Tasmanians John Saul and Rob Gough etched their place in Rolex Sydney Hobart Yacht Race history this evening by winning line honours in the inaugural Two-Handed division.
The pair, sailing their Akilaria RC2 designed by Frenchman, Marc Lombard, finished the Cruising Yacht Club of Australia’s 628 nautical mile race in 4 days 7 hours 12 minutes.
Saul and Gough were thrilled about their win and its historic significance for Australian sailing.
“For the CYCA and the Royal Yacht Club of Tasmania to absorb two-handed racing is fantastic,” Saul said after mooring in Hobart this evening.
“You see so much of it over in Europe, but to see it catch on in Australia is great.”
The two also embraced the challenge from a physical and tactical perspective.
“It was a heap of fun, a great race,” Saul said. “There was so much variety of racing, a really tough first day and a half and then so quiet it was tough in other ways.
“There were plenty of sail changes, plenty of activity. Plenty of water across the deck.”
Gough, a former world champion as a windsurfer and in Moth sailing, concurred with his co-skipper, saying: “It had all the variables. The first two days were pretty tough.
“Both of us steered the whole time. It’s just really long stints of steering. Like, today we stayed on the outside of Schouten [Island] all the way home.”
Like all the crews who have finished this year’s race, the pair found the first night when there was a southerly and sea current was punishing. For them, holding course was difficult.
“It was a really interesting sea state,” Gough said.
“There were no backs on the waves. You just come out and slam. I thought we were going to break the boat in half. The pilot wouldn’t know what to do there, so we steered on and off.”
Gough’s said his background in windsurfing and Moth sailing brought some specific assets.
“I get on the tiller when it gets really light,” he said.
“I didn’t do too well coming into Tasman. I made a bit of an error on the layline, but I got us out of Tasman… I thought it was okay.
“That was a real gain for us. It was going to shut down, it was inevitable. We got in. We just sneaked into the start of the sea breeze, and once we get bowling along my job’s done.
“So, I’m a light weather skipper.”
Gough said the issue of sleep management in the race was based more on need than any specific plan or watch system.
“Usually John says, ‘Rob, are you awake? I need you.’ And that’d be the same for him,” Gough said.
“We just sort of sleep just there (pointing to a corner of the pit near the door) with all our gear on, just trying to catch 20 minutes or something.
“We probably had two or three hours a day, I guess. And then the rest was cat naps.”
What is sure, the pair bought the right boat for the Sydney Hobart.
“We always wanted to do a two-handed race. We always wanted it to be the first one of the Sydney Hobart” Gough said.
“We wanted the boat that we knew we could survive those conditions in, like on the first night or two.
“It is a really powerful boat. It will bite you badly if you don’t get it right. But it’s so much fun.
“We came across Storm Bay doing 16 knots … in only 18 knots of sea breeze.”
Asked what is the most demanding part of sailing the boat two-handed was, Gough, who suspects he fractured a rib during the race, said driving the boat is the hardest.
“You have got do the runners and there is a really big main,” he said.
“That’s the trickiest, and then you often go to a spinnaker to try and deal with it, and it loads up really quite quickly. You think ahead and look at what’s going on before you do that.”
Saul also credited their performance to a “conservative” approach throughout the race.
“We were a bit conservative when it was rough, but then that was smart, which was proven by the guys that couldn’t finish,” Saul said.
Rupert Guinness/RSHYR media