go to heaven for the climate, hell for the company

Having caught up with the Editor for a few celebratory drinks in Ensenada, after his victory in the race from San Diego, he asked me to write down a piece on my logic why I purchased the 1971 Launched S & S One Tonner Mark Twain.

Having been fortunate enough to grow up on Sydney Harbour, I used to count the days down to the Summer Christmas School Holidays. They Would inevitably See me jump in my Sabot and sail to Rushcutters Bay, the home of the CYCA,who hosts the Sydney to Hobart Yacht Race. I was in total awe of the visiting yachts coupled with the local fleet that made up glamorous fleet.

I would walk the docks day after day hoping to be lucky enough to be asked to catch a mooring line or in my wildest dreams being allowed onboard to have a look. After a while I was helping fold sails etc. At the end of the day I would sail my Sabot home daydreaming about one day sailing on these massive yachts and doing the Great Race.

In 1973 my bedroom walls were graced with photos of my two favourite yachts, Mark Twain and Improbable, with both crews having adopted me in their Race preparation. The crews were my heroes. I attempted to make balsa working models of both boats the results of which would have both Olin Stephens and Gary Mull turning in their respective graves for this act of sacrilege from a 12year old. Belated apologies to both great men. I still remember how much less distorted, straight lined and easier to build Improbable was.

Fast track some 45 years,now with some 41 Rolex Sydney Hobart Races under my belt. The last few years have not yielded the results I wanted due to various reasons,some self inflicted, so I wanted give myself a good shot of winning with the limited resources available. Some 19 years ago we raised a very modest low six figure budget, did a joint venture with owners of Nokia, the V60, smashed the Race Record by some 19 hours for a Line Honours win.

The Race organizers then opened the race up to the 100 footers which created an arms race at the line honours end. We then focused on trying to win the Race overall on Handicap,which we achieved, once again with a very modest budget,in the Beneteau 40.7 in 2003. Since then another arms race has emerged in the Handicap fleet with many well funded and run programmes, a few of which I have been an big part of.

I looked at all options to be potentially competitive under IRC and be in a position to afford to get a package on the start line on Boxing Day, and noted that Mark Twain was sitting largely unloved for sale in Melbourne. It was the first boat to have done 25 RSHYR and had not been raced since 2002.

I did the deal and started the process of getting the boat back together as well as trying to optimise it to the IRC Rule on the way through. The decision to go down this path was made a lot easier by looking at the recent success for the well sailed S & S 34 Komatsu Azzurro on Races on the East Coast of Australia.

The boat required more work and time than originally planned but with some new sails from Ian Short,coupled with some recycled on repurposed sails from other programmes, including a Blooper I found at Minneys, in Newport Beach,The ergonomics of the early IOR boats were horrible and Mark Twain was no exception, so we gave the deck layout a major tune up, still very mindful in trying to preserve the historic nature of the boat. The use of Rope Jammers and some Self Tailing Winches have gone a long way to achieve this.

The crew have amassed some 150 Hobart Races between us. I wanted to race with people who had sailed these boats competitively before, were good seaman as well as still active with the modern and latest boats and trends. Have you ever asked a young up and coming forward hand to clip up and set a Blooper?

Our first regatta,the lead up CYCA Trophy Series netted 2nd Overall, so if the planets align and it is a slow race for the fleet without to much hard running, a solid result may be possible. Unlike most races in the US, Hobart is run on Time on Time, not Time on Distance which will favour the smaller, slower lower rating boats in a slower race. The East Coast current runs North to South which as a percentage of boat speed also favours the slower boats. Anyway the weather is outside our control and regardless it will be a proud moment for me just being on the start line as Custodian of Mark Twain,along with a group of good mates. – Anarchist Michael.