Written by Rupert Guinness/RSHYR Media
Photography by © Salty Dingo 2022
25 December 2022
Thomas Cheney is pinching himself that he and the crew on the JPK 11.80 yacht, Sunrise, are in Australia and all but ready to sail in their first Rolex Sydney Hobart Yacht Race.
For the British navigator, of the Royal Ocean Racing Club entry, the prospect of being in the fleet for the Rolex Sydney Hobart, which starts at 1pm on Monday 26 December, almost came by chance.
“Last year, my wife, who sails, and I were up at two in the morning having Christmas in Scotland, watching the start like we have done most years. It’s weird being here,” said Cheney today at the Cruising Yacht Club of Australia (CYCA), organiser of the race.
“It was almost a joke. We thought, ‘Oh … the only race over 600 [nautical mile race] we haven’t really done is the Rolex Sydney Hobart. Wouldn’t it be cool if we could go do that?’
“Then somehow, a few things came together and we made it happen and here we are (his wife is on the crew). So, it’s bit of a dream.”
The crew does not know their opposition in division well but has one major source of local intelligence – Australian Adrienne Cahalan, who is one of the world’s leading navigators.
Most of the crew have not raced in the Rolex Sydney Hobart, including Cheney; while Cahalan brings with her the experience of 29 participations in the race, a record for women sailors.
The Thomas Kneen-owned Sunrise is a proven ocean racer internationally. This is its first trip Down Under, but it won the 2021 Rolex Fastnet Race, placed second in the Rolex Middle Sea Race and claimed a divisional win the RORC Caribbean. While unsuited for the light to medium northerly winds forecast for the first day, Cheney is hoping that may change.
“Probably our weakness is medium air downwind which we may see a little of on the first day, but certainly when it gets windier, we are pretty comfortable,” he said.
Sunrise is one of eight international entries in the fleet that number 109 boats.
Agostin Sipos is in the first all-Hungarian crew in the race on the Reichel/Pugh designed Marten 68, Cassiopeia 68, that is registered with the Almadi Yacht Club, Hungary.
Don’t be fooled by the perception of its look and onboard facilities. It has three guest cabins, the owner’s cabin, three bathrooms and a sizeable galley. However, it is also a fast yacht; and the Rolex Sydney Hobart is just a part of a world circumnavigation that has included the 2018 Thousand Mile race, 2019 Middle Sea Race, 2020 ARC and the 2020 Atlantic Rally.
“That [journey in between] gives us a good opportunity to build a team, which is made up of family and friends,” Sipos said.
Malo Leseigneur, whose father Thierry is the owner/skipper of the New Caledonian entry, Eye Candy, a Sydney 38, is one of five of the design in the fleet and one of two from New Caledonia. Both are making their debut in the race.
“We have a good fleet to race against. That’s going to be our race. We don’t necessarily know the other boats. We know one of the boats,” said Leseigneur today, referring to the other New Caledonian boat, Poulpito.
For Peter and Axel Baumgartner, from the German crew on the Grand Soleil 45, Orione, this is their first Rolex Sydney Hobart too.
“Hobart has a big reputation in the world,” said Peter Baumgartner. “The last five years, we took it step by step, and since Monday, we have the green spot [of approval]. It dawned on me that we are going to the starting line now.”
German Max Klink, who has sailed in five Sydney Hobarts and is skipper of the TP52 Caro, firmly dismissed the notion that the boat is favourite to win overall.
“I do not think we are the favourite,” Klink said today. “It’s a very strong fleet of 52s … Maybe on the 26th, in the evening, we will know, a little bit more if we are the favourites or not.”