Bob Steel hauled down the battle flag flying from Quest’s
forestay and “skulked” to bed resigned to the
fact that he would again just miss out on winning the Sydney-Hobart
race on handicap. Once before he had been provisionally declared
the winner only to miss out when a smaller boat still sailing
beat his time on handicap. And there were still at least four
smaller boats, Challenge Again, Toecutter, Impeccable and
Zeus II, still on the race course each with a chance of beating
Quest’s time on handicap.
Quest finished at 9.03am on Sunday morning after taking two
days, 20 hours three minutes and 41 seconds to complete the
630-nautical mile race. For the IMS handicapped boats Quest’s
corrected time was the time to beat.
But as it so often happens in this classic race, the weather
conditions can change rapidly, especially in Storm Bay and
the notorious Derwent River. And it was a different story
the next morning.
Lou Abrahams sailing in his 40th Hobart sounded frustrated
as he reported Another Challenge’s position by radio
at the Iron Pot, which marks the entrance to the Derwent.
His Sydney 38 had been in contention for handicap honours
the entire race and now the boat was sitting, parked, just
11 nautical miles from the finish with very little wind.
“We had a good run all the way to Cape Raoul and then
we had nothing,” the 75-year-old skipper said. “We
sat there for a while and then had a very good run across
Storm Bay to the Iron Pot, and we had nothing there either.
“Parking at the Iron Pot cost us an hour to an hour
and a half,” Abrahams said. “You race from Sydney
and then you get another race happening in the Derwent. …
worked hard with sails up and sails down trying to capture
every breath of wind.”
Challenge parked again at the John Garrow light in sight
of the finish. And that was the end of any chance of a handicap
It was frustrating for the quietly spoken skipper. But he
has achieved a goal and marked this milestone race with a
third placing outright on handicap. Despite his success and
the fact that he is now one of only three sailors who have
made the trek south 40 times or more, when the question was
posed by the waiting media, he was non-committal about sailing
another Hobart. “I’m thinking hard about the 2003
race, but I’m not saying anything,” he said.
Toecutter’s race was run soon after rounding Tasman
Island, They too found light wind conditions. Robert Hick,
designer, builder and skipper of the 30 footer was very disappointed
when the boat finally tied up in Constitution Dock. By the
way his new boat had performed during the race he felt that
if the wind had stayed in he could have won on handicap. However,
he has won the Plum Crazy trophy for the first yacht under
9.5 metres to finish.
Another of his designs Red Rock Communications skippered
by Christopher Bowling finished third in Division C. Bowling,
who has sailed all of his 12 Hobarts in yachts under 9.5 metres,
won the Plum Crazy Trophy in 2000 and 2001.
The Quest crew awoke to the news that Zeus II, the winner
of the race in 1981 and skippered by Jim Dunstan was close
to the finish. The tiny yacht was ghosting along in light
conditions and could take the prestigious prize. It was a
nervous Bob Steel and his crew and they stood on Battery Point
watching Zeus II slowly close the finishing line.
Sadly, time ran out for the veteran skipper sailing in his
25th Hobart race and Zeus crossed the finishing line eight
minutes too late. About 10 minutes after Zeus finished the
wind picked up. Jim Dunstan was unfazed he was more than happy
to finish second but did make the comment that “it was
a pity the wind didn’t come in about 15 minutes earlier.”
When Zeus II won the race in 1981. There were 158 starters
in that race and it took the nine-metre Currawong design just
over five days to complete the course. This time it took a
little over three days.
This is the 16th and last time Zeus II will sail to Hobart,
Dunstan has plans for a bigger boat. Although he did make
the aside that perhaps a maxi owner may like to offer him
a berth as navigator for this year’s race.
Bob Steel and his crew were ecstatic, Steel has finished
second twice and once before he had been declared the provisional
winner for 30 hours until another smaller boat sailed home
to beat him on handicap by seven minutes. The win capped a
successful year for the 46-foot Nelson/Marek design built
in 1997 and optimised in the last 18 months. In 2002 Quest
won the Sydney to Mooloolaba race on IMS, the IRC division
at Hamilton Island Race Week for the third consecutive year
and is currently leading the CYCA Blue Water point score.
“To win the Hobart is the pinnacle of my 35-year sailing
career,” he said. The 58th Rolex Sydney to Hobart yacht
race started on Boxing Day in horrendous conditions. In direct
contrast to the pall of smoke and ash that hung over the city
from the bushfires that surrounded Sydney the previous year,
the rain was so heavy that there was less than 50 metres visibility
around the crowded start line and yachts were just grey shadows
in a heavy grey mist as they jostled for position.
At the gun Neville Crichton’s 27-metre Shockwave,
renamed Alfa Romeo for the race appeared out of the gloom
to lead around the seamark followed by Leopard of London also
renamed for the race as Canon.
But the drama was back in the harbour in the gloom, Loki,
a Swan 48 skippered by Stephen Ainsworth found the starboard
stern quarter of Trumpcard. The collision pitched a crewman
out of the cockpit into the water and damaged the cold-moulded
timber boat enough to put it out of the race. In another incident,
Savoir Faire, a Beneteau 47.7, renamed Peugeot Racing and
crewed by an Australian and French crew, collided with the
Tasmanian entry Valheru, an Elliott 43 skippered by Anthony
Lyall. Skipper of Peugeot Racing, Christophe Venak, attempted
to give way to Valheru by ducking closely behind it, but the
mainsheet on the French boat jammed and it rounded up, slamming
into the side of Valheru, also a timber boat. The collision
was severe enough to open up a large hole in the side of Valheru
and also pitch a crewman into the water. Both Peugeot Racing
and Loki did 720 turns and continued in the race.
The incidents were protested under the racing rules and
went before an international jury in Hobart. The jury ruled
the protests by Trump Card and Valheru invalid on technical
grounds, but then went on to disqualify both Peugeot Racing
and Loki under racing Rule 44.1 which requires a yacht that
has caused serious damage by her breach to retire. Significantly
Trump Card and Valheru were the only two yachts from the entire
fleet to retire from the race.
As darkness fell on the first night Alfa Romeo held a two-mile
lead over Canon with Grant Wharington’s Australian Skandia
Wild Thing a further four miles astern followed by 2000 line
honours winner and runner up the previous year, Nicorette
and then the flying “skiff” Grundig which was
to make a charge across Bass Strait later in the race to finish
second across the line. George Snow’s Brindabella, the
last all-Australian boat to take line honours in 1997, was
16 miles behind the leader.
With the usual southerly buster that buffets the fleet at
some stage of the race not eventuating, it settled down to
a battle of tactics and soon there were races within the race.
Up front there were the maxis, the Volvo 60s were having their
own private battle, there was keen rivalry between the 50
footers and the Sydney 38s were doing their own thing, while
at the back of the fleet the smaller boats were sailing well.
Alfa Romeo was reaching down the New South Wales coast in
a 15-knot easterly at speeds of 10 and 11 knots and was well
within sight of setting a race record. Behind the 90-footer
a drag race was happening as the navigators and tacticians
looked for ways to get in front of their rivals.
Back in the fleet Bill Koppe’s 27-year-old Delta Wing,
the second oldest boat in the fleet, was revelling in the
reaching conditions and was leading the PHG division on handicap
from Alex Whitworth’s Brolga 33, Berrimilla. Entered
by the Royal Australian Navy Sailing Association, Berrimilla
has more than once spent New Year’s Eve at sea. But
this year, despite finishing last, Whitworth and his crew
were in Hobart in just under four days and in time for the
party. As he motored under the bridge into Constitution Dock,
Whitworth quipped to the well wishers applauding his efforts,
“sorry to keep you waiting.”
The leaders entered Bass Strait in 12 to 14 knot northeasterly
with spinnakers flying. But overnight the breeze started to
become shifty and the fleet separated looking for wind. Wild
Thing took a gamble and in one report was 105nm to sea looking
for wind. Dawn came and the winds remained light at 8-10 knots
from the northeast, any chance of a race record went out the
Alfa Romeo was positioned about 50nm east of the rhumbline
and in a perfect position to pick up the forecast stronger
nor’easterly later in the day. To that stage the maxi
had averaged 12 knots boat speed.
With the wind picking up Alfa was storming down the Tasmanian
coast with its five international helmsmen, including Michael
Coxon, ‘Barney’ Walker, Noel Drennon and Chrichton
himself sending the 90-footer along at speeds of up to 26
knots. And this was despite the fact that most of the race
was spent two-sail reaching, which is the boat’s worst
sailing angle. The crew only needed to change sails twice
during the entire race.
Later in Hobart, Neville Crichton said that without the extra
five tonnes on the keel required under the rules for the Hobart
race and using water ballast, the boat could reach speeds
in the mid-30s.
Although Alfa didn’t break Nokia’s record the
sleek, Silver flyer stormed home in the second fastest time
yet. This was Crichton’s second attempt at line honours.
In 2000 a former Shockwave was forced to retire not far into
Bass Strait when in the lead after heavy weather conditions
caused damage to the boat.
“We didn’t break the record,” he said,
“but we didn’t break the boat either. “It’s
very important to have winning the Hobart race on your resume
– that’s as good as it gets,” he said. As
his crew of professional sailors, “mostly Australian
and New Zealanders, with a couple of poms rejected from their
cricket team” broke out the champagne, Crichton ended
his self-imposed draught. “I’ve been off the booze
for three months – I think I deserve a drink tonight,”
Crichton genuinely believes that had the race started a
day later with the stronger winds that come in during the
latter half of the race the boat would have broken the record.
On one occasion it was powering along in 11 knots of true
wind with 12 knots of boatspeed. “It was an extremely
easy race – it was hard to believe how easy it was,”
said Crichton. “We sailed most of the race in T-shirts
and shorts, which is unheard of coming to Hobart.”
An unassuming Barney Walker, who has sailed in 15 Hobarts
and helmed four yachts to victory in the race – three
on overall handicap and aboard Nokia when it broke the race
record – agreed the race was an easy one.
“It was such a light air race we rarely saw over 15
knots of wind. But we didn’t stop we kept the boat moving
all the time,” Walker said. “We didn’t have
time to get bored though. The lighter the air the harder you
have to concentrate. I love the race and get a kick out of
it. It’s a tough test and is one of the hardest races
to do because of its time scale. On a long race like the Volvo
you get into a routine, but with the Hobart you don’t
sleep and you don’t get a lot of time to rest, the course
is tight and at the end of the day you don’t have much
room to move. You have to identify the people who can beat
you and protect your position by keeping yourself between
them and the mark (Tasman Island). That’s how we sailed
the Volvo race.
|Bob Steel (Quest) holds the Tattersall’s
Cup high after his overall win on handicap.
“We had to make some tactical decisions. Firstly with
Canon and then Grundig. She sailed a slightly different course
than us and at one stage there were conflicting reports as
to where she was,” Walker added.
But the two-sail reaching conditions were perfect for Sean
Langman’s Grundig nicknamed ‘the skiff on steroids’.
And when the nor’easter came in, Langman’s crew
of skiff sailors including 49er world champion Chris Nicholson
and a couple of 505 world champions charged off after the
leaders. The Sydney Open 66 stormed across Bass Strait and
pulled up from fourth place into second.
The boat is fantastic in flat water and when we rounded
Tasman Island we found some pressure and flat water and she
was reaching speed of 26 knots. We tried to get her up to
30 knots but we ran out of runway,” Langman said.
Langman and his crew pushed hard and, despite losing the
masthead wind instruments and Joey de Kock spending much of
the race at the top of the mast dealing with a main halyard
problem and at times having to nurse the boat, it finished
only 44 minutes behind Alfa, and an extraordinary 11 miles
in front of Canon. Despite the full-on effort the skiff sailors
put in, Langman was not at all disappointed in coming second.
“ I had been hoping for a top five placing, coming second
was fantastic,” he said. “We would have needed
our ideal conditions all the way to beat Alfa Romeo.”
However, Langman was quick to point out the differences
between the two boats. “Grundig is a home grown product
built out of pieces of other boats and worth under a million
dollars. We have been vindicated,” he added.
The reference to the cost was a comparison with the cost
to build Shockwave, its design by America’s Cup naval
architects John Riechel and Jim Pugh, and its exotic construction.
Depending on who you talk to the cost varies between five
and nine million dollars.
When asked if this was a victory for the battlers, Langman
just grinned. Langman would like the chance to race Shockwave
(Alfa Romeo) in Grundig’s optimum conditions, flat water
and a broad reach. But that is not to be. Shockwave left Australia
after the Hobart to take part in the Millennium Cup in Auckland,
a lead up race to the America’s Cup. From there it is
going to Europe and if like other boats Crichton has taken
to Europe it will be quickly snapped up by a European owner.
Crichton has indicated that he will be back for the Hobart
with another boat in a couple of years. It too will probably
be as hard to beat as this one.
Speaking at the trophy presentation at the Royal Yacht Club
of Tasmania, the Commodore of the Cruising Yacht Club of Australia,
John Messenger, predicted there would be more than 100 entries
in this year’s race and in excess of 200 for the 60th
anniversary of the race in 2004.
Messenger said the fleet of 57 boats that contested the
race this year was small, but described it as one of the highest
quality fleets ever seen in the race. “Indeed, one of
the best racing fleets in the world.”
Except for the incidents at the start that sidelined Trumpcard
and Valheru, not one boat retired during the race. As Messenger
pointed out, reaching and running conditions require greater
concentration and more skill than steering a boat to windward
and the fact that very little damage was done during the race
was testament to the strict eligibility criteria for boats
and crews required by the CYCA.
|The Premier of Tasmania,
Jim Bacon, presented the Tasmanian Government Medallions
to six yachtsman and a yacht for having competed in 25
The yacht Mark Twain, an S&S 39, owned and skippered
by Hugh O’Neill from Sydney Amateur Sailing Club,
is the first yacht in the 58-year history of the race
to have sailed in 25 races. Mark Twain has picked up two
second and two third divisional places in the race and
successfully finished the storm-ravaged 1998 race.
The six yachtsmen to have sailed in 25 races are:
Colin Anderson, Melbourne, crew member on Nips N Tux.
Jim Dunstan, Sydney, who skippered his own yacht Zeus
II to second place overall.
John Harris, Sydney, a member of the communications team
aboard the radio relay vessel Four Seasons.
Bob Fraser, Sydney, crew member on Nips N Tux.
Ian Potter, Sydney, navigator on Infinity III.
Bill Watson, Hobart, crew member on Mirrabooka, whose
skipper, John Bennetto, sailed in his
The six join 53 other Hobart Heroes who have sailed in
25 Sydney-Hobarts and have their names engraved on a Huon
Pine map of Tasmania displayed at the CYCA in Sydney.
1. Alfa Romeo (Shockwave, Neville Crichton)
2. Grundig (Sean Langman)
3. Canon (Leopard of London, Mike Slade)
IMS Overall (Tattersall’s Cup)
1. Quest (Bob Steel)
2. Zeus II (Jim Dunstan)
3. Another Challenge (Lou Abrahams)
1. Quest (Bob Steel)
2. Starlight Express (Stewart Thwaites)
3. Fitness First Sting (Terry Mullens)
1. Zeus II (Jim Dunstan)
2. Pippin (David Taylor)
3. Impeccable (John Walker)
1. Another Challenge (Lou Abrahams)
2. Chutzpah (Bruce Taylor)
3. Redrock Communications (Chris Bowling)
1. Starlight Express (Stewart Thwaites)
2. Quest (Bob Steel)
3. Another Challenge (Lou Abrahams)
1. Starlight Express (Stewart Thwaites)
2. Formula 1 Sailing.Com (Bob Robertson-Alex Thompsom)
3. Alfa Romeo (Neville Crichton)
1. Quest (Bob Steel)
2. Another Challenge (Lou Abrahams)
3. Chutzpah (Bruce Taylor)
1. Delta Wing (Bill Koppe)
2. Kickatinalong (Mike de Berg)
3. Berrimilla (Alex Whitworth)
1. Andrew Short Marine (Andrew Short)
2. Polar Star (Natasha Hemley-Smith- Georgy Shayduko)
3. getaway-sailing.com (Ty Oxley- Peter Mooney).
Did Not Finish
Trumpcard (Craig Coulsen)
Valheru (Anthony Lyall)