It is just three days to the start of the 2017 Rolex Sydney Hobart, so of course it is time for the bar-room pundits to start speculating about who will take out Australian yachting’s most prized trophy, the Tattersall Cup for the overall winner on handicap – everyone has a theory – everyone has a favourite.
Down on the boats at the Cruising Yacht Club of Australia though, everyone is keeping a very tight lip. Too early, they say, let’s just wait and see what the weather throws up on Monday. The navigators have been pouring over the forecasts for weeks. The skippers reckon they haven’t even glanced at a weather map yet.
“We don’t look at the forecasts now,” says Michel Quintin, the skipper of the Valer/JPK 10.80 Banque de Nouvelle-Caledonie, one of the smallest boats in the fleet. “We will concentrate on our division and see at the end how we go overall. It all depends on the conditions. Some boats will do it in two days, we will do it in four, so we are not on the same course.”
Andrew Weiss, owner of the Sydney 43 Christopher Dragon, agrees: “We’ll try and win our division. What happens overall happens overall.”
Weiss has brought Christopher Dragon all the way from America to race his first Hobart. He is still not entirely sure why he is here: “At the beginning I thought we were nuts to do this. We always watched the start of the race on Christmas night in the US, but I never thought we could do it.
“Some friends of ours at our club, on Warrior Won, told us in February they were coming here and my wife got tired of me wandering around the house saying they’re going, we’re not, and she said ‘just enter’.“
Nor is he entirely sure what the next few days will hold. “This is different to the races we usually do. The Bermuda race is typically a jib-reach type of race with a bit of spinnaker, but the Hobart, traditionally you don’t know what it’s going to be. We are hoping for a bit of a mix, upwind and down.”
The early forecasts have pointed to a largely reaching race that could favour the quick planing boats in the 45 to 55 foot range. Boats like two-time winner, Bob Steel’s TP52 Quest. However, Steel has been around long enough to know when to keep his mouth shut. “There’s lots of little thistles and burs along the way,” he observes.
“There’s some forecast around Tasman Island that might stir us right up, and if the big boats are already in port, anything could happen. A big boat could quite easily win on handicap as one did last year. And who knows what the little boats will do. It’s a yo-yo.”
Craig Carter, who has trucked his Carkeek 47, Indian, across the desert from Perth, thinks that if the forecast holds up, it will be a quick race.
“It’s a long way out, but conditions look favourable for our sort of boat, but it will be pretty tough on the crews – a lot of trimming, a lot of grinding, and hopefully a lot of weight aft.”
Carter likens trucking his boat over, getting down to Hobart, sailing her back to Williamstown to be put back on the truck and getting back to Perth for the first blue water race of the year on January 20, as something of a military operation.
“It is horrible, a very arduous thing to do, a big commitment.”
The American Askew brothers David and Peter purchased a boat that was already here, last year’s winner, Giacomo. They have renamed the V70 ‘Wizard’ and have big plans for her in the Northern Hemisphere. David saw their new toy in the flesh, or carbon fibre, for the first time yesterday, Peter this morning, but they have a star-studded crew who have really got the boat up to speed over the past two months.
“Every time I have expected to win a race, I have never won,” David sighs philosophically. “It all comes down to preparation. The best boat you can get, the best equipment, the best people – everybody talks about chemistry and it’s true, they all have to be compatible, everybody has to work together – then I think you set yourself up for being able to win.
“You focus on what you can control, your own group of boats, your division. Peter and I have won races and we have wondered wow, how did that happen? That’s just how it goes with these races.”
The race starts on Boxing Day at 1300hrs AEDT and will be broadcast live on the Seven Network throughout Australia.
By Jim Gale, RSHYR media