Written by Jane Austin/ORCV media
22 December 2023
Following the successful 50th anniversary race, Melbourne to Hobart Yacht Race skippers and crews are finalising preparations for this year’s event which will once again see several boats in contention for line honours, and the return of the first multihull in 30 years.
While the 15-boat fleet is somewhat smaller than last year’s 50th anniversary race, the competition will be no less intense with a diverse fleet and both new and experienced skippers testing their sailing prowess in this tactical, exhilarating and challenging race.
The race is organised by the Ocean Racing Club of Victoria (ORCV) which has the enviable reputation as the pioneer of short-handed racing in Australia, and this year’s fleet will see some stiff competition across these and the fully crewed divisions.
Early predictions for line honours have focused on Nigel Jones and Cam McKenzie’s J111, Ginan, from the Mornington Yacht Club, who will co-skipper the boat on the journey south to Hobart. Purchased in 2022 for the 50th-anniversary race, this boat has unfinished business after finishing second on AMS last year.
The boat has been campaigned successfully over the last 12 months, winning several ORCV races and took out the ORCV Coastal Championship last season. Ginan boasts a very experienced crew and with favourable conditions, could see the team take line honours and a handicap win.
Ginan’s quest for AMS victory after last year’s near miss. Photo by Michael Currie
But pressing Ginan all the way to Hobart will be Alex Toomey’s Sayer 12, Ryujin, from the Royal Melbourne Yacht Squadron. Ryujin will also be fully crewed in the 2023 race and will be seeking another podium finish after winning the double-handed division with co-skipper Andrew Hibbert, in the 50th anniversary race.
Toomey and his team are also in sharp sailing form, winning the ORCV Offshore Championship for 2022/23. Toomey will be hoping for moderate to stronger breezes to give Ryujin the opportunity to spread her wings in conditions that she relishes and fly to Hobart for a line honours win.
“The 50th was a flagship event. It’s nice to be part of something that only happens once. This year, with a full crew of experienced sailors, I have got my eye on line honours and think we can do it,” said Toomey. And if things go the way of Ginan, a handicap win is also on the cards.
Ryujin sets sights on Melbourne to Hobart victory. Photo by Steb Fisher
Other monohulls in contention for line honours include ORCV Sail Captain Paul Roberts’ Sydney 41, Cadibarra, from Sandringham Yacht Club. Roberts is an experienced ‘Westcoaster’ skipper with eight races under his belt including two races in the double-handed division.
Cadibarra will certainly be a threat with Roberts hoping to repeat his 2016 success in the previous Cadibarra 8 which won line honours and all handicap divisions.
Joker x2, a J133 design and the bigger brother of Ginan, is highly fancied to take out line honours in the double-handed division. Co-skippers Grant Chipperfield and Peter Dowdney from the Martha Cove Yacht Squadron purchased the boat this year to prepare and campaign it for the 2025 Melbourne to Osaka and are getting to know her more and more each race.
Dowdney, Australasian Sales Manager for Ronstan, and Chipperfield are great advocates for double-handed sailing, always looking for innovative ways to get the boat moving quicker, and are passionate ambassadors for the Melbourne to Hobart Yacht Race.
“We’ve done the Melbourne to Devonport and Sydney Hobart races two up. Grant and I have done enough miles to work our systems out and throw the boat around in any conditions.”
“We enjoy each other’s company and sail well together, and there’s plenty of Ronstan on the boat for whacky ideas during the race.”
“The other reason we’re doing it is the magnificent and dramatic scenery. It feels like there is no more isolated place in the world,” said Dowdney.
The 2023 race will see only the first multihull to contest the event in the last 30 years.
Peccadillo, a Chris White 46 Mk li multihull will be skippered by Charles Meredith, past commodore of the Royal Melbourne Yacht Squadron. Meredith, sailing his first Westcoaster, is a very experienced multihull sailor who has been racing with the ORCV for about ten years, completing four Melbourne to Devonport and several Apollo Bay races. Meredith is highly regarded in sailing circles for his work in improving the standards and suitability of catamarans for offshore races.
Meredith’s ocean racing pedigree is well-established with the skipper competing in five Australian Three Peaks Races, winning it once and holding race records for several legs. Meredith and his seasoned crew will be on the hunt to break Lindsay Cumming’s race record set on Bagatelle in 1988 in a time of 3d 03h 35m 32sec.
Peccadillo, the 1st multihull in 30 years, aims for Westcoaster record. Photo by Steph McDonald
This year’s race welcomes back father and daughter co-skippers, Tim and Clare Olding sailing Vertigo, their Summit 35, while newcomer Tobias Swanson, will be skippering Dark & Stormy, a Murray- Burns-Dovell 37 on the trip to Hobart.
Vertigo will again be in contention for handicap honours with this race missing from the family’s extensive trophy cabinet, while Andrew Neeson’s Runnalls 39, Jaffa, has been refitted with the crew quietly confident for this year’s race.
Justin Brenan and his Lidgard 36, Alien, will also be one to watch with the skipper having notched 14 Westcoaster races on his belt, winning the Heemskirk Trophy for overall winner [on AMS] of the Westcoaster three times and featuring on the race podium in several more races.
The race leaves Portsea on the outgoing tide on Wednesday at 12 noon with the fleet making the dash to Port Philip Heads before taking on the 125 nautical mile Bass Strait crossing.
There are lots of gains to be made from the right call around King Island with the tidal flows between the top of King Island and Northwest Tasmania always a challenge for new and top-notch navigators alike.
The fleet will carry trackers enabling race followers to track the action from start to finish. Follow the fleet here.
The race record of 1 day 17 hours 28 minutes 59 seconds was set by Shortwave in 2008, winning the race with an average speed over the course of 10.49 knots.
The race is run with the cooperation of the Derwent Sailing Squadron.
Entry, Notice of Race and List of Entries available online.