Hobart, 30 December – When Paul Clitheroe and his crew on Balance edged over the finish line in Hobart on Wednesday 28 December at 18:00, one statistic at the Rolex Sydney Hobart was extended for another year. Not since 1965 has a crew successfully defended the Tattersall’s Cup, the much-coveted trophy awarded to the overall race winner on handicap.
The statistic confirms the competitive and unpredictable nature of the Rolex Sydney Hobart, two of the factors which entice sailors from throughout Australia and around the world to participate year after year. The Norwegian-born Halvorsen brothers were the last owners to successfully defend their title, sailing the 38-ft yacht Freya to success for three years in a row from 1963 to 1965. This though when the fleet was typically half the size of today’s number of starters.
Clitheroe was in contention for a second straight Rolex Sydney Hobart triumph until his and a cluster of rival yachts endured the becalming conditions of Storm Bay and the Derwent River. “I was thinking to myself that it is hard to get two wins in a row,” was his recollection of the arduously slow approach to Hobart.
As a former winner, Clitheroe provides one reason why it has proved so challenging for any crew to win the race back to back. “It tells you that the way the boats are handicapped is brilliant. Every single part of the boat is measured – length, weight, sail area, mast, keel. The handicapping system is really fair. If one boat was consistently winning overall in a race with different conditions each year you’d really struggle. We all know the boats are fairly treated and we are confident in that.” This confidence in the professional race management is another factor which draws such a sizeable and eclectic international fleet.
“It’s a very difficult race to win,” explains Matt Allen, owner of another TP52, Ichi Ban and former Commodore of organisers the Cruising Yacht Club of Australia (CYCA). He has just completed his 27th race south. “You need to have everything going for you - the right boat, the right crew, managing the tactical side of the race, the boat preparation, knowing how to push the boat and when not to.”
Flawless preparation of both the yacht and crew is a fundamental component of any Rolex Sydney Hobart campaign. Following the personal devastation of retiring from the race in 2014 due to a mast failure, this year’s overall winner Giacomo spent 2015 rebuilding their boat and then 2016 honing crew work in time for this year’s race. Bouncing back from this disappointment and learning from their two previous Rolex Sydney Hobart races was key for the crew from New Zealand. Delegat explains: “It is about a mindset. Winning the race is reward for a long learning experience. We are not the same people today that we were in 2013.” A lesson also in perseverance.
Ludde Ingvall is a two-time line honours winner of the race and, after a long hiatus, returned in 2016 with his significantly revamped 100-ft Maxi CQS. “The race starts the day the previous race ends,” he explains. “You need to have enough preparation time to make yourself safe. You then need a lot of time to get the boat up to its maximum speed. It’s the Mount Everest of yachting. To finish first, you have to finish.”
Then, of course, is the most unpredictable variable, the weather. “There are plenty of years where we thought we might have won the race and then somebody behind us has stormed in with great wind or people have parked because of no wind,” explains Allen. “You also need luck such as arriving in the Derwent when there is breeze.” Like Clitheroe, Allen and his crew were victims of the wind shutdown on the notorious approach to Hobart. “Back-to-back wins, I’m not saying it isn’t going to happen again but it’s very difficult,” he adds.
2009 Rolex Sydney Hobart winner Andrew Saies also pinpoints the importance of a favourable weather pattern. “You need a set of particular conditions to all come together for your type of boat to win,” explains the owner of Two True. “It would be very unusual to have an identical weather pattern which represented the conditions your boat won. The weather pattern is not just wind but the current and on the year we won there was a significant current advantage for the boats which took the strategy of going well offshore. Your boat could be well suited for a particular set of conditions which are never really replicated.”
To retain the trophy, you need to return to defend it. Given the significant commitment for both professional and Corinthian crews of preparing a yacht for a race of this magnitude, it is not a simple decision. For overseas crews the logistical challenge is even greater. “The difficulty in winning back-to-back is that so many things need to align. Keep coming back is what it’s about. Consistency and a willingness to not rest on your laurels,” reveals Sean Langman, one of the race’s most emblematic figures and owner of the smallest boat in this year’s fleet, the 30-ft Maluka of Kermandie, built in the early 1930s.
Winning the Tattersall’s Cup and Rolex timepiece for overall victory at the Rolex Sydney Hobart are among the most sought-after prizes in yachting. Victory though is also measured in terms of accomplishing personal achievements. Completing the race in itself is a momentous achievement. “Anyone who finishes the race is a winner,” continues Langman. “Trading stories with each other after the race is the essence of what this race is about.”
The commitment, passion, dedication and determination of those who compete in the Rolex Sydney Hobart are qualities wholeheartedly embraced by Rolex, Title Sponsor of the race since 2002.
ROLEX AND YACHTING
Rolex has always sought to associate with activities that, like itself, were motivated by passion, excellence, precision and team spirit. Naturally, Rolex gravitated toward the elite world of sailing, forming an alliance that dates back to the late 1950s. Today, Rolex is Title Sponsor of some 15 major international events.
From leading offshore races, such as the Rolex Sydney Hobart and the biennial Rolex Fastnet Race, through to the highest-level one-design competition at the Rolex Farr 40 World Championship, spectacular gatherings at the Maxi Yacht Rolex Cup and the Rolex Swan Cup, as well as the brand’s support of World Sailing, the international governing body of the sport, and its close relationships with the most prestigious yacht clubs around the world, including the New York Yacht Club (US) and the Royal Yacht Squadron (Cowes, UK), Rolex is driven by a passion for excellence and a great appreciation for yachting that furthers the strong ties that bind these two worlds in their shared pursuit of perfection.
Leading brand of the Swiss watch industry, Rolex, headquartered in Geneva, enjoys an unrivalled reputation for quality and expertise the world over. Its Oyster watches, all certified as chronometers for their precision, are symbols of excellence, performance and prestige. Pioneer in the development of the wristwatch as early as 1905, the brand is at the origin of numerous major watchmaking innovations, such as the Oyster, the first waterproof wristwatch, launched in 1926, and the Perpetual rotor self-winding mechanism, introduced in 1931. Rolex has registered over 400 patents in the course of its history. A truly integrated and independent manufacturing company, Rolex designs, develops and produces in-house all the essential components of its watches, from the casting of the gold alloys to the machining, crafting, assembly and finishing of the movement, case, dial and bracelet. Rolex is also actively involved in supporting the arts, sports, exploration, the spirit of enterprise, and the environment through a broad palette of sponsoring activities, as well as philanthropic programmes.
+41 22 302 26 19
+41 79 763 37 34
ROLEX YACHTING PRESS ROOM
ROLEX YACHTING PRESS KIT