The Rolex Sidney-Hobart reaffirms its legendary status




The 76th edition of the Rolex Sydney Hobart Yacht Race has established the formidable reputation of the most important regatta in the Southern Hemisphere. The vagaries of the weather divided the route into two sections perfectly defined by the nature of their challenges: The first was an exhausting test of physical endurance and perseverance; the second examined mental stamina and tactical ability. Organized since 1945 by the Cruising Yacht Club of Australia (CYCA) with the support of the Royal Yacht Club of Tasmania (RYCT), the regatta has had the collaboration of Rolex since 2002.

The roughness of the Tasman Sea

Once the mystery about its celebration was cleared thanks to the enormous effort and commitment of the organization and participants in a complicated conjunctural circumstances and after a blank year, the 2021 regatta began with the prospect of a brutal first 24 to 48 hours.

A strong south wind and a powerful counter current formed an explosive cocktail in the form of the extremely harsh state of the sea at the beginning of the journey to Tasmania that would put the resistance of the boats and the mentality of the participants to the test.

Despite the exhaustive preparation of the 88 crews that left Sydney on December 26, the scrutiny was so relentless that it caused the withdrawal of more than a third of the fleet. For those who made it through that cruel first cut, any sense of relief was short-lived, as the final leg of the 628-nautical-mile (1,163-kilometer) ride would present new mental challenges. A changing weather pattern forced crews to put together a complex three-dimensional puzzle in the water. When sailing, the shortest line between two points is rarely a straight line, and this Rolex Sydney Hobart was a prime example of this.

Third title for Ichi Ban

The overall victory after the correction of times, the one that decides the overall winner of the Rolex Sydney Hobart, was finally for Matt Allen’s TP52 Ichi Ban. Previously a winner in 2017 and 2019, the Australian team thus became the third team to win three titles in the history of the regatta and the first to win two consecutive victories since the Freya did it in 1965. “It is incredible to be a part of the history of the Rolex Sydney Hobart Yacht Race”, acknowledges his point guard, Matt Allen. With 31 editions behind him, the first in 1980 at 17 years of age, it can be said that the former CYCA commodore has a lot of experience in the Rolex Sydney Hobart. In his opinion, this edition has been a complete and extensive seamanship examination: “Most races to Hobart put the whole boat and crew to the test, but I think this year it has probably done it more than ever. The sea conditions that we saw during the first 24 hours really caused big problems for the ships. Then, having such a difficult tactical situation for the rest of the regatta meant that the decision-making was absolutely critical. “.

Titans fights

Long before the absolute winner of the Rolex Sydney Hobart is defined, a battle is fought to reach the finish line first. The ship that does so achieves the long-awaited victory in real time. This year, three 100-foot-long (30.5-meter) supermaxis staged an intense pulse practically the entire length of the journey.

The SHK Scallywag 100 started at the head of Sydney Harbor, but a glitch with its sails allowed its rivals to pass it at the start of the journey down the coast of New South Wales. The LawConnect would then exchange the leadership with the Black Jack until Peter Harburg’s boat, with a Monegasque flag and an Australian crew, took advantage of the drop in wind intensity to build an advantage that its rival would not be able to neutralize by going up the always complicated Derwent River towards Hobart. Black Jack stopped the clock in two days, 12 hours, 37 minutes and 17 seconds, far from the record set in 2017 by Comanche in one day, nine hours, 15 minutes and 24 seconds, but enough to enter the gold book of the regatta as the 76th winner in real time since the first edition in 1945.

Resilience and human achievement are qualities that have united Rolex and the sport of sailing for more than six decades. The 76th Rolex Sydney Hobart Yacht Race has proven once again that ocean racing is a colossal challenge capable of taking competitive ability and personal skill to the extreme, but above all discovering the extraordinary power of perseverance and teamwork.

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