Stuart Johnson believes that racing the Rolex Sydney Hobart Yacht Race in one design boats like his own Sydney 38, Audacious, highlights a crew’s pure sailing capability over that of the boat.
Johnson, who is representing the Royal South Australian Yacht Squadron (RSAYS), says that one design class racing is a level playing field: “It’s not about the boat, it’s about the sailing.”
A founding member of the South Australian Dinghy Association, Johnson has followed the Cruising Yacht Club of Australia organised Sydney Hobart, since 1971. But this year’s 75th running of the race has added significance with it falling on the RSAYS’s Sesquicentenary (150th).
“The Club is very proud of its Sydney Hobart history that commenced in 1948 with Colin Hazelgrove’s Nerida (15th) going on to win the race in 1950. Two years later, Jim Taylor’s Ingrid took first place,” he said. “Since then, many RSAYS boats have competed in the race. In recent times, both Aikin Hames Sharley and Enchantress finished on the podium in their divisions.”
Audacious is one of seven Sydney 38s entered in this year’s Rolex Sydney Hobart that will start at 1pm on Boxing Day - Thursday - with the fleet of 157 boats lining up.
Matt Fahey, the owner/skipper of the Victorian Sydney 38, Faster Forward, has followed the Sydney Hobart since his childhood days when he was brought up in Sydney.
“From the age of 10, my primary ambition was to compete in the race,” said Fahey. “Growing up in Camden, away from the water, rugby league and union were my primary sporting focus. My first opportunity to sail was in 2006 (at age 36), after I moved to Melbourne.”
Fahey has embraced ocean racing ever since, having competed in many of the biggest races in Australia, the United Kingdom and Ireland. They include five Rolex Sydney Hobarts - in 2009, 2010, 2013 and 2014; and three Rolex Fastnet Races – in 2015, 2017 and this year.
“I’m excited to bring my own boat and team to the 75th Sydney to Hobart race,” Fahey said.
CYCA Sydney 38 entry, Goat, has sailed in the 628-nautical-mile course six times; the 75th race is her first return to the race since 2014 when she finished 10th overall.
Goat, which placed 24th in the 2011 Rolex Sydney Hobart, also won the 2011 Sydney 38 Nationals, the 2007 Rolex Sydney Hobart one design division and the 2008 Sydney Gold Coast race.
Skipper, Tony Clift, a co-owner of Goat with Mitchell Gordon and Daniel Hawkins, relishes the tight racing among 38s. “There’s always good competition between us,” he said.
Asked about the current forecast of north to north-easterly at the start, with a southerly to follow, Clift said crew will leave the responsibility of studying it to their navigator Jamie Neill.
“If everyone has a look at the weather, you start to second guess what is going on,” said Clift. “It’s better to let the navigator work out what’s ahead, and then once we get on the course, he’ll come up with all the information and we will sit down and discuss it.”
The other four Sydney 38s lining up for the start on Boxing Day are: Admiral (Steve Piper); Cinquante (Kim Jaggar); Mille Sabords (Robert Frayne); and TSA Management (Tony Levett) – all are from NSW.