double team

With the line honors and major handicap positions now almost certainly settled, it’s time to give some attention to a segment of the 2022 Sydney-Hobart fleet that’s largely been overlooked by the media – the two-handers.

Last year they were the center of controversy when the Cruising Yacht Club ruled that they could compete as a separate division but not be eligible for the overall prizes in IRC and ORCi. Since then the club has changed its mind. The two-handers now sail for the main trophies, plus in their own handicap divisions.

So how are they faring? Well, the fear of many traditional offshore racers that they would outperform equivalent conventional yachts seems to be unfounded. The popular wisdom was that smaller, lightweight flyers such as the Sunfast 3300 and J/99 would race at impressive levels alongside their fully crewed rivals, especially with the wind on, or behind, the beam. 

That hasn’t happened. Many have sailed well, but they were never a podium threat to the larger, well-funded and professionally crewed boats. The first six places on IRC – the overall winning category – are now filled by TP52s in a remarkable display of their dominance.

The best-performed two-hander on scratch so far is Ocean Crusader J-Bird, a restored TP52 currently in 35th place. On IRC the Lombard 34 Mistral is lying in 26th with Sun Fast Racing 32nd. The J/99 Rum Rebellion (above) is always well prepared and sailed but appears to have struggled over the 628nm distance. She is currently down in 56th place on IRC.

All of these positions may well change a little as the tail-enders approach the finish but, in general terms, the short-handed entrants don’t seem to have matched expectations. The boats themselves seem capable of sailing to their ratings, but maybe the physical demands of driving these twitchy yachts downhill in 20-30 knots for three long days have taken their toll on the co-skippers. 

The one new two-handed design that remains an unknown quantity is the Farr X2. The prototype, Nexba, was planned as an entry for 2022 but after its keel failure and capsize in July all activity with the class in Australia was suspended. 

Nevertheless, the two women who were sailing the boat at the time of the incident are both listed among crews for this year’s race. One is on the RP72 URM Group and the other is sailing on Khaleesi, a veteran DK46. It’s heartening to know that they haven’t lost their enthusiasm for offshore racing. 

 – anarchist David