Sydney Harbour hosted this week the 77th edition of the Rolex Sydney Hobart, the last big race of the year and a Christmas tradition in Australia, a global sailing icon since 1945, part of the Rolex sailing dossier since 2002. A fleet of 109 boats started the legendary course to the island of Tasmania with a perfect pace and weather forecast.
The regatta started on Monday, 26 December, as usual, known as Boxing Day. A strategic date that coincides with the austral summer and the Christmas holidays. The starting gun was fired at 13:00 local time in Sydney Harbour with 1,000 sailors in the competition, five of them Spanish, who will fight for the legendary JH Illingworth Trophy for the winner in real time and the historic Tattersall Cup for the winner in absolute corrected time. The most coveted prize is the Tattersall Cup for the overall winner, a trophy surrounded by mysticism that is tantamount to becoming part of the legend of world ocean sailing.
Its name 'Hell's Race' comes from the tragedy that occurred on 27 December 1998 when a severe storm hit the fleet in the fearsome Bass Strait (which separates Australia from Tasmania) and the toll was six crew members dead, seven boats abandoned, five sunk and of 117 boats that started the race, only 44 made it to Hobart.
Many crew members from different parts of the world have participated in this edition: from Germany (the GS45 'Orione' of Axel and Peter Baumgartner), Hong Kong (with the 'Antipodes', the Santa Cruz 72 of the experienced Geoff Hill), Hungary (the R&P 68 'Cassiopeia' of Demeter Nobilis), New Caledonia (the Sydney 38 'Eye Candy' of Thierry Leseigneur and its twin 'Poulpito' of David Treguier) or New Zealand (the TP52 'Caro' of Max Klink). Sean Langman's Ranger 'Maluka', which will be skippered by his son Peter, will be, at 9.01 metres long, the smallest boat in the fleet. It is also the oldest, having been launched in 1932. The only female owner of the edition will be Australian Victoria Logan at the helm of 'Huntress'. Fellow Australian Lindsay May, navigator of 'Kialoa II' will be competing in her 49th consecutive edition.
The wind has been stable since the start with 13-15 knots (24 to 28 km/h) from the Northeast, and has been decreasing as the night has come in. The initial dominance of Christian Beck's 'Law Connect' came to an end after a spectacular manoeuvre by 'Comanche', which went further east in search of better breeze than the rest, to tack west three hours after the start and cross in front of 'Law Connect'.
Arthur Lane, Commodore of the Cruising Yacht Club of Australia, was enthusiastic: "This is set to be one of the most exciting regattas in recent years, with a fleet as diverse as it is competitive with over a hundred boats. We look forward to seeing how the crews test themselves against the undoubtedly complex challenges of the race.
Finally, the 30.5 metre super maxi VPLP 100 'Andoo Comanche', skippered by John 'Herman' Winning Jr, has won in real time the 27th edition of the mythical Rolex Sydney to Hobart, crossing the finish line in Hobart Harbour (Tasmania) (at 00:56 on the 28th local time) after spending 1 day, 11 hours, 56 minutes and seconds to cover the 628 nautical miles (1,163 km) of the course. Andoo Comanche skipper John Winning Jr was accompanied on the crossing by his father, who had competed in the Sydney to Hobart race in the 1970s.
The 'Andoo Comanche' has beaten in just 24 minutes the one that has been his great rival the Juan K100 'Law Connect' of Christian Beck with the Lanzarote Carlos Hernandez as watch leader and who has been second with 1d.12h.20m.35s. The third place on the podium was taken by Mark Bradford's R&P100 'Black Jack', with a time of 1d.12h.40m.34s.