ready, set, go?

After the massive disappointment of last year’s cancellation of the Rolex Sydney Hobart Yacht Race the 77th Edition of the race looks like it will likely proceed albeit with a backdrop of Covid enforced requirements which in turn has affected all of the 100 odd yachts preparation in the lead up to the Great Race.

Unfortunately, the year-long Covid uncertainty has yet again delayed the long-awaited Hobart Race debut of our illustrious Editor who has been slated to join the team on the Schumacher 54 Maritimo (ex Swiftsure II). Hopefully, next year will see this anticipated ‘Great Moment in Sporting History’ eventuate.

Maritimo’s year-long preparation has probably been less impacted than our Sydney-based rivals due to the very limited lockdowns in our Gold Coast base. Our lead-up has been solid with basically a clean sweep of all Queensland events this year including Line Honours in the Brisbane-Gladstone Race courtesy of the 100 foot Black Jack dropping its rig. The bar is certainly set higher here.

The majority of the crew sailed the boat 400 nm to Sydney last weekend. Traditionally the lead-up week berthed at the Cruising Yacht Club of Australia is spent catching up and having a few beverages with mates you haven’t seen all year, briefings, and final race preparation. This year we are either on the boat or in the Hotel rooms essentially isolating with all meals delivered. Home detention without the ankle bracelet.

All crews must be fully vaccinated as well as provide a Negative PCR Covid Test within 72 Hours of the race start. That window opened at 1300 hrs yesterday. The Omicron variant has seen Sydney’s public testing resources fully stretched with results in some cases taking over 72 hours. Hopefully, that won’t affect too many of our fellow competitors. That said, it will be a miracle if there isn’t some last-minute Covid impact on the fleet numbers. Despite some criticism and negativity from some quarters, I believe the CYCA has done an absolutely fantastic and totally professional job in very challenging and changing conditions.

This year’s forecast is a mixed bag with a hard-on the nose for the first 36 hours then progressively getting lighter and going East as you enter Bass Strait. The 100 footers and bigger boats it seems will struggle with lighter winds down the Tasmanian coast.The early head winds followed by the lighter winds may also see most of the TP52’s ‘ Get out of Jail Free’ tickets clipped and the weather providing some parity that the Handicap formula hasn’t in recent years.

The East Coast  Australian Current along the NSW coast runs North to South and with the strong Southerly breeze in the first part of the race will see a large wind against tide sea state that will no doubt deliver some early unwelcome retirements.It will be a fine line between pushing your boat hard and living to fight another day.We have become accustomed to reasonably easy downhill orientated Hobart Races in recent years.Sound seamanship will pay long term dividends in this years race.

Maritimo has a great team and should enjoy the early fresh conditions. Bass Strait should also work out well for us but Day 3 on the Tassie Coast may provide some issues for us. This might let the lower rating boats in with a shot at the Tattersalls Cup. The S&S Designed Love & War and White Bay Azzurro come to mind along with the Sydney 36 Midnight Rambler skippered by 1998 Winner and consummate heavy air sailor and seaman Ed Psaltis.

Fingers crossed there are no last-minute hurdles for the race proceeding.

Merry Xmas from the Maritimo team.