The Rolex Sydney Hobart Race has just ended in Australia, bringing very different results to participants.
They say if the Rolex Sydney Hobart ended at Tasman Light the list of winners over the last seven decades would read entirely differently. But instead it was finished in Hobart, 11 miles up the cruel Derwent River from Storm Bay. Cruel rivers are usually known for their destructive floods or raging white waters. The Derwent’s cruelty is its indifference to the hopes and morale of sailors. It just shrugs its shoulders and goes to bed. The river had behaved so well early on, driving Perpetual LOYAL to its record-breaking victory at 2:30 in the morning, Giacomo to club house leadership an hour later and then Scallywag, all well inside the 2012 race record.
Down the river, or fast closing at the mouth of the river, another three boats, Black Jack, Maserati, and Beau Geste were moving along nicely, still with a chance to break the old record themselves. But the rain had arrived in Hobart with Scallywag, and the breeze bid us all good night. With the lights of Hobart in sight, the three spent the rest of the night drifting aimlessly. It would not be until 9 o’clock that the fourth finishing boat, Black Jack, would finally slump across the line. Her owner, Peter Harburg summed up the modified V70’s night: "It was terrible out there. It’s really frustrating for a sailor in a race to be not moving. We had the anchor down for two, two and a half hours, down in the bay, less than a mile from the line", "Sandy Bay?" he was asked, "No, we call it the Bay of Certain Death."
Overall, though, Harburg was happy to finish fourth in a race of such status. The pall spread beyond the river, enveloping CQS in Storm Bay. "We have no wind whatsoever," CQS crewman Michael Rummel said as the morning clouds lightened, but would not lift. "We could use some breeze. We are so looking forward to getting on land and having a hot breakfast."
Still, he says, the team is in good spirits, and despite some thrills and challenges along the way skipper Ludde Ingvall retains his faith in the philosophy behind his radical yacht. They have learned a lot about how to drive this boat, and there will be changes, but this was always the beginning of a 10-month evolutionary program.
The race was quite different for other participants, like Maserati, passed the big yellow Rolex Buoy for the finish off Kings Pier at 10:04 am. But Cooney is still happy. He and his crew have had a ball for the last two days in the Cruising Yacht Club of Australia’s annual race.
"This race was written for the V70s," a relaxed Cooney said dockside. "Maserati behaved like a dinghy out there. We were picking the waves and throwing it around. It was an absolute joy. It (fast reaching and running in strong north-easterly and easterlies) is what these boats were built for and what they excel at. No boat has been built, though, for the last four hours. It was a shame to end it like that after such a blistering race."
Cooney admits that even he was surprised at how well the V70s went this year. "They were setting the pace. We were beside Scallywag until about midnight, and they couldn’t even catch Giacomo. The crews on these boats know how hard you can push them. They drive them harder than you would yourself. It’s like a car. Most of us are too timid to push our cars to the limit, but cornering and braking they have lots of reserves. The same is true of the V70s. One of our guys did a Volvo race on this boat. He was all over it. He knew just how hard to go push and plough through waves and still come out at 23 knots on the other side. It is very exciting. I know now that these boats are very hard to break. Just as long as you don’t make any mistakes, that is. Like the super maxis, the V70s are strictly the realm of professional sailors. They are dangerous beasts, putting immense strains on rig and hull. My previous boat (the perennial maxi) Brindabella was a lot more forgiving. You make a mistake, she sort of groans and leans over, and lets you get away with it. These boats don’t."
Nevertheless, Cooney says the race was pretty much incident free on Maserati. "The worst thing was that Waratah rugby prop forward Jeremy Tilse fell out of his bunk and onto me. It had to be the biggest bloke on the boat!"