Rolex Sydney Hobart Yacht Race
GETTING RACE READY FOR THE ROLEX SYDNEY HOBART
The Rolex Trophy is sailed out of Sydney in December each year. Although held in the lead-up to the Rolex Sydney Hobart Yacht Race, it is an important event in its own right.
The Cruising Yacht Club of Australia originally introduced this regatta, formerly known as the British Trophy, to provide a competitive event in the even years between the biennial Southern Cross Cup. Unlike that series, the Rolex Trophy is a standalone regatta for individual yachts and is not linked to the Rolex Sydney Hobart. However, contenders for the Rolex Sydney Hobart often take part in the regatta and use the racing as a shakedown, checking both crew and equipment before launching out of Sydney Harbour on the famous Boxing Day (26 December) race start. The Rolex Trophy is now held every year and is seen as the semi-official kick off to the main event.
This year 29 yachts took part in the four days of handicap racing, which form part of the Trophy and which started on the 16 December. The series was made up of two days of windward/leeward racing and two days of passage racing.
The TP52 Hooligan, businessman and health food giant Marcus Blackmore’s yacht, came in first overall this year followed by Stephen Ainsworth’s Reichel/Pugh 63 Loki and Robert Hanna’s TP52 Shogun, in third.
Hooligan’s win surprised many as the boat had just been put in the water only hours before the first race start. Hooligan’s crew boss Terry Wetton says winning the Rolex Trophy was, “awesome.” He too was surprised at the outcome, as Hooligan, purchased just three months prior, had undergone a refit, including a new keel that arrived only two days before the event. “It was a mad rush to get her in the water. We really didn’t know what to expect, but she performed like a wonder,” revealed Wetton.
Unlike Loki and Shogun, Hooligan is not participating in the Rolex Sydney Hobart Race. Still, like most other yachtsmen in Sydney around Christmas time, Wetton has an opinion on likely contenders. He thinks that while it is difficult to predict with certainty the outcome of the race, “handicap-wise Loki has a very good chance. Stephen (Ainsworth) has put together a great team.” As for line honours, Wetton gave a chuckle and said, “Oh, I think it will be Wild Oats, she’s a fast boat and hard to beat.”
According to owner Stephen Ainsworth, Loki fought tough to end in second place, saying, “there were a big variety of race conditions and every race was different. Loki handled the conditions very well, except we struggled against the smaller boats in the fleet when the breeze dropped to five knots or less.”
As to how he feels about coming in behind Hooligan, Ainsworth said, “Hooligan sailed a very good series and deserved to win. Having said that, it is a pure regatta boat and is not going to Hobart. The Hobart race is the main game for me.”
In her two Rolex Sydney Hobart races so far, this version of Loki launched in 2008 has been consistent in making the top ten boats on elapsed time; last year the boat placed ninth. Ainsworth attributed his boat’s consistency to the fact that, “we have very good boat speed and crew work. If we can get our tactics right, we’ll do well in this year’s race too.”
When questioned if he is prepared, Ainsworth responds with certainty, “we are extremely well prepared. After having done twelve (Rolex Sydney Hobart) races, I have first-hand knowledge of the dangers and consequences of the lack of preparation. My boat captain Darren Senogles is very thorough and I can confidently say that there will not be a better prepared boat on the start line.”
As to why he participates in the classic 628 nautical-mile Rolex race each year, Ainsworth explained, “I guess it is the challenge, the camaraderie, the feeling of not only competing against other boats, but Mother Nature herself.”
Rob Hanna, owner of Shogun, also agreed that this year’s Rolex Trophy was tough because of the “reasonably light winds,” which made the larger and heavier yachts that much slower, “although we’re the same size as the winning Hooligan, our boat is 14 percent heavier.” He also added that Hooligan is a strictly a “regatta boat” and optimized for these kind of races. “She’s definitely not going to Hobart!” he observed.
Hanna sees the Rolex Trophy race as a useful tool, “we actually use the regatta as a crew shaper-upper.” As to how Shogun performed, Hanna said, “it worked out exceptionally well. I am very pleased with the boat and the way it handled during the race.”
This year’s Rolex Sydney Hobart Race will be the seventh for Hanna. As a seasoned veteran of the event he, like Ainsworth, stresses that the race requires careful, thorough preparation. “Besides painstaking preparation, I’m also making sure the crew is totally fit because this is an extremely physically demanding race.” He added, “I’m going to make sure the boys get plenty of exercise and rest well during the week before start.”
Hanna’s reasons for racing year after year in this tough competition are simple, “if I’m not wrong there are only three Category 1 races left. They’re becoming rare.” He also gets a high from the “adrenalin rush” that this race causes and sees it as “an achievement just getting to Hobart.”
The veteran racer predicted that this Rolex Sydney Hobart would be like all the others that have gone before, saying with a laugh, “when the race is over, there will only be one happy boat and 88 others with hard-luck stories.”
A fleet of 89 yachts will compete in the 2010 race, which starts at 1300 AEDT, 26 December 2010. The Rolex Sydney Hobart fleet will include six international entries from the USA, UK, Italy, France, and Russia, as well as every Australian state.