Rolex Sydney Hobart Race winners collect their trophies

Rolex Sydney Hobart Race winners collect their trophies
Richard de Leyser, Rolex Australia, Lindsay May, Skipper, Love & War, Geoff Lavis, Commdoore, CYCA

Bill Ratcliff, from Sydney, became the seventh member of an exclusive group of sailors who have competed in 40 Rolex Sydney Hobart Yacht Races, the achievement recognised with the presentation of his 40-year medallion.

The official prizegiving took place today, New Year's Day, at the Royal Yacht Club of Tasmania in Sandy Bay where the His Excellency, the Honourable William Cox, Governor of Tasmania, and RYCT Commodore Alastair Douglas among other dignitaries, presented numerous trophies and awards to the race competitors in this 628 nautical mile ocean classic.

Bill Ratcliff, from Sydney, became the seventh member of an exclusive group of sailors who have competed in 40 Rolex Sydney Hobart Yacht Races, the achievement recognised with the presentation of his 40-year medallion.

He recounted his first Hobart race in 1963 aboard Don Mickleborough's yacht Southerly in quite different weather then this year's more temperate conditions.  “It was a tough one,” he said. “We spent a day and a half in sight of Tasman light but could not get around it.  It was blowing 86 knots from the south.”

Ratcliff skippered his own yacht, Marara, in ten Sydney Hobart races, finishing third on handicap in 1993.  He sailed this race aboard a brand-new C&C 11.5m owned by Andrew Dally, who used to crew for him on Marara.  “It was an easy race,” he said. “In Bass Strait there wasn't a ripple. You could have sailed a Laser across it.”

Medallions marking 25 Hobart races were awarded to Kinglsey Piesse, who sailed aboard Chutzpah; George Snow, the former owner of Brindabella, aboard Geoff Hill's Swan 48 Swan Song, John Williams aboard the Farr 53 Georgia, and Colin Tipney, who was aboard the radio-relay vessel JBW.

Ten-year medallions were presented to two women sailors: Julie Hodder, who navigated DHL-The Daily Telegraph and Sue Crafer, who sailed aboard Skandia.

The Goat, skippered by Bruce Foye, was lucky to not only win the ten-boat Sydney 38 one-design division, but to survive a collision with a submerged rock while tacking close inshore only 50 metres off the forbidding 900ft (276m) high cliffs of Tasman Island, 41 miles from the finish in Hobart.

The impact sheered the lead ballast bulb clean off the keel stem. Luckily The Goat was able to tack off to avoid being certainly wrecked. Her crew did not realise the bulb had gone until The Goat docked in Hobart, although a serious loss of speed indicated that the keel had suffered some damage.

Foye says: “Going around Tasman, 12 o'clock at night, black, in a 20-knot southerly and we were nearly around the corner.  We were just starting to see the lights of Hobart opening up and started bearing away.

“Our satellite had gone out, so we didn't have a plotter and we weren't aware that a rock juts out on the southern side.  We hit that.  We thought it was a relatively soft hit, immediately tacked off and continued to sail.

“We didn't expect that there would be any of the keel missing but it was very hard to get our speed and with a whole bunch of lights starting to close behind us, it was a very anxious time.”

Close indeed, the second Sydney 38, Gordon Ketelbey's Zen, narrowed the lead from a mile and-a half to about 50 metres by the finish.

The race's overall IRC handicap winner was Roger Sturgeon's STP65 Rosebud.  Sturgeon had to leave before today's formal prizegiving at the yacht club.  But at yesterday's dockside ceremony where the divisional winners were formally announced, Sturgeon was awarded a Rolex Yacht-Master timepiece, the keepsake to the Tattersall's Cup perpetual trophy for the overall handicap win and promptly handed it to his bowman, Justin Clougher.

Hobart-born Clougher - known as “Juggy” in the sailing community -- now based in Newport, Rhode Island, has built an international reputation sailing on around-the-world races and in the America's Cup.  But he remains very much a Tasmanian boy.

Clougher has sailed in eight previous Sydney Hobart races with the best result aboard Larry Ellison's Sayonara for her line honours win in 1998.

Local family members and his American wife Kerry, children Zoe and Graeme, were in the crowd of several hundred at Constitution Dock, when Sturgeon passed on the watch to a completely surprised Juggy, with the acknowledgement that he had been the most valuable crewman on his STP65's Australian campaign.

Juggy's role as a wind spotter, high up the mast -- as the boat negotiated the calm that slowed her for two hours just outside the mouth of the Derwent River -- contributed to her win.

“This is a huge shock to me,” said Juggy.  “I love sailing, I love Hobart and being able to race home is fantastic, I just love it.  And to bring the boat home in a strong position is just such a good feeling.  I was so excited.”

“I have no idea what the watch is worth, but to me you couldn't put a price on it and I think every other sailor in this whole fleet would be the same.  You can take the watch off the front but you leave me that back plate with the words on it (2007 Rolex Sydney Hobart Yacht Race).”

From weather reports Rosebud knew there was a northwesterly breeze blowing in Hobart.  “We just had to hope it would fill in down the river.  We wanted to keep the boat moving towards the Iron Pot in any way, shape or form so we could get into that new breeze.  We got it…just.”

The Rolex Sydney Hobart Yacht Race marked the end of Rosebud's Australian campaign's unbeaten record.  Earlier in December, Rosebud won the IRC handicap division of the SOLAS Big Boat Challenge on Sydney Harbour and IRC Division 1 in the Rolex Trophy Rating Series.

Next most successful overseas yacht was British sailor Chris Bull's J/145 Jazz, which finished 15th overall in IRC handicap and fifth in Division C.

The race's first Mexican entry, the Beneteau 40.7 Iataia owned by Marcos Rodriguez from the Acapulco Yacht Club, placed 54th in IRC but would have won any popularity contest during its stay in Sydney, where she spent several weeks before the race after a six-month cruise across the Pacific.

Michele Colenso's Capriccio of Rhu, was the winner of the Cruising Division.  The Oyster 55, skippered by Andy Poole, lost several hours on the night after the start when they put into Wollongong to have crewman David Durham treated for an injury to his hand.

The race was fast and safe for the whole fleet with following winds for most of the 628nm course.  Unusually, the 79 finishers were tied up in Hobart in time to rest before the New Year's Eve celebrations.

David Pescud's Lyons 54 Sailors with disABILITIES won PHS (performance handicap) Division A, and Namadgi won PHS Division B.

Aboard the yacht Phillips Foote Witchdoctor was Tony Cable, sailing his 44th Hobart race to equal the record for most Hobarts set by the late John Bennetto and equaled also this year by 80-year-old Melbourne skipper Lou Abrahams.

Fun-loving Cable, who has lifted crew morale through many long hours on the rail and off watch with his jokes and songs, sailed his first Hobart in 1961. He has raced aboard 19 different boats and was aboard Bernard Lewis' Sovereign when she took the handicap/line honours double in 1987.

He truly enjoys being at sea, regardless of results and is a valuable hand when the going gets rough and will keep racing to Hobart. “Numbers don't mean a great deal to me,” he said. “I've sailed to Hobart with approximately 250 guys from gold medalists on down and that makes me appreciate what an ordinary sailor I am.”

The Swan 56 Noonmark VI was awarded the Polish Trophy for the yacht traveling from the furthest point to compete.  Skipper Sir Geoffrey Mulcahy and his yacht hail from from the Royal Thames Yacht Club and the Royal Southern Yacht Club, both in the UK.

Handicap division winners:
IRC Division A: Quantum Racing, Ray Roberts, Farr Cookson 50
IRC Division B: Rosebud, Roger Sturgeon, STP65
IRC Division C: Chutzpah, Bruce Taylor, Reichel-Pu