With Omicron surging like a tsunami, I’m clinging onto the Rolex Sydney-Hobart like a Doomsday prophet with thoughts that it’s going to be the very last event on the calendar for a foreseeable time but it’s nothing like the way Shane Kearns is clinging onto the Tattersall Cup. This is classic David versus Goliath stuff that’s providing one of the great storylines of what’s been a fabulous calendar year in sailing, ensuring bitten fingernails, eyes on stalks at the tracker, cracker-barrel offshore racing philosophies (my own) and frayed nerves for not only the people connected to the Azzurro crew but for us spectators too.
The tracker is on permanently as the miles count down and I have to say, I’m a useless armchair navigator and an even worse meteorologist. One moment I have Azzurro up by an hour, the next it’s a shy loss by a few minutes. Is there wind in the Derwent? I think so and then I don’t. Is that tide or wind making the SOG numbers look favourable? Hopeless.
The race organisers, and I trust them implicitly, have Azzurro by a handful of minutes but as every mile ticks down the delta to Celestial narrows. It’s nip and tuck and desperately close. As I write, the latest sled has just put them under the 60 miles to finish marker and a lead of just eight minutes. That’s nothing. Desperate times. But if you’re not cheering on the Azzurro crew, you’ve got a cold heart…
Win or lose though, it’s been a great race for Azzurro but she’s coming in from an eastern track of the rhumb line, eschewing the Tassy Coast and only making around 6 knots over the ground – and I’m being generous.
It’s possibly not enough but it’s never over until it’s over and there’s a small drama shoreside with third placed Ichi Ban of Matt Allen submitting a joint protest with the Race Committee against Celestial for a 90 minute period when they didn’t respond to radio calls on Channel 16. Just before air crews were scrambled, Celestial came back onto the airwaves and any action was called off but it’s an incident that could see a time penalty handed-down by the race committee at a hearing later today. If so, it could well be Ichi-Ban whose time is the one to beat for Azzurro but we are talking less than three minutes.
Equally in the double-handed IRC fleet there’s one hell of a tussle going on for the win with the J99 Disko Trooper still out front with less than twenty miles to go and eager to get home and set a time to beat. Pushing hard, as they have done all race is the Sparkman & Stephens 34 ‘Crux’ with the estimations separating the two boats by just a couple of minutes – can you imagine the tension onboard up that final stretch? Great racing and it’s a fine advert for the booming double-handed offshore discipline.
Fascinating times and the Cruising Yacht Club of Australia must be thanking their lucky stars for a race that has had it all. What a stand-out job they’ve done with tremendous support from the Royal Yacht Club of Tasmania and the fantastic sponsorship of Rolex to curate such a classic. That’s how you do it. First class management and brilliant race communications all round. Top job.
Back to the tracker now. Come on Azzurro….