Rolex Sydney Hobart Yacht Race: A family tradition and passion

Barry Cuneo, the Queensland owner/skipper of the TP52, Envy Scooters, proclaims: “I want to win the 2018 Rolex Sydney Hobart Yacht Race for my uncle John,” he says of Australia’s famous 1972 Olympic Games gold medallist in the Dragon class.

“John, who is 90, is critically ill. I would love to give him the Tattersall Cup this year…,” Cuneo says.

When Cuneo starts talking about his own sailing and competition, he refers to family history: “My great-great-grandfather, Thomas Cuneo, was the Intercolonial champion in 1898 – for a race between Australia and New Zealand – on a boat called Stellar. And my father and obviously my uncle John were also Australian champions.

For the Cuneo family, sailing is as important as breathing air. “I was a captain of super tankers and I even commanded the largest vessel in Australia,” the Vice Commodore of Royal Queensland Yacht Squadron (RQYS) explains.

If family tradition is important, transmitting his sailing passion is as crucial for this RQYS member of 45 years.

“The program for young sailors we’ve got has been going for seven years. We have another boat, smaller, a Beneteau 40.7, which is also very competitive. It’s very good for helping youths to train and mature before coming to bigger yachts like the Envy,” Cuneo states.

Cuneo has good reason for his involvement. “I think I’m trying to remedy what happened to us when we were young. We just had to try to get on any boat and usually, were told to ‘go down and get the beers’.

“Outside of a sailing program, there’s no control over the quality of training. And when you’re sailing at very high levels, it’s really frustrating when you bring some people in who haven’t been through a school, as some have learned bad habits. But only because they have learnt that from the places they came from, so we’ve decided to bring these guys through.

“Watching them develop is really pleasing, because we’ve got a really good stream of new talent.

“For the 2018 Rolex Sydney Hobart race for example, Stuart Skinner (22) is with us on the Envy, while Charlie Wyatt (21) is racing on Patrice – both from our Youth program.”

Cuneo also gives chances to other young sailors too. “Will Harris, a 24 year-old from the UK, contacted me for a ride. For me, he represents the new-age navigator with new technology,” he says with a smile. “It’s interesting to talk to and watch Will. He’s becoming addicted to this race because of its complexity – he sees it in a new way.”

“The Sydney Hobart is an amazing opportunity for young sailors to mix with professional, experienced and amateur sailors too. If you compare it to other sports, say golf, young amateurs never get a chance to play with the Tiger Woods’ of this world,” Cuneo says.

For Cuneo, the Cruising Yacht Club of Australia’s famous race “Is obviously one of the races you have to do. It’s the ‘Mount Everest’ of sailing – and it becomes a drug too.

“You see guys here who’ve done it more than 30 times, so you want to go again, because you want to do it better the next time. Each time you have one year to prepare your boat and crew – just trying to be a little bit better – and hopefully you get the right weather.”

Cuneo has the right boat – a TP52 formerly owned by Matt Allen. It could be his year.

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:

By Clotilde Rohart, RSHYR media

Jeanneau JY60
NAV at Home
Jeanneau JY60
NAV at Home