW boats in this year’s Rolex Sydney Hobart Yacht Race that starts at 1pm on Wednesday, Boxing Day.
From that number exists a wide variety of boat classes and sizes with two interesting names to watch out for being TSA Management and Quetzalcoatl.
TSA Management is a Sydney 38 that is owned and skippered by Tony Levett and registered with the Middle Harbour Yacht Club. She is one of three Sydney 38s in this year’s race. The two other Sydney 38s are the CYCA registered Cinquante, newly owned by 32 Sydney Hobarts veteran Kim Jaggar, and Mille Sabords from the Royal Motor Yacht Club, now owned by Robert Frayne. All three are designed by Murray Burns Dovell (AUS).
TSA Management was built in 2003 and has sailed in all but one Sydney Hobart since 2004. That one absence was due to Levett withdrawing her due to time issues in relation to work.
Last year, she finished in Hobart 36th overall and third in Division 3. In 2015, she finished 11th overall and fifth in Division 4, while in 2014 she was sixth overall and fourth in Division 3. In 2013, she was 39th overall and in 2012 retired after her rudder broke.
Success came her way in 2010 and 2011 when she won the Sydney 38 OD division after placing third in the same division in 2008.
Meanwhile, Quetzalcoatl is a Jones 40 owned by Anthony Bruce, James Lee-Warner and Antony Sweetapple and is registered with the CYCA in Rushcutters Bay.
Quetzalcoatl has sailed competitively for the last 17 years since being built in 2001, including in six Sydney Hobarts. Her best result in the race was 2011 when she won PHS division, and also won the Sydney Newcastle and Lord Howe Island races in the same division.
In 2016, the bright yellow Quetzalcoatl, built of King Billy pine and designed by Australian Don Jones, placed second in Division 2.
In 2014, she was second in PHS and third in the Corinthian division – and in 2015 second and fifth in those divisions respectively. This year, she will again race PHS and for the Corinthian trophy, open to amateurs and donated by CYCA stalwarts, Mick and Jeannette York.
The Boxing Day start of the Rolex Sydney Hobart Yacht Race will be broadcast live on the Seven Network via 7Mate throughout Australia.
For full list of entries and all information: http://rolexsydneyhobart.com/
By RUPERT GUINNESS, RSHYR media