Tony Ellis ticks off 51 Sydney Hobart races

One of the highlights in the Cruising Yacht Club of Australia’s 2018 Rolex Sydney Hobart Yacht Race happened when Triton ceremoniously sailed to the Castray Esplanade finish line in gusts up to 45 knots with record breaker Tony ‘Ace’ Ellis at the helm.

Why did Ellis have the distinction of helming David Gotze and Michael Cranitch’s LC60, Triton (NSW), over the finish line? Because he had just competed in his 51st Sydney Hobart race, therefore equalling the record of Tony Cable, who sailed his 51st last year.

Ellis also has a record of his own that is unlikely to ever be broken – he sailed 41 of his races with old mate Syd Fischer.

The affable Sydneysider is uncomfortable in front of a camera, so to distract him, we got him talking about the race while the camera clicked away. We asked if this milestone race would remain a memorable one and why.

“At times it was frustrating, including being stuck in peas-soup fog two thirds of the way across Bass Strait – we had our own private parking lot there,” Ellis said.

“Otherwise we had a great race with a good crew. It will stay with me because of the great guys on the boat.”

On the weather in the final miles, he said “we came around Tasman Island with a nor’ wester and with gusts up to 40 knots in Storm Bay. We dropped the heady (headsail) and put a reef in the main. We put up a No. 5 (the smallest headsail in the wardrobe).

On Teasing Machine, the big gusts were not the only topic of discussion. Crew member Alexandre de Girval broke his hand during the last 24 hours when he was at a winch trimming a sail. Despite the pain, de Girval sat patiently on the deck of the French boat waiting for an ambulance.

“He is a medic – an osteopath,” Eric de Turckheim, owner of the NMYD54, said with a wry smile.

The French yachtsman came to our race in 2015 with an earlier model of Teasing Machine and finished seventh overall – robbed of the win by a fickle Derwent. This time was quite different: “Forty knots in the river,” said de Turckheim, who is currently placed 32nd overall in a race that still has a way to go.

“The race was a bit frustrating because of the change in the weather – but we knew it was coming so it was not a surprise – big gusts and big winds.”

Two late imports on Andy Kearnan/Peter Wrigley’s TP52 Koa, Larry Jamieson and Campbell Knox, told a similar story. “Forty six knots and we had the full main up – thank god the owner was below,” said Jamieson. “Thank god he was on the main,” Jamieson said of Knox whose experience saved them from damage.

He and Knox are hardened yachties. Apart from racing around the globe, they also do a lot of deliveries, their most recent was mid-December to sail Chinese Whisper from Osaka in Japan to Sydney.

And so the stories will continue as the yachts continue to arrive at the finish line in Hobart.

By Di Pearson, RSHYR media 

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