Though overall honours in the Rolex Sydney Hobart Race may have eluded them this time, there is a mutual respect among the skippers of the gun fleet of 50-footers for the battle in which they engaged. For it is in this group, each yacht perhaps half the size of a supermaxi, that the reward for excellence and seamanship finds its reward.
After finishing the race, especially one as fast and taxing as this one, these skippers pay respect to their victor with a warmth and sense of humour that ensures most, if not all, of them will be back in this Cruising Yacht Club of Australia ocean race for years to come.
We should know later today whether the latest addition to their 50-foot fleet, Matt Allen’s spanking new TP52 Ichi Ban, has indeed won the race. Allen led Quest, Hollywood Boulevard and Mascalzone Latino into the Derwent this morning to be the overall leader in the clubhouse.
The other three filed in, not with their tails between their legs, but jubilant for Ichi Ban. That is one mark of respect, but there is also their respect for the sea for they tell tales that would make most mortals cringe.
Ray Roberts (the Farr 55 Hollywood Boulevard):
“Everybody always says that when it’s off the wind the whole race that it’s a fast run and an easy run, but really it’s a very tough.
“It is probably the most dangerous angle for these boats. We had boat speeds of 30 knots and, if somebody happens to get knocked overboard or falls in the water it is hard to go back and pick them up. So, you have to be very cautious and sometimes sail a little conservatively but still keep pushing the boat.”
Roberts said that from a safety point of view one is a little apprehensive “but from a fun point of view you’re surfing down the waves, you have great speed, and it doesn’t beat the boat up”.
“The boat gets the least beating when the wind is from behind. It’s when you get the hard southerlies and the boat is crashing into the seas, falling of the big waves that you break the boat, but this is like a crew buster.
“Being a grand prix racing boat, we don’t sail with small spinnakers, we’ve got the big stuff up, pushing the boat on the edge. We blew up our number one spinnaker. That will cost us about $15,000 but that is the nature of the game. We were surfing down a wave into the back of another wave with the boat loaded up and the sail just exploded. So, we had pieces of spinnaker floating all around us.”
Roberts said this race was a rarity.
“It never always blows from the south, it never always blows from the north, so this was a once-in-a-lifetime thing. They happen, but they are a long time apart.
“Even if you have sailed the perfect race, without luck you will lose, All the stars have to align. We couldn’t have sailed much better.”
Bob Steel (the TP52 Quest):
“Matt (Allen) deserves to win – it’s his 28th Hobart. I’ve had my share (Steel has won it twice), so I am jubilantly disappointed for us but happy for Matt.
He agreed with Roberts it was a very hard race.
“People think running (rather than going to windward) is easy, but it isn’t. There’s a lot of pressure on the boat and the crew.
“It’s a short race, but a challenging one. You have to work constantly, to keep the boat moving, keep your spinnaker flying without damaging it.”
This year’s race had been challenging.
“Our port steering wheel is gone: the boat broached under spinnaker doing 20 knots in 30 knots of wind. Our sailing master Mike Green fell and took out the port wheel on his way through (it completely sheered off) and a couple of other bodies went through the rail but they were tethered and back on the boat quickly. It took half an hour of gardening to get back on track.
“We are lamenting, but congratulations to Matt.”
Back to Roberts and Hollywood Boulevard’s dice with the Italian Cookson 50 Mascalzone Latino.
“We had such a great battle with Mascalzone Latino all the way up the Derwent. They were just in front of us coming around Tasman Island, but we had a speed advantage in the end and got them.”
Matteo Savelli – skipper Mascalzone Latino
“It was a very fun race. It’s our first time here, a very nice race. We didn’t sail the first part of the race very well; the beginning wasn’t so good for us … but it was fantastic.
“In Europe, we don’t usually sail in these sort of conditions. We expected more upwind in the Hobart.”
By Bruce Montgomery, RSHYR media