In their own words: Richard Bennett

In their own words: Richard Bennett
Quetzalcoatl flying under spinnaker in the RSHYR 2009. Image Credit: Richard Bennett

Tasmanian-based Richard Bennett has photographed the Rolex Sydney Hobart Yacht Race since 1974.

"I first photographed the Sydney Hobart Yacht Race in 1974 and I’ve photographed every Sydney Hobart since, so I think that makes it 44 straight years. I’m a photographer and the Sydney Hobart is a great subject. I love aviation and I love the sea – I combined both and decided to photograph the event. I don’t do it as a news photographer, I do it from a more artistic point of view. I’m after a beautiful image of a yacht and I want to explain the weather and the sea state and the iconic coastal backgrounds as well. I think I would now have the largest photographic archive of the Sydney Hobart in the world.

Going back to 1975 was my first experience photographing the big American maxis, Kialoa and Windward Passage. They were amazing yachts and I was able to photograph them off the east coast planing at 23 knots on the way to Kialoa breaking the race record that stood for 19 or 20 years. These new 100-footers can be dramatic now too, it is amazing the speed of these boats. Records stood for years and now they are seemingly broken annually.

The Sydney Hobart is so unique because it attracts entries around the world and it’s developed such a great following in Australia alongside the Melbourne Cup as an iconic cultural event and it’s become famous around the world because of the challenge, covering parts of Australia that cover the Roaring Forties and some of the most unpredictable conditions that make it a challenge for both yachtsmen and women and for the boats themselves.

Putting the camera down is not on the radar just yet – I enjoy it and I’ll keep going for as many years as I can. It is demanding though. Last year, for example, there was quite a lot of breeze late in the evening and beautiful sunsets and I stayed out there until after 9pm and we couldn’t get our helicopter back to base because we were running out of light so we parked it in a paddock and drove back to Hobart. It was after midnight when files were downloaded and I was up at 3am to get back to Tasman Peninsula to get up in the air by daylight – there are a lot of hours involved and quite a bit of strategic planning.

I live on Bruny Island. I like wilderness areas and I like being close to the weather – it’s great. There’s a Bruny Island ferry but for the Sydney Hobart I stay in accommodation within a few metres from Constitution Dock so I’m ready to go.

I publish a book every couple of years, most recently about Tasmania’s South Coast Track, From Cape To Cape. I’ve been walking that track for nearly 60 years so I thought it was worthwhile publishing my insights.

Tasmania has so much diversity it would take a lifetime to see it all. Many visitors mistakenly think it’s a small island and they can see it all within a few days. If you’re a walker, the Overland Track is a fabulous walk, the South Coast Track is another fabulous walk. If you don’t want to walk there are a number of fabulous coastal journeys highlighting some of our spectacular coastlines, and the produce from Tasmania enables some of the finest food in the country. The wines are world-class too.

I recommend people come and look at the boats when they’re in Hobart for the Race, but also to enjoy the other things on offer too. There’s a real buzz at Constitution Dock and The Taste of Tasmania, nearby, celebrates some of the finest food. There’s a great track called the Three Capes Walk, which traverses the coastline of the Tasmanian Peninsula where the Sydney Hobart boats travel – wandering there for a few days from the 29th of December would give people great views.

The Quiet Little Drink has been going on in Hobart for years! I must confess I haven’t been to a ‘QLD’ because I’ve been busy taking photographs but it’s been a longstanding tradition. Any of the Tasmanian pubs, though, are a great place for a quiet little drink, often with a unique atmosphere. The Henry Jones is a good place – I sometimes have a martini there after a day’s work. There are so many options though."


This story first appeared in CYCA's Offshore magazine, August-September 2018 edition.

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