Friday, 2 January 2009

Rolex Sydney Hobart 2008: A Milestone Race

A rainbow brings colour to the marina in Hobart at the start of 2009. Image copyright Rolex/Daniel Forster.

by Giles Pearman

The 64th Rolex Sydney Hobart has been a milestone one with a high-quality fleet of 100 boats including eleven overseas entries, an unexpectedly close line honours battle at the head of the fleet between the maxis Wild Oats XI and Skandia and four of the sensationally fast downwind TP52s filling the first four placings overall on handicap.

Bob Oatley's canting-keeled design Reichel/Pugh 98 Wild Oats XI took line honours for a record fourth-successive year after trailing Grant Wharington's Don Jones-designed canting-keeled Skandia for most of the race. While the two maxis slowed in lighter winds along the Tasmanian coast to be denied the course record, the TP52s hardly faltered and finished within five hours of them. Bob Steel's Quest won the race's major trophy the Tattersall's Cup for the overall winner on IRC corrected time, from Alan Whiteley's Cougar II. Both are Farr designs. Graeme Wood's Judel/Vrolijk-designed Wot Now was third and Syd Fischer's Farr-designed TP52 Ragamuffin fourth.

The two brand new Reichel/Pugh designs in the race also enjoyed the hard-running conditions with Alan Brierty's R/P 62 Limit placing fifth and Stephen Ainsworth's R/P 63 Loki eighth overall on IRC. Both are exciting boats, featuring the latest rig and sail-making technology, and their results were highly promising considering the Rolex Sydney Hobart was their very first offshore race.

As always, while the boats were impressive the people manning them were even more so and provided the most touching moments during the prize-giving ceremony at the Royal Yacht Club of Tasmania today, which was attended by His Excellency Peter Underwood, Governor of Tasmania, and Michael Aird MLC, representing the Premier of Tasmania, along with other distinguished guests from the organising clubs and the event supporters. Bob Steel, who won the race in 2002 with a previous Quest, was ready for the reminder at the ceremony that he had thrown the watch he was wearing at the time into the Derwent River when he accepted the Rolex Yacht-Master timepiece that goes to the winning yacht. Asked would he do the same with Rolex Yacht-Master he had won on that occasion, he pulled out an old watch from his pocket and theatrically threw it into the crowd.

Richard de Leyser, General Manager of Rolex Australia, presents a Rolex Yachtmaster timepiece and the Tattersall's Cup and replica to Mr and Mrs Robert Steel. Image copyright Rolex/Daniel Forster.

Steel praised his crew saying they had, 'put in a tremendous effort in beating the strong competition in this year's race', especially his sailing-master Michael Green, who has crewed with Steel in the Admiral's Cup as well as this race, including the 2002 win. Green, who has now sailed in thirty Rolex Sydney Hobarts, aims to overtake the thirty-five race record of his father Peter, a famed sailing-master from the race's earlier years who died in 1990. Each year he has raced since, Michael has poured a tot of rum into the sea for Peter as his boat has rounded Tasman Light nearing the finish of the race and downed one himself. Michael Green inherited a Rolex from his father, but lost it in a home robbery about thirteen years ago. And today, in recognition of Michael's efforts, Steel handed his second Rolex to him at the presentation ceremony; a gesture that left Green close to tears and brought deafening applause from the audience.

Another emotional moment came when John Walker received the medallion recognising the completion of his 25th Rolex Sydney Hobart in his Peterson 34 Impeccable, the boat he has sailed in all of them. Aged 86, he is the oldest skipper ever to sail in the race. "This race will be my last," he said simply before thanking the crews who have sailed with him over the years.

Syd Fischer was recognised with a medallion for completing his 40th race. Fischer, who is 81, in previous Ragamuffins, won the Tattersall's Cup in 1992 and took line honours in 1988 and 1980. His current TP52 Ragamuffin finished second to the 2007 overall winner Rosebud.

Tony Cable has now completed 45 Sydney Hobart Races. Image copyright Rolex/Daniel Forster.

Tony Cable from Sydney, who raced on the Volvo 60 Getaway-Sailing.Com, was recognised for completing his 45th race, passing the 44-race record of the late John Bennetto from Tasmania and Lou Abrahams of Victoria. "Records don't interest me particularly; I'm out there because I enjoy being at sea, the companionship and the competition," he said.

Understandably not present to receive his 25-year medallion was Graeme Ainley, skipper of Georgia, which sank on the first night when the rudderstock pulled out in a collision with an underwater object. The race committee awarded the Rani Trophy for the 'most meritorious performance' to Les Rodriguez's Volvo 60 Telcoinabox Merit for rescuing the crew of Georgia. "In difficult conditions the crew of Telcoinabox Merit conducted the rescue mission in an exemplary demonstration of seamanship," the citation read.

The award for the yacht travelling the most distance to compete went to Walross IV, owned by the Berlin-based Academy Sailing Club, which trains young students in offshore sailing. The yacht departed from Germany in October 2007 to begin a world-girdling voyage that took her to Qingdao for the Olympic sailing and on to Sydney.

Matt Allen, Commodore of the Cruising Yacht Club of Australia. Image copyright Rolex/Daniel Forster.

As has been tradition this year, Commodore Matt Allen of the CYCA, made poignant reference during his speech to the tragic events of 1998 that have so shaped recent editions of this great race, but drew out the positives from the events especially the developments in safety and survival equipment and techniques.

Richard de Leyser, General Manager of Rolex Australia, said Rolex was honoured to be a partner of the race noting that, "the Rolex Sydney Hobart is one of the world's great sporting challenges and within Rolex it is considered as one of the iconic events with which the company is associated. It rates alongside the likes of the US Masters and British Open in the world of golf and Wimbledon in the world of tennis."

New Year fireworks in front of the dock in Hobart. Image copyright Rolex/Daniel Forster.


1. Quest, Bob Steel (AUS/NSW), TP52
2. Cougar II, Alan Whiteley (AUS/VIC), TP52
3. Wot Now, Graeme Wood (AUS/NSW), TP52

IRC Div 0: Quantum Racing, Ray Roberts (AUS/NSW), Cookson 50
IRC Div 1: Quest, Bob Steel, (AUS/NSW), TP52
IRC Div 2: Ragtime, Chris Welsh (USA), Spencer 65
IRC Div 3: Tow Truck, Anthony Paterson (AUS/NSW), Ker 11.3
IRC Div 4: Winsome, Harry Heijst (NED), S&S 41
PHS Div 1: Telcoinabox Merit, Leo Rodriguez (AUS/QLD), Volvo 60
PHS Div 2: Lloyds Brokers - Too Impetuous, Lindsay Patterson (AUS/QLD), Holland 43
Sydney 38: Morris Finance Cinquante, Ian Murray (AUS/VIC)
Cruising: Pippin, Roger Sayers (AUS/QLD), Farr 37

Rolex Sydney Hobart Yacht Race 2008

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