As the 2015 Rolex Sydney to Hobart race fleet is now enjoying easier weather and a diminishing rate of retirements, there is time to consider the handicap situation.
Sail-World is resisting the temptation to breathlessly report on the computerised IRC rankings, with the bulk of the IRC fleet less than half way to Hobart.
2015 Rolex Sydney to Hobart handicap winning skipper Roger Hickman has sailed south 38 times, amazing considering he is only 61 years old. She is now fifth on handicap overall, 57 nm south east of Green Cape.
We talked to Hicko…
‘We are still dreaming of a back to back. It’s 50 years that a boat has done that, but certainly to dream the impossible dream.
‘We’ve still probably got a small chance it all depends now on our speed down the Tassie coast and the timing of the front.
‘If we get that at the right time, so that we are at Tasman Light, or in Storm Bay, say at Cape Raoull and the southerly comes through hard, that makes your whole passage up the river better even after dark, even late into the evening.
‘However the second front may be a poison chalice if we are still pushing south, but it could be a saviour because what we need.
It’s been a good race so far for us, we don’t mind heavy weather, Wild Rose, has done some heavy miles. The hull has never suffered anything and the rig is strong. Now it’s about the weather on the Tassie coast and the time we turn the corner.
When we won the race on handicap last year we’d had been in throes of a fresh and frightening nor westerly pretty well all the way from St. Helen’s, we were about three miles from Tasman Island when we heard the report of 60 knots in the Derwent and for us the winds varied from five knots to 45. For us it was in total probably an 85 to 80% maximum reaching speed. There were times where we had the light spinnaker up for those eight to 10 minutes and then you got slammed.
‘Just the hardest bit of sailing I’ve ever done, but it’s the kind of finish we will need again this year.’
Roger ‘Clouds’ Badham just a few hours ago, did a routing run for Wild Rose from her current position in northern Bass Strait to the Constitution Dock finish line and made these comments.
‘Wild Rose does not have too much of the softer southerly winds tomorrow morning and enjoys good west north westerly breeze tomorrow night but that then turns more south westerly and south south westerly with the (next) front on Tuesday.
‘However she could get to Storm Bay at the wrong time. If she can get in on Tuesday afternoon or evening – that’d be good – later and the Derwent could kill it for her.
So is the dream over for Roger Hickman and his Wild Rose crew of back to back Sydney to Hobart handicap wins?
Maybe, maybe not. Certainly they have got some hurdles ahead. The weather might yet play into their favour but time will tell.
It seems beyond the weather there are a few major problems for the 2014 winner. Teasing Machine, the Archambault 13-meter Swiss crewed boat owned and campaigned by Eric de Turckheim, winner of Cowes week IRC Division 1 in 2015, winner of the Channel Race 2015 on IRC at the time of writing 762 nm South East of Gabo Island is one.
Another is Giovanni Soldini’s fast flying Volvo 70 Maserati an extremely well campaigned boat formerly Ericsson 3 from the Volvo Ocean Race. now 99 nm east from Flinders Island and well placed for a sling shot into Tasman Island.
But everyone who start this race has a General’s baton in their back pack, including the wildest of the wild cards, Robin Hawthorn’s Beneteau First 47.7 Imagination last year 14th on IRC, winner of the Bird Island race on IRC., who just an hour ago was briefly the race leader on handicap, she is now 52 miles south east of Gabo Island… but we swore we would not obsess about the computerised results, so we won’t.
We close with these very wise words from Hicko:
‘This year we are trying as hard as we ever have just because we were so lucky and proud to win last year, we will sail this race with as much aggression and venom and passion as we have every year, and possibly even a smidgen more because I think while I and Peter Inchbold and a few of the older, more experienced people understand the pressure and the commitment and the endurance, I think some of the younger crew in the first trip have had absolutely no idea.
‘So I think that now all of those first trippers are doing another trip, the five trippers are doing six, the 14 are doing 15, so that the maturity and the aggression for the commitment, I think will be stronger because the knowledge of what’s expected is more.
by Rob Kothe