One for the ages

Michael Spies, Skipper of Maritimo 11 has experienced almost all conditions during his 44 editions of the Rolex Sydney Hobart Yacht Race, but this year was different.

Written by Rupert Guinness/RSHYR media

30 December 2021


You would think that Michael Spies had seen it all when it comes to new experiences in the Rolex Sydney Hobart Yacht Race with this year’s race marking his 44th participation.

But after finishing this year’s race, Spies, skipper of the Gold Coast-based Schumacher 54, Maritimo 11, was reminded how the more time passes, the more things can still surprise you.

Spies was understandably disappointed about a lack of wind putting an end to Maritimo’s chances of winning the Cruising Yacht Club of Australia’s 628 nautical mile race overall.

But something good came from the bad; the bad, being twice parked in windless conditions off Tasmania. Up until then, Maritimo 11 was in a tactical race with the TP52s on handicap.

“Unfortunately, we stopped near Flinders Island,” Spies said after Maritimo 11 finished at 2.43pm in a time of 4 days 1 hour 43 minutes 24 seconds, putting them 11th on line honours.


The stop off Flinders Island at least provided Spies with a never-before-seen moment.

“That was my 44th race. I had never seen Flinders Island I don’t think in all those years. And there we were, you can virtually touch it.”

Maritimo 11 got going again, but soon after a lack of wind dashed their winning hopes for good.

“We had a really good sail up until Tasman and unfortunately just stopped there for another four or five hours and that was us spent,” Spies said.

Spies knows that dealing with the unexpected setbacks is part and parcel of any Sydney Hobart, and that over 628 nautical miles, most – if not all – crews will face that challenge.

The race began well for Spies and his crew on Boxing Day. “We got out of the Harbour really well, got a glamour start, settled down, found a nice rhythm,” Spies said in Hobart.

“We were well ahead of everyone in our division. Then probably at about five o’clock a really big rainstorm came through; so much so, that’s where a lot of the boats retired.

“It was 37 to 38 knots. We handled that alright. We came back out the other side. We were quite conservative but lived to fight another day.

“The first night was quite tough. That compounded the retirements. The next day, it became a tactical race.”

The rest is history. For him, this year’s race will be confined to memory, from the lessons learned to the unexpected experience of seeing Flinders Island as close up as he did.

He agrees that this year’s race was one of the toughest in years, probably since 2015.

“The first night was pretty exceptional and it wasn’t forecasted,” he said.

“It was out of local squalls. We were expecting 20 to 25 knot winds – and then you look at that again and that’s certainly what brought a lot of the boats down by attrition.”

Spies was grateful that the race was still held, considering the current environment of COVID that forced last year’s event to be cancelled one week out from the Boxing Day start.

“I don’t think anyone had an ideal preparation this year,” he said. “Hats off to the organisers CYCA and RYCT, as well as Rolex for getting it away. But it was a disruptive preparation for the whole fleet.”

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