The two-handed fleet for the 2021 Rolex Sydney Hobart Yacht Race has grown to 17, as anticipation continues for the division’s debut in the Great Race.
Among them is Jen Linkova’s Flat White.
The Radford 12.2 will be familiar to many. Previously known as Red Jacket, she won IMS Division C in the 1999 Sydney Hobart (then-owned by Ron Lally), before being adapted for shorthanded sailing as Annette and Andrew Hesselmans competed in the 2018 Melbourne Osaka Cup.
Jen picked up Flat White from Coffs Harbour in late April and sailed her down to her new home in Sydney alongside co-skipper Jason Cummings.
As with much of the 2021 Rolex Sydney Hobart fleet, Flat White’s preparations will need to be flexible, particularly with Jason being based in Tasmania.
COVID-19 restrictions mean the pair may not get many opportunities to race together in the build-up to Boxing Day.
But they have history on their side.
After sailing together on Flying Fish Arctos (skippered by Jason) during the 2015 Rolex Sydney Hobart, Jen approached experienced ocean sailor and instructor Jason to undertake her qualifications.
They sailed two-up throughout that journey.
“She is so driven; she’s done everything right,” Jason recalls. “When I first taught her she was doing the right things – going on courses, learning things - and then she just got herself on loads of boats.
“She’s very single-minded and driven to get this done properly and do well.”
Photo (L): Koshka Media
Even if Jason is unable to get to Sydney before December, that experience has Jen confident they’ll be ready to go.
She will still race Flat White during the Audi Centre Sydney Blue Water Pointscore, potentially with a temporary training partner, and both will be well prepared come race day.
“I was quite happy that he wanted to do the Hobart with me,” she says. “I trust him, probably more than I trust myself.
“I know that I can trust him, I know he makes the right decisions and he’s a very good sailor.”
This will be Jen’s fifth Rolex Sydney Hobart campaign and first as skipper.
The responsibility of leading her own campaign is something she is relishing, though she is aware of the challenge it presents.
“I was involved in some of Arctos’ preparations for the races (in 2013-15), but I didn’t have to really think about navigation, tactics and things like that,” she says.
“Racing tactics will be really new to me. I know that I’m not a great tactical sailor; I can sail well, but there are a lot of people who are much more experienced in the race.
“Honestly, I don’t expect much. My primary goal is to get the boat ready, get there safely and if we can get a reasonably good result, that would be great.
“But I want to be competitive. I’m very competitive when I’m racing.”
Jen believes she and Jason complement each other well. Jason has logged more than 50,000 offshore nautical miles, including a solo trip around New Zealand.
“I’m adventurous, but at the same time I don’t take unnecessary risks,” Jen says. “I’m not afraid of getting out in the weather, because you’re supposed to see big seas and strong winds.
“We might be conservative in our first race and not push her too hard, at least initially while we find the limits of the boat.
“The mental state and fatigue is probably the biggest factor. When there are only two of you on the boat, it becomes much more important.
“We are both quite happy people. We seem to run the boat in more or less the same way and don’t annoy each other, which is the most important thing.”
Photo: Koshka Media
Their first two-handed Rolex Sydney Hobart will be a shared dream for Jen and Jason.
“For me, it’s absolutely a bucket list item; it’s a big deal to be on the first two-handed hit out,” Jason adds.
“That’s where I want to be, so big props to Jen for getting it all together.”
Entries for the 2021 Rolex Sydney Hobart Yacht Race are open until Friday 29 October 2021.
A reminder that keel and rudder inspections are a requirement of entry. More information is available on the Australian Sailing website.
Please also ensure you complete all race documentation before the deadline.
Should competitors have any questions about keel and rudder inspections, or race documentation, please contact the CYCA Sailing Office via email at firstname.lastname@example.org.