It was 4.00pm at Constitution Dock on New Year’s Eve and only four yachts remained at sea in the Rolex Sydney Hobart Yacht Race, but in quick succession, Illusion, Charlies Dream and Polaris of Belmont sailed to the finish line, leaving Wave Sweeper the last yacht to finish the race.
The smallest yacht in the fleet, Illusion crossed the finish line in 66th place on line. A Davidson 34 owned by Jonathan Stone, she won the harsh 1988 race overall for her original Victorian owners and many in Hobart were happy to see her cross the finish line again.
This afternoon, Stone was thrilled to arrive in Hobart, particularly as it was his first ever Rolex Sydney Hobart. As a crew member mentioned: “We should have been last here, so we’re proud to beat three boats home.”
It was nearly four, but Ian Miller’s Young Ones from Victoria pipped them by just over three and a half minutes, after trailing the smaller yacht for some time.
“It was dangerous but beautiful,” said Stone, describing the Cruising Yacht Club of Australia’s annual 628 nautical mile race.
“We loved the last two days of the race, just beautiful sailing, but we had three nights of bedlam. Fortunately we have terrific sailors aboard, especially some of the younger guys,” Illusion’s owner said.
The Sydney yachtsman loves his yacht. “She’s not the most modern; she’s 22 years old, but she stood up well and we’re very proud. The only damage we did was a tear in the main, shredded a couple of sheets – and the usual – crew lost some winch handles over the side!”
Like the rest of the fleet, Stone and his crew saw their fair share of hard weather. “We got winds into the 30’s; gale conditions off the NSW and Tassie coasts. We really got belted and had very unsettled seas of Tassie.”
New Year’s Eve, Stone says, “will be big for the young guys on the crew, but for me, it’ll be a couple of beers and off to bed. I’m just happy we’re here.”
A keen sailor, Stone said he would definitely do the race again. “But I’d make some modifications; I’d change some of the amenities.”
When Polaris of Belmont arrived 68th over the line into Hobart, shortly after 4.30pm, her owner Chris Dawe was not particularly bothered one way or the other that he’d lost his “last on line” tag. “But I’m happy to relinquish the title for this year,” he laughed.
Dawe’s Cole 43 has just completed its 26th race to Hobart and he says he’ll be back for more. “We’ll absolutely be back next year. Just because the boat has done 26 is no reason to stop. We love this race.”
The Gosford sailor said the first day of the race was the toughest. “But that’s OK, we also did the Gosford Lord Howe Island race this year and that was a hard one, so we were prepared for this.”
Arriving into Hobart is Dawe’s favourite part. “We love the arrival; that’s why we keep coming. The welcome we get is second to none.” He’s right. As Polaris turned the corner into the King Street Pier, the clapping and whistling began.
Dawe has a favourite part of every one of his seven Rolex Sydney Hobart’s; “The dawn. There’s nothing quite like sailing at dawn. It’s so beautiful and so peaceful.”
Wave Sweeper, a Beneteau First 40.7 owned by Morgan Rogers of the CYCA, holds the distinction of being the last yacht into Hobart. He and the crew sailed into the dock at 7.08 this evening in the time of 5 days, 6hr 8min 30sec.
Formerly campaigned as Le Billet and Chancellor, this is Rogers’ third race to Hobart on the newly named Wave Sweeper. Arriving dockside with a relatively young crew, Rogers threw himself into the tide, not waiting for his crew to do the honours.
His crew were bearing a sign in big letters Did Finish Last. Rogers defended his slow trip to Hobart: “We had a quick trip actually. We were leading our division for 18 hours, but then we blew up our stormsail and stopped off Montague Island to gather ourselves.
“After that, we had a crew man injured with a suspected broken ankle, so we dropped him off at Eden.”
The biggest cheer was reserved for this happy crew who did not mind in the least being last to Hobart.
“We had a great time; we saw every part of the paddock (Bass Strait) and used every sail in the inventory.”
Asked what the plans for New Year’s Eve were, Rogers said: “I’m meant to be at home with my wife. I also missed our anniversary. My marriage frequent flier points are in deficit. I guess we’ll have a few beers and think about it…..” he said.
By Di Pearson, Rolex Sydney Hobart media team