Just after midnight the last yacht, Capriccio of Rhu, with the indomitable Michele Colenso at the helm, crossed the finish line to bring down the curtain on the Rolex Sydney Hobart ocean racing classic for another year.
It was a fine achievement by this cruising yacht, the only one in its division, especially as Capriccio of Rhu lost considerable time taking an injured crewman into Wollongong for medical treatment on the first night. And it was another personal triumph for Michele who was diagnosed with breast cancer just before last year’s race.
Also at the tail end of the fleet, in fact the last racing yacht across the line, was Huckleberry, one of four entrants from West Australia. For Steve Humphries and his crew it has been a long haul, having aborted their delivery trip by sea because of bad weather and resorting to the long road trip across the Nullabor. Huckleberry scored third in its division, but to compete and finish is what it is all about for the skipper and crew of this Sparkman and Stephens 34.
For John Walker, at 85 the oldest skipper to have competed in the Rolex Sydney Hobart, this year’s race may not be his last. His yacht, Impeccable, among the smallest in this year’s fleet, crossed the line last night in 33rd position on IRC handicap. It was a fine achievement and further evidence of the fact that age is no barrier to successful ocean racing.
The classic Sparkman and Stephens 49 Spirit of Koomooloo finished at 3pm yesterday afternoon. Mike Freebairn experienced the ultimate heart break when his much loved Koomooloo struck trouble off the NSW east coast and sank in the 2006 race. Within three months he was back on the horse, purchasing Margaret Rintoul II, the original Ragamuffin, and renaming it Spirit of Koomooloo. It was one of the more emotional moments of this year’s race when Freebairn and his crew toasted the memory of the ill-fated Koomooloo as they sailed over its ocean grave.
The Rum Consortium’s trusty Phillip’s Foote Witchdoctor, which finished third in PHS division B and clocked up its record 27th race, consecutive all bar one, finished last night at 7.13pm.
Crewman Tony Cable sailed into the record books, reaching his 44th Rolex Sydney Hobart with this race. Both he and Victorian skipper Lou Abrahams now share the honour of equalling John ‘the Fish’ Bennetto’s record set in 2004.
“It was a nice race,” the ever humble Cable said. “It didn’t get my feet wet…then again I didn’t go where I could get my feet wet”.
When asked whether he was proud of his crewman, Maurice Cameron, skipper and the other half of the comedy duo wouldn’t be drawn, “we aren’t sure whether Phillip’s Foote needs Cable or he needs us.”
There is plenty of cheek left in the Sydney based sailor, who sailed his first race in 1961 and has raced south on a total of 19 different yachts, and it’s not hard to imagine him going well beyond 44 races.
“I’ve got strong memories of John Bennetto who was a friend for many years, and I think of him. I would also like to congratulate Lou on being such as marvellous campaigner and such a gentleman in the sport.
“Numbers don’t mean a great deal to me. I’ve sailed to Hobart with approximately 250 guys from gold medallists down and that makes me appreciate how much of an ordinary sailor I am.”
Another yachtsman joined the elite 40 club with this race. Bill Ratcliff, sailing aboard Andrew Dally’s brand new Bear Necessity, delivered Ratcliff to Constitution Dock for the 40th time.
Ratcliff is the only the seventh yachtsman to be added to the 40 honour roll while four yachtsmen, one aboard the radio relay vessel, will have their names added to the 25 board. They and two women reaching the 10 race milestone will be acknowledged at tomorrow’s official race prizegiving at the Royal Yacht Club of Tasmania, the race’s finish club, with Tasmanian Government medallions.
Marcos Rodriguez’s Beneteau 40.7 Iataia, which left Acapulco Yacht Club in April, was the first ever Mexican boat contest the bluewater classic. Rodriguez and his crew finished at 5.46pm yesterday afternoon, Rodriguez pronouncing it an “incredible race. We are very glad we came all this way, it might be the best decision I have taken in my life.”
The on board fare was not traditional Mexican fare, “too spicy” says the skipper who reverted to a safer Italian menu.
“We picked the right year, I want to keep the memory,” he said when asked would he be back again.
Palandri Wines Minds Eye, the smallest in the 82 boat fleet that set out on 26 December from Sydney Harbour has been granted 39 minutes redress by the international jury due to an incorrect identification of their yacht on the second start line.
Bruce Foye’s Sydney 38 The Goat has this morning been confirmed the winner of the Sydney 38 division.
Jim Holley’s Aurora is yet to be given a time penalty for failing to return after being a recalled as a premature starter.
Just three boats retired from the race, one of the smallest number in many years.
Divisional winners will be presented with their flags at an 11am dockside presentation today at King’s Pier Marina. - Greg Peart/Lisa Ratcliff