Written by Rupert Guinness/RSHYR Media
Photography by Salty Dingo
31 December 2022
It was an emotional ‘last drinks’ for the crew of White Bay 6 Azzurro as they sat on board the 34-footer for the last time after finishing the 2022 Rolex Sydney Hobart Yacht Race this afternoon.
The seven-strong crew of the Shane Kearns-owned boat admitted that it was “sad” knowing this year’s Rolex Sydney Hobart, organised by the Cruising Yacht Club of Australia, would be the last for them on White Bay 6 Azzurro.
Kearns cannot do another offshore race, ordered by his doctor, due to health reasons. He has reluctantly decided to sell the boat that was built in 1981.
The now close friends and crew mates sailed White Bay 6 Azzurro in her 10th Hobart and placed 37th overall for second in Division 5.
They also placed seventh in IRC Corinthian and fourth in the PHS Corinthian division, for Kearns’ farewell.
As they drank beers on board in Hobart, the crew were philosophical about their results.
Like many Rolex Sydney Hobart yachts, the boat has been a regular overall contender, only to fall short near the end due to unsuitable conditions, or circumstance beyond their control.
“You’ve got to win your division and everyone says the rest of it is just luck,” said sailing master Jim Nixon, who has now sailed in 27 Sydney Hobarts, many of them on White Bay 6 Azzurro.
“If the weather suits that particular size of boat or that division, you win the race; and this year, if you look at the results for the TPs, yeah … [it suited them].
“If you get the right weather with a small boat, you have a chance of winning. You just have to keep turning up.”
But with Kearns putting White Bay 6 Azzurro on the market, there will be no more ‘turning up’ by the crew for the popular boat.
“It’s a pity it’s coming to an end. It’s been a pretty good pretty good gig,” Nixon said.
“‘Kearnsy’ is the sort of guy who is always keen to keep going until he wins it; but because of his heart problem he has to give it away.
“You’ve got to give it to him, he’s turned up every year to have a go. I don’t know how many times we’ve won our division, but we have quite a few times in the last six or seven years.
“We’ve always been in the hunt … that’s the thing. If you’re always in the hunt you just keep coming back.
“This boat is an awesome boat. We sail together pretty well; we get on pretty well and we’re all relatively experienced in everything. Everyone does everything on this boat.
“He’s a fabulous owner. We just turn up on race day and just jump on.”
Asked what the crew will do with a view to its racing options in the 2023 Rolex Sydney Hobart, Nixon shrugged his shoulders, sipped his beer and said: “We’ll go off on different boats.”
Nixon then looked at crewmate, Ben Gray, for whom this year’s Rolex Sydney Hobart was his third.
“Ben’s now the custodian of a beautiful old boat that was Impeccable, a very famous boat that Duncan McRae [navigator] and I did lots of races on,” said Nixon.
“We have to put pressure on Ben to get his boat ready for next year, or the year after.”