British Invasion for Sydney Hobart
Published on December 23rd, 2022
Thomas Cheney is pinching himself that he and the crew on the JPK 11.80 yacht, Sunrise, are in Australia and all but ready to sail in their first Rolex Sydney Hobart Yacht Race.
For the British navigator, of the Royal Ocean Racing Club entry, the prospect of being in the fleet for the Rolex Sydney Hobart, which starts at 1:00pm on December 26, almost came by chance.
“Last year, my wife, who sails, and I were up at two in the morning having Christmas in Scotland, watching the start like we have done most years. It’s weird being here,” said Cheney today at the Cruising Yacht Club of Australia (CYCA), organiser of the race.
“It was almost a joke. We thought, ‘Oh … the only race over 600 [nautical mile race] we haven’t really done is the Rolex Sydney Hobart. Wouldn’t it be cool if we could go do that?’
“Then somehow, a few things came together and we made it happen and here we are (his wife is on the crew). So, it’s bit of a dream.”
The crew does not know their opposition in division well but has one major source of local intelligence – Australian Adrienne Cahalan, who is one of the world’s leading navigators.
Most of the crew have not raced in the Rolex Sydney Hobart, including Cheney; while Cahalan brings with her the experience of 29 participations in the race, a record for women sailors.
The Thomas Kneen-owned Sunrise is a proven ocean racer internationally. This is its first trip Down Under, but it won the 2021 Rolex Fastnet Race, placed second in the Rolex Middle Sea Race and claimed a divisional win the RORC Caribbean.
While unsuited for the light to medium northerly winds forecast for the first day, Cheney is hoping that may change.
“Probably our weakness is medium air downwind which we may see a little of on the first day, but certainly when it gets windier, we are pretty comfortable,” he said.
Sunrise is one of eight international entries in the fleet that currently numbers 109 boats.
The 628 nm Rolex Sydney Hobart Yacht Race will be the 77th edition in 2022 with a fleet of 120 boats. One hundred fifty seven teams set off in 2019, but since then the 2020 race was cancelled due to the pandemic with 88 entries in 2021.
From the start in 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.