Who’s who behind the 2021 Sydney Hobart starting cannon

Bruce Gould will this year have the honour of firing the Rolex Sydney Hobart Yacht Race replica start cannon at 1pm on Boxing Day to send the 90-strong fleet off and on its way.

As Sydney Hobart custom has dictated since 2003, the starter’s duty has been bestowed on someone who has won the race 50 years previously.

Gould, who has 40 Sydney Hobarts to his credit, sailed on Sir Robert Crichton-Brown’s winning yacht Pacha in 1970 and was due to fire the cannon last year, until the race was cancelled because of COVID-19 restrictions.

Known as ‘Gouldy’ in yachting circles, he also crewed on Bernard Lewis’ Vengeance when it claimed line honours in 1981 and on Lewis’ Sovereign for its line honours and overall double victory in 1987. Both maxi yachts were skippered by Gouldy’s long-time mate, David Kellett.

Gould made his debut in the Sydney Hobart in 1963, crewing on the then-famous yacht, Sylph VI.

His last participation was on Strewth 52 in 2009. In between, he raced on other famous yachts such as Gretel, Ragamuffin, Margaret Rintoul, Condor and Winston Churchill.  

“I feel very privileged and humbled to be invited to start the race. It’s 51 years since I won on Pacha, so I guess that’s some claim to fame,” he said laughing.

“There’s a lot of history there when I look back. Fifty one years since we won the Hobart – shows you how old I am.

“I thought this starting thing was old blokes, and then I realised, I am one!”

Since hanging up his offshore racing kit, Gould has still journeyed to Hobart by sea many times.

However, his role has been as a volunteer aboard the Radio Relay Vessel JBW with David Kellett and on Young Endeavour. He also continues to take part in local races.

Five and 10 minute warning signal starters

To celebrate the participation in the Sydney Hobart, the Cruising Yacht Club of Australia has invited two women to fire the 5 and 10 minute Warning Signals ahead of the start cannon. Gail Harland, who has competed in 22 Sydney Hobarts and Mary Holley, who has sailed in 16, will fire the five and 10 minute Warning Signals respectively.

Harland has raced numerous times on grand prix yachts with Michael Spies, with whom she also won the 2003 Sydney Hobart on First National in her favoured role as a trimmer.

From Sydney, Harland has also sailed with Tony Kirby on two of his Patrice’s.

Harland’s passion for the water and sailing was triggered by many trips back and forth by car from St Leonards where she was raised to university when she would see Sydney Harbour.

One day, while driving her on one such trip, her father asked what she wanted for her upcoming 19th birthday.

“I told him I’d like sailing lessons – I can’t remember why it even occurred to me,” she said.

“He was so surprised we nearly had a car accident, but that’s what he and Mum gave me.

“It’s the best thing I ever asked for and did.”

Mary Holley sailed all but her first race on Aurora, the Farr 40 one-off owned by Mary and her husband Jim Holley. Her first race was aboard Irvine Laidlaw’s Highland Fling in 1997.

Holley, from Newcastle, then contested every race from 1998, including 2012 on Aurora.

The Newcastle resident’s best results with Aurora were in the fatal 1998 race when she and Jim placed second in division, and in 1999 when they took third place in division.

Aurora’s owners became such popular fixtures in the race, Aurora was given a permanent berth on A Marina, closer to the Club. This made it easy for their friends to call by and catch up.

Holley has also been a recipient of the Australian Sailing She Sails award for the initiatives she brought to the Newcastle Cruising Yacht Club.

Rupert Guinness/RSHYR

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