Rolex Sydney Hobart
Well that’s the Rolex Sydney Hobart completed and it lived up to its reputation!
The start was exhilarating as the 94 yachts broke from the line and reached up to the exit of the harbour at the Heads, the maxi yachts like Wild Oats and Perpetual leading the charge, along with the masses of spectator boats on either side of the course. This time it was our turn for an incident at the first mark when another Clipper 70′, Switzerland, turned up too soon rounding the mark touching our stern. Fortunately there was little damage to either boat and Switzerland had to take a simple 720′ penalty to exonerate themselves for the incident as they failed to give us sufficient room to round the mark. What it also meant for us was that we paid the headlines in the Sydney Daily Telegraph in front of Wild Oats that usually dominates this!
As we exited the heads it was clear that the hard work we had put into getting the hull clean had paid off as this time we easily matched the pace of the other Clipper boats upwind, whereas before we were clearly slower. Over the course of the next 24 hours we worked our way down to the top of the Bass Straits in light to very light winds. These conditions are not favourable for the Clipper 70’s that struggle to move or point in the light airs. However as the wind filled in from the North we were able to deploy our spinnaker, initially our code 1, subsequently our code 2 as we entered the Straits. The yachts perform significantly better downwind.
Half way across the Straits as the wind was building we spotted an issue at the top of the mast, inevitably with the spinnaker block. The short strop had failed and the block was only being held to the mast by the safety strop. This meant a drop was required before the strop failed which would have resulted in the whole thing ending up in the water. But the drop was not simple; as the spinnaker was being lowered the block at the top inverted and jammed the halyard entirely meaning that the kite was stuck half way down and could not be lowered or raised. So yet again another trip Northwards for Claire to cut the halyard from the top of the kite, after attaching a spare halyard to allow us to complete the drop in a controlled fashion!
Over the course of the day and into the evening the wind continued to build and come round onto our nose, as forecast and the sea state picked up. The conditions had become very challenging indeed with a short steep sea and wind of around 50knots, gusting to 70 at times. This meant the boat was now slamming into the waves trying to work our way upwind. I can only imagine how tough it must have been on one of the smaller yachts in the race, the conditions causing problems for a number of boats including at least one dismasting. The race organisers were quoted as saying that the conditions were the worst the race has experienced since the infamous 98 race. The conditions also forced the retirement of one of the Clipper fleet, Henri Lloyd when they discovered they had cracked a rudder bearing!
What was encouraging for us was that were still in touch with the rest of the Clipper fleet and as we entered Storm Bay on the approach the Derwent River that leads up to Hobart we were chasing down three other Clipper yachts as conditions abated and winds lightened again. In the event we finished 8th within minutes of 5th.
The welcome in Hobart was brilliant where the yacht does a “fly by” of the crowd as it enters the marina with a commentator announcing the arrival of each yacht before the arrival celebrations begin. The traditional place for these celebrations is the Customs House pub that stays open 24 hours to accommodate all arrival of the crews night and day.
So now we have a short pit stop before my final race in the adventure of my life, Hobart to Brisbane, which will see me cross the Bass Strait for the third time in as many weeks! The forecast does not look favourable again…….. In the meantime we can enjoy the New Year celebrations in Hobart!!
Overall it was an awesome experience and it is great to able to say I have competed in this prestigious event; a real bucket list experience!
For this trip we were also joined by a correspondent and photo journalist from the Sydney Daily Telegraph. You can read their articles on the Telegraph’s website: