EYES ON THE PRIZE

Welcome to Sails Magazine’s Rolex Sydney Yacht Race Guide, as we prepare for the pinnacle race of the Australian yachting calendar.

Our cover features Matt Allen of Ichi Ban, Zoe Taylor of Grace O’Malley, Jim Cooney of Comanche and Hongquan Li of Noahs II. Each skipper is vying for their own piece of Sydney Hobart glory.

In this issue, we guide you through the great race, and take a look at the favourites, every boat’s details, vital statistics, past winners, race history and Hobart legends.

Sails Editor Scott Alle recounts his experience covering the disaster four our 1998 Sydney Hobart Retrospective.

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Editor’s Letter

Welcome to this special edition of Sails magazine for the 2018 Rolex Sydney Hobart Yacht Race.

You’ll find everything you need to know about this year’s diverse fleet. From the biggest gathering of racing supermaxis anywhere in the world to the strong cohort of 60-footers; the insanely competitive pack of TP52s; the beautiful classics such as Kialoa II and Mark Twain; and the smaller boats that don’t get the kudos, but whose crews have the total respect of anyone who’s ever been sailing offshore.

We also sit down with some of the personalities that make ‘the Hobart’ such a unique experience. After all, as one sailor put it, where else can the average Nigel (their description) take part in the pinnacle event of their favourite sport? And of course, as 26-race veteran and top navigator Adrienne Cahalan observes, there is the “awesome element of adventure” about it all.

Family features strongly again this year. Siblings Jimmy Spithill (Comanche), Tom Spithill (Winning Appliances) and Katie Spithill (Wild Oats X) will all be out there, and James and Julia Cooney will be sailing with their dad Jim on Comanche. In fact, a scan of the boats reveals at least seven sets of fathers and sons or daughters; the same number of brother combinations; and at least four husband and wife (or partner) teams.

I did my first race in 1987 with my brother Dean. Even though I had grown up sailing (my father skippered his own boat Barbarian in the 1971 Sydney Hobart), I was unprepared for the sheer physicality of nearly five days straight at sea.

That year, on Farr 1020 Never Satisfied, we experienced everything – from swimming off the back of the boat becalmed in Bass Strait to just two days later, on the 70th or so tack on Storm Bay, finding reserves of endurance I didn’t know I had. I suspect it will be the same for many first timers this year.

Of course, all of the 1,100 competitors heading out on Boxing Day will be much better prepared from a safety standpoint than we were in 1987. Thanks to lessons learnt from the terrible storm of 1998 we will all have personal EPIRBS, AIS, sea-safety survival training and a number of other evolved technological aids to give us the best chance should the worst happen. There will also be some sombre reflection out there during one of the radio skeds as we remember our fellow sailors lost in the maelstrom of Bass Strait two decades ago. 

I didn’t sail in the ’98 race; I was in the ABC chopper with colleagues Gary Ticehurst and Peter Sinclair as it turned into a battle for survival. Like many others who witnessed it, I’ll never forget the fury the ocean unleashed and the raw human courage that met it head-on.

As our thoughts turn to this year’s race, my thanks go to the safety and rescue services that will be keeping a vigilant eye on us as we head south; the many volunteers who give selflessly of their time (especially at two in the morning when we may cross the line); Rolex for supporting the race; and our hosts, the Cruising Yacht Club of Australia and the Royal Yacht Club of Tasmania.

Good luck, stay safe, and see you in Hobart,

SCOTT ALLE

Editor Sails Magazine