The fate of many small boats in a tough second half of the Rolex Sydney Hobart Yacht Race was determined by Mother Nature.
But Ed Psaltis, owner/skipper of the Sydney 36, Midnight Rambler, took the blame for his boat falling short of repeating his 1998 victory in the Cruising Yacht Club of Australia’s 628 nautical mile race.
Midnight Rambler finished 62nd on line honours, but third in Division 4 behind two fellow NSW boats, the Ian Creek owned Ausreo and Phil Molony’s Papillon. And on IRC for the overall winner’s Tattersall Cup that he won in 1998, his corrected time of 3 days 21 hours 15 minutes 57 seconds meant 42nd place in a race that favoured the 60 to 70 footers.
In the Corinthian class, won by the NSW entry Gun Runner owned by Army Sailing Club from two more NSW entries – Kim Jaggar’s Cinquante and Les Goodridge’s Wax Lyrical, Midnight Rambler placed ninth.
For Psaltis, it was a below par outcome, in light of this year’s 74th running of the race, commemorating the 1998 race which he won, but was marred by the tragic loss of six lives at sea in horrific conditions.
Adding weight and meaning to the occasion, his father Bill, a veteran of 22 Sydney Hobarts, fired the 10-minute warning signal before the spectacular start of the race in Sydney Harbour on Boxing Day.
“I am disappointed actually. We wanted to do well,” Psaltis said.
“We made a tactical mistake and I put my hand up for that.”
Psaltis explained the error was made north of Tasman Island, in an area he said is named the ‘Devil’s Triangle’ – that being, from Schouten Island and Schouten Passage to the Freycinet Peninsula.
“You never, ever go in there. We should have listened to the old fable. We went too far in. It was a mistake,” Psaltis lamented.
“It was preparation for the southerly change coming, but we got a bit carried away and paid the price
“The others just sailed around us. But that is ocean racing.”
Psaltis said the emotion of this year’s race commemorating the 1998 tragedy was felt by him and his crew. He and three of his crew this year were on AFR Midnight Rambler in the 1998 event.
Like all, he was touched by the gesture of recognition for those losses on day two at the 1705hrs sked.
David Kellett AM, who also sailed the 1998 race, and is now head of the Radio Relay Vessel, read to the fleet on radio the words originally spoken by then CYCA Commodore, Hugo Van Kretschmar, at the 1998 memorial service at Constitution Dock.
Referring to the lost six sailors, the message read:
Mike Bannister, John Dean, Jim Lawler, Glyn Charles, Bruce Guy, Phil Skeggs …
May the everlasting voyage you have now embarked on be blessed with calm seas and gentle breezes.
May you never have to reef or change a headsail at night.
May you bunk be always warm and dry.
“It was emotional,” said Psaltis.
“It was 20 years ago, but it’s something you never forget. We all know it’s a risk when we sign up for ocean racing. But it was nice, the poem being read out… Three of my 1998 crew were on the (Midnight Rambler) crew this year. It would have been nice to win this year, having won in 1998.”
Meanwhile, Psaltis was reluctant to commit to a return for next year’s 75th Sydney Hobart Yacht Race.
“It’s unlikely I will come back, on this boat anyhow,” Psaltis said.
“But I say that every year. Maybe I will, in someone else’s boat.”
By Rupert Guinness, RSHYR Media