Buzz and butterflies 

For anyone who races in the Rolex Sydney Hobart Yacht Race for the first time, the build-up to the starter’s cannon fire and then the sail out through the Heads is one of the biggest thrills.

Written by Rupert Guinness/RSHYR media

25 December 2022


The Rolex Sydney Hobart Yacht Race has it all, plus some. There is the realisation that what is a dream is about to become real. Then the tension on the yachts, as skippers yell orders while navigating their boat through the mayhem for their best start position through a corridor of spectator boats, while all along television helicopters hover from the skies to capture all the action live. Finally, there is the buzz of those first minutes after the start as the bows of every boat steer for Sydney Heads.

The experience can quickly turn into a cocktail of emotion, managed well or not, in a fleet often numbering 100-plus.

The challenge is great, believes Stuart Broom, who this year will sail his 14th Hobart on the Adams 20, Helsal 3, that will start further back in the fleet of 109.


“It’s easy to get wound up and think you’re starting a two-hour race,” said Broom. “You’ve got to get a good start. You’ve just got to be clean and don’t get tangled up with other boats.

“We’re Division 3, so you start behind some other divisions and you’re sailing in a lot of peoples’ dirty air. You want to find yourself a lane where you’re getting some good air and not get too tangled up match racing; or sail a little further in clear air and get to the mark a little quicker, get a clear exit out the Harbour.”

For Thomas Cheney, navigator on the British entrant, the JPK 1180 Sunrise, this will be his first Rolex Sydney Hobart. But he has plenty of ocean racing experience, such as in the Rolex Fastnet Race which Sunrise won in 2021. He advocates sticking to honed processes.

“We normally try to approach these things as if it’s any other day,” Cheney said.

“The crew, probably six of us, have done the last four 600 [mile races] together. It’s quite a tight group. We’ll go through our normal process and try not to get crashed into at the start.

“You’ve just got to get clean out of Sydney Harbour. That’s where you’ve got the biggest risk of screwing up and probably the least reward; then get out the Heads and then foot down the road.”

Agoston Sipos, a member of the all-Hungarian crew on the Reichel/Pugh designed Marten 68, Cassiopeia 68, has been feeling the hype build this week as the Rolex Sydney Hobart nears.

“All this excitement [adds] a bit of pressure on the team leading up to the event,” he said. “On the morning of the regatta, we will be focused and stay on that one goal – to get off the start line, keep to the race and don’t forget to turn right when you get out of the Heads. But coming to Sydney as an outsider is a great experience. It’s very humbling to just walk through the docks.

“There are a lot of very fast boats. It looks like all the teams are better prepared.

“It’s great to mingle with them, share experiences, compare notes about what’s coming.”

The Rolex Sydney Hobart race starters this year are:

Starting cannon: Norm Hyett, who was on Ted Turner’s American Eagle (USA) when it won Line Honours in 1972.

5-minute gun: Richard Wilson, the son of Brin Wilson, the Kiwi owner of 1971 Overall winner Pathfinder (NZL)

10-minute gun: Noel Cornish, Immediate Past Commodore of the CYCA, who steered the CYCA through the difficult COVID-19 period.

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