Overall winner

Matt Allen’s Botin 52 Ichi Ban has been crowned overall winner of the Sydney to Hobart yacht race after a protest saw rival Celestial given a time penalty.

Photography by Andrea Francolini

31 December 2021


Ichi Ban has become the first yacht to win back-to-back Sydney to Hobart handicap honours in more than 50 years after Celestial was handed a devastating time penalty of 40 minutes for breaching race rules after protests lodged by Ichi Ban and the race committee were upheld in the early hours of Friday.

Celestial, which was ahead of Ichi Ban in overall standings after the pair arrived in Hobart mere minutes apart, has been relegated to second.

The Matt Allen-owned and skippered Ichi Ban won with a corrected time of 4 days, 10 hours and 17 minutes.

The jury found a personal locator beacon on Celestial was accidentally set off on Monday night in Bass Strait causing the Maritime Safety Authority to alert race organisers.

Before a search was launched, nearby yacht Ichi Ban was asked to attempt to contact Celestial and when no response was received it set off flares.


The jury found it was “possible that Ichi Ban’s finishing position in the race was made significantly worse through no fault of her own by giving help”.

It was found Celestial breached race rules by failing to maintain constant radio contact.

Ichi Ban launched a protest when it crossed the finish in Hobart just minutes after Celestial.

The race committee launched a protest of its own, also accusing Celestial of being unresponsive on radio for 90 minutes.

A discretionary penalty of 40 minutes in lieu of disqualification was added to Celestial’s time, putting it behind Ichi Ban, which was given a three-minute deduction from its finishing time.

Allen, a member of the Australian Olympic Committee and immediate past president of Australian Sailinglaunched Ichi Ban in late December 2017. It has paid him back time and again.

Some of the highlights include a line and overall double in the Newcastle Bass Island Race (its first race) in 2017; then overall wins in the Rolex Sydney Hobart in 2017 and 2019 with a raft of other major victories in between, leading to this latest victory.

“This is a time we will never forget. I have a mix of young, old and wise crew. It was a great opportunity for the guys who worked so hard,” said Allen, who also won the race as crew for Lou Abrahams on Challenge in 1983.

“To win with Ichi Ban a third time is unbelievable. It’s always better, ideally, not to go into the room to decide,” the yachtsman said, referring to two protests against Sam Haynes’ Celestial (including one from Ichi Ban),which finished with a better time but received a penalty in the protest room and so placed second overall to Allen’s boat.

“Rules are a critical part of our sport,” Allen said. “But we had a great neck-and-neck race with Celestial – all the way to Hobart. I completely understand why they would be upset. It was certainly a tussle between the two of us and Quest, until Quest dropped off the back and it was just us and Celestial.

“I was confident one or the other of us would win. We knew the predicted second southerly wouldn’t arrive, and that helped us,” Allen acknowledged. “We knew we’d have our ups and downs, but I always thought we had a chance. We pushed the whole way. It’s the toughest Hobart since 2014 – and it was tough.”

Realising he and Ichi Ban would join two greats of sailing in winning three times – Freya (Trygve and Magnus Halvorsen) overall winner in 1963, 1964 and 1965 and Love & War (Peter Kurts and then Simon Kurts) 1974, 1978 and 2006, Allen appeared overcome.

“It’s an amazing moment in time. Trygve designed, built and sailed Freya – that’s amazing. I sailed with Peter Kurts. Love & War is incredible,” he said, referring to her three wins plus a third overall this year.

“Having a big gap between Love & War’s first two and the third win is incredible. I think it would bring a tear to Kurtsy’s eye to see his well-maintained and well-sailed boat still doing so well,” Allen said of the late Peter Kurts.

“I’m in amazing company,” he said of joining the two in being the only ones to ever win the 628 nautical mile race overall three times.

“I look at Azzurro (Shane Kearns’ S&S 34 White Bay 6 Azzurro) that nearly caused an upset again this year until she ran out of breeze), and Love & War, to my boat with the latest in technology and I think about the wide variances in a fleet where anyone can win.

“We’ve spent so many years putting this boat together with two aims – winning the Rolex Sydney Hobart and winning the Audi Centre Sydney Blue Water Pointscore,” the yachtsman said.

In 2018, Allen skippered Ichi Ban to wins in the Australian Yachting Championships (won all eight races); Brisbane to Gladstone, Flinders Islet and Newcastle Bass Island and Bird Island races, and the CYCA’s Blue Water Pointscore. Ichi Ban was also named RORC Yacht of the Year.

In 2019, Ichi Ban’s wins included Division 1 of the Australian Yachting Championships; Adelaide Port Lincoln Race (also taking line honours), the Brisbane Hamilton Island Race, Flinders Islet and Newcastle Bass Island races. These performances landed the TP52 in the finals of the 2019 World Sailing Boat of the Year.

“I helped in the design process,” Allen said. “We put the right package together; the boat, crew and culture. We all just go and work and sail hard together; there are no egos on board. It’s a fulfillment of the sailing capability of the crew and the whole project.

“In 2016, I invited Gordon Maguire (a highly respected yachtsman) to have coffee with me and told him I was putting a new boat together. He has been with me since.

“Gordon, Dick Parker, Will (Oxley), James Paterson, Dav (Davin Conigrave); Tim Sellars, Sean (O’Rourke), Matiu (Te Hau) and Jeremy (Rae) are the core. A really amazing group of guys; experienced and calm.

“All the campaigns have really stepped up again this year. There’s no doubt about the competition in this race – in the 44 to 55 footers alone, it is incredible,” Allen said. “You wouldn’t find the competition we have in this race anywhere else in the world.

“We’ve had conditions to suit these boats the last few years in the Sydney Hobart. You go so fast in the north-easterlies; you go very fast. This year we got southerlies at the start and we were still able to win.”

Allen has been blooded by some legends in yachting. “I always remember my great sailing times with Lou Abrahams – he won two,” said Allen, who had his own first win with the great Victorian yachtsman.

“I always take time out on that first afternoon to think about Lou and Trygve (Halvorsen), and others that I sailed with that meant something to me,” he said.

Allen said the next step is “to take a deep breath, then we’ll do the Adelaide Port Lincoln Race Week and the Australian Yachting Championships.”

Ichi Ban won the handicap title in 2017 and 2019, the last time the race was run after the 2020 event was cancelled due to COVID.

Ichi Ban joins Freya and Love & War as the only boats to win the Tattersall Cup three times. This is a third overall win in four Rolex Sydney Hobarts for Allen and his Botin 52.

Allen has won four Tattersall Cups, his first on Lou Abrahams’ Challenge in 1983.



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