Yachties and sailing fans were sceptical when they heard a bunch of solo sailors were banding together to campaign Mark Hipgrave’s Jeanneau Sun Fast 3600 Mister Lucky in the Rolex Sydney Hobart Yacht Race – but they needn’t have worried.
Hipgrave, from Queensland, was coerced by his English solo sailing mates to enter the Cruising Yacht Club of Australia’s 628 nautical mile race and although he had done it five times previously, he had not contemplated racing this year.
On arrival in Constitution Dock, all the worry was swept aside when the five English soloists stepped ashore in a jovial mood, still cracking jokes with the Queensland owner and his son after being confined on the 11.3 metre yacht for over three days.
Cabin fever, I questioned. “What’s that,” quipped Rob Craigie from Isleworth. “It was easier than expected. We all have the same boats, so when someone called a manoeuvre, everyone knew the boat and just did their job.”
“Did we get on,” said Sulfolk sailor Paul Brant laughing. “See,” he said as he helped his fellow ‘Pom’, Nigel Colley up from boat to shore on the low tide.
“I’m old, we’re all old, it hurts,” Colley from the renowned English sailing centre, Lymington, lamented with laughter in his eyes.
“We’ve all known each other so long and socialise together, so I didn’t think it was ever going to be a problem.”
“No, never said Colley. We arrived a week early to familiarise ourselves.”
Ian Hoddle from Surrey cut in, “We had a great sail. These are my friends from the UK – I’ll get better ones when I can afford it.”
On a serious note, Brant said, “The person to feel sorry for is Mark (Hipgrave’s) son Alex. It was hard for him sailing with us old blokes. I don’t know how he had the stamina – offshore – or on!”
Who was the best sailor? “Well, Nigel got the top speed – 21.9 knots – twice.”
“Yeah, my new name is Speedy,” Colley responded.
Craigie: “Yeah, but we never saw him packing a kite, or helping out.”
Colley: “I stayed below to conserve energy for steering, but I was accessible.”
Brant: “Twice he got up to help us.” The laughter continued.
Deb Fish, their English navigator from Southampton, was nowhere to be seen. Probably off to find some decent female company.
Owner, Hipgrave, had the final say. “We had a great race, won our division (4) in ORCi – we are lucky.”
His next jaunt is the 5,500 nautical mile Sundance Marine Melbourne Osaka double-handed race in March. There will be just two of them on board when he is joined by Rohan Wood, who also contested the Rolex Sydney Hobart – on Damien Parkes’ Duende.
This morning, only Gun Runner (Army Sailing Club), Charlie’s Dream (Peter Lewis) and Freyja (Richard Lees) were still racing towards Hobart. The former two had 17 and 19.5 nautical miles respectively to make the finish. Freyja called into port and is expected to arrive in Hobart tomorrow evening – the only yacht to miss New Year’s Eve in Hobart.
Full list of entries and all information: http://rolexsydneyhobart.com/
By Di Pearson, RSHYR media