TP52 sailors anticipate speedy journey south

On the eve of the Rolex Sydney Hobart Yacht Race, Craig Neil’s TP52 Quest sits in her pen at the Cruising Yacht Club of Australia, equipped for the strong northerly winds that have been forecast.

Sails have been tested, boat work has been attended too, and all the crew need to do is get the pre-prepared meals on board and they’re ready for one of the biggest races on the offshore sailing calendar.

The 77th Sydney Hobart is set to be an adrenaline-packed race for the TP52 fleet, with an ETA of Wednesday afternoon making it a two-day race.


The 2021 race presented huge challenges for the TP52 fleet. A powerful southerly for 30-hours followed by light winds towards the end of the race, saw the TP52s finish in about the three-days.

This year, there is a solid turnout in the fleet of 109, with 10 fully-crewed TP52s (in addition to ‘J-Bird’ in the two-handed division) from NSW, WA, QLD, NZ and the USA.

The recently launched TP52 Maritimo retired due to damage to the hull on its delivery from Queensland to Sydney.


Quest’s new light-wind jib, given a test run on Sydney Harbour earlier this week, won’t be much use in the “hard, downwind running” conditions, with winds expected to surpass 30-knots at times.

This forecast is in stark contrast to the mostly light upwind-conditions in the 2022/23 Audi Centre Sydney Blue Water Series, which favours the smaller boats on IRC overall.

However, a kite ride down south for most of the 628nm race won’t favour all the TP52s on IRC overall.

“Some of the newer TP52s dig their nose in really hard in downwind conditions, so they slow down a bit,” Neil, president of the Australian TP52 Sailing Association, said. “Whereas the older boats [including Quest] and the new Caro (NZ), have their nose up and don’t bury so much, which just means you tend to maintain a constant speed.

Zen and Denali

“We’ll see what happens. Everything is subject to change.”

TP52s to watch out for include Caro (Max Klink), Gweilo (Matt Donald and Chris Townsend), Zen (Gordon Ketelbey), Celestial (Sam Haynes) and Smuggler (Sebastian Bohm) which has produced impressive results of late.

Last year, Matt Allen’s Ichi Ban won the Tattersall Cup for IRC overall, followed by Haynes’ Celestial.

“The TP52 fleet speaks for itself,” Neil said. “Some of the best sailors in this country, and from around the world, are on these boats. They can win this race with the right conditions.

“I think it’s going to be a close race. I’m not really worried about any other boat, just the TP52s. If we can do well in that class, we’ll do well overall.”

With the spinnaker set to be up for a large part of the race, the sheer physical effort required may take its toll on crew members.

“We’ll have two people grinding all the way pretty much,” Neil said. “That’s two days of grinding – that’s a lot of physical effort. That’s where a lot of the hard work is going to be – grinding, trimming, steering and just working as a team all the way.”

Quest has won the race twice under its previous owners (Bob Steel in 2008 and Paul Clitheroe in 2015 as Balance). Neil is keen to break that spell, and is confident about the journey ahead.

“Quest has won this sort of race before, so hopefully we’re in the mix.

“I’m really happy with our crew. We’ve settled in well, we know what we need to do. We just need to get on and do it now.”

By Greta Quealy / Australian TP52 Sailing Association

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