Rolex Sydney Hobart: Enter the dragon

IQ Komodo

They are certainly quick around the buoys; a highly popular one-design choice for the well-heeled racing enthusiast, as often as not crewed by Olympic and America’s Cup professionals in glamorous global regattas stretching from Rhode Island to Mallorca.

But that is the point. Farr 40s are designed for regattas. A high-speed dash around the bay and back to the clubhouse. They are light, and have all the creature comforts of a blown up skiff.                                                              

In just a few days, at the wheel of his Farr 40 IQKomodo, Andrew Butler will find out how such a purpose-designed regatta boat handles the nasty, sharp seaway that the NSW coast throws up in a southerly. The steep, relentless jarring of wind against current, hour after drenching hour.

“It has been a long journey getting IQKomodo up to Cat 1 standard, (the safety and seaworthiness standard required of yachts entered in the Hobart),“  Butler concedes.

“There isn’t much I haven’t replaced.  New rod rigging, new engine mounts, new rudder stock, new navigation systems.

“We’ve put reinforcing in the bow, replaced the masthead kites with fractional ones and put on a heavier cloth mainsail with three reefing points. They don’t reef much in regattas.

They don’t eat much during regattas either, and given that beefing up the galley hasn’t been a high priority, well, they won’t eat much this race either. 

“I’ve just been planning the menu,” Butler laughs, “and it’s pretty basic. I’m doing all my planning around boiling water; rice, rice, and more rice.

Komodo’s a 15 year-old boat, but we’ve brought her back to a high standard,” says Butler proudly. Sitting at the Cruising Yacht Club of Australia, waiting for Boxing Day, the boat really does look as good as when property tycoon Lang Walker first campaigned her as Kokomo in one-design events. 

Mind you, she has put on weight. “We had to put on 200 litre water tanks, bigger diesel tanks, and there is all the extra safety gear,” Butler says. “I don’t know how much heavier we are, but we raced in a Farr 40 regatta a couple of weeks ago and were definitely heavier. We still weren’t that far off the pace, though.

“We’ve tried to make as many of the alterations modular as we can, so we can strip them out for regattas in the future.”

Before IQKomodo, the Butlers raced a lot of miles on their Dufour 36.

“We thought of taking her to Hobart, but decided she was a bit on the slow side. We thought about a Sydney 38, but at the time there were a couple of Farr 40s on the market. Knowing what I know now….” He leaves the sentence unfinished, but you guess that the Dragon has chewed up a few more dollars than expected.  But this is a boat after all.  It’s what they do.

Kokomo was renamed IQKomodo, to raise awareness of the plight these wonderful dragons face as their habitat inexorably shrinks in Indonesia. For the most part, Komodo’s crew has sailed together for four years, with Butler adding some Hobart experience for the race south in the shape of John Gardner, and father and son duo, Rob and Jason Antill, the first time the two have raced together for 20 years.

So now all the work is done. Next up, the clamour and excitement of Sydney Harbour on Boxing Day. 

“I’m trying not to look at the weather routing every twenty minutes,” Butler jokes, knowing full well that by Christmas Day he’ll be checking the weather apps every five minutes.

“We’ll start in a nor-easter, but it looks like a good southerly for the first afternoon and night. Komodo isn’t a super strong boat, so we will have to nurse her through that, but it looks like it will lighten up before the next change and that should open up a good window for us,” Butler says.

There is another Farr 40 in the race, After Midnight, originally beefed up by former Hobart winners Ed Psaltis and Bob Thomas when they campaigned her as AFR Midnight Rambler.

“We stuck with After Midnight for 12 hours in the Sydney Gold Coast race until we made a disastrous tactical choice, but we won’t concentrate on her. You can get hung-up on one other boat and everyone else gets away from you. We’ll sail to our plan and stick to that, the yachtsman says. 

“Get a clean start with no dramas, turn right off the Heads, and settle into the race.”          

The Rolex Sydney Hobart Yacht Race starts on Boxing Day, December 26, at 1pm AEDT and will be broadcast live on the Seven Network throughout Australia, webcast live to a global audience on Yahoo!7 and live streamed via mobile.

By Jim Gale, RSHYR media 

M.O.S.S Australia
Race Yachts