Enduring history at 75th Sydney Hobart

Published on December 31st, 2019

Hobart, Tasmania (December 31, 2019) – For the past three quarters of a century, the Rolex Sydney Hobart Yacht Race has been an icon in the world of sailing. A race that captivates yachtsmen and women the world over, as well as the wider public.

The 628 nautical mile course is a masterpiece of spectacle, human endeavor and striking beauty. Those that participate, whether professional or Corinthian, are guardians of heritage and standard-bearers for an enduring quest for excellence.

In winning the 2019 Rolex Sydney Hobart Yacht Race on IRC corrected time, owner Matt Allen and the crew of the Australian TP52 Ichi Ban, reinforced both their place in the legend and the legend itself. For the second time in three years, this exceptional team has lifted the Tattersall Cup as overall winners.

Australian TP52 Ichi Ban

First held in 1945, and organized by the Cruising Yacht Club of Australia (CYCA), the race’s anniversary edition attracted a substantial and international fleet.

“The 75th race coincides with the 75th year of the founding of the CYCA,” explained Commodore Paul Billingham, ahead of the start. “The club has spent the year celebrating its birthday and these celebrations come to a head at 1pm on the 26 December as the fleet sets off on the pilgrimage south.”

For Matt Allen, the race is ingrained in his very fiber. He did his first, aged 17, in 1980 and was a winner in 1983, as crew on Challenge II. Since those formative years, he has invested considerable time and effort making sure the traditions initiated by the race founders are maintained and respected. This year marked his 30th trip south from Sydney.

Matt Allen (right)

Such is his passion and commitment, he withstood the disappointment of skirting success a number of times as skipper of his own yacht. What appeared the pinnacle result in 2017 seems to have lifted a weight from his shoulders. The win this year was just as well deserved, just as well executed as the previous. A reflection of the crew he has gathered, their dedication and teamwork.

“Winning this year’s race, my 30th race to Hobart and the 75th Rolex Sydney Hobart, really brings a lot of history together,” commented Allen. “Over the years, we’ve seen amazing boats participate, but it’s actually the people that make this race: the sailors, the friendships, the competition. It’s what makes this race and ocean racing what it is. The race is in the best shape it’s ever been and I’m sure its best days are yet to come.”

The pre-race forecast had been encouraging for the 50-footers and Ichi Ban was among the favorites. In a division that featured two-time winner Bob Steel and Quest among other highly-rated crews, it would be no easy task with a complex weather system to negotiate. Ichi Ban finished a mere 24 minutes ahead of her closest competitor, Matt Donald and Chris Townsend’s Gweilo.

At the front of the fleet, Jim Cooney and Samantha Grant’s Comanche outmuscled the four other 100-foot maxis to secure a third line honors victory, though falling short of their existing course record set in 2017. That benchmark time was never under threat, as a transition between two weather systems at the mid-point led to the leading boats coming to a standstill during the dark of the first night. Christian Beck’s InfoTrack finished second on the water, 45 minutes behind.

Jim Cooney and Samantha Grant’s Comanche

Rolex’s support for prestigious yachting competitions such as the offshore classics helps guarantee expertise and knowledge are transferred within the sailing community – between peers and generations, from professionals to Corinthians. This transfer safeguards the future of offshore racing, where participation is about much more than the result.

With so many editions, the Rolex Sydney Hobart is a well-trodden path bringing together crews of different experience, ambition and ages. For some boats, there is the prospect of race glory; for many the challenge is simply getting to Hobart, while for others it is the chance to sail with old friends and family. Veteran participants pass on the values inherent in this lifetime sporting pursuit to the less experienced.

At the final prize giving, Commodore Tracy Matthews of the Royal Yacht Club of Tasmania eloquently summed up the lasting integrity of the race: “From Rani (first winner) to Ichi Ban and Comanche; from Captain John Illingworth (Rani’s skipper) to Matt Allen, Jim Cooney and Samantha Grant; from nine entrants in the first race to the 157 in this; we’ve come such a long way but, still, the race maintains its origins: the spirit of adventure, courage, and challenge.”

Next year, the Rolex Sydney Hobart Yacht Race will be 75 years young. Listening to the organizing clubs and the participants, its legacy and future have never been more secure

Attrition list in 2019:
· Faster Forward, Sydney 38 – Steering problems
· Hollywood Boulevard, Farr 55 – Broken rudder
· Minerva, DK 43 – Reason not listed

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Background: The 2019 fleet will be chasing line honours and the overall Tattersall Cup win in the 628nm Rolex Sydney Hobart Yacht Race which starts December 26, 2019. From Sydney Harbour, the fleet sails out into the Tasman Sea, down the south-east coast of mainland Australia, across Bass Strait (which divides the mainland from the island State of Tasmania), then down the east coast of Tasmania. At Tasman Island the fleet turns right into Storm Bay for the final sail up the Derwent River to the historic port city of Hobart.

Source: Rupert Guinness, RSHYR

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