The Hobart

Two Hands On Deck For Sydney To Hobart

by Bonnie Mary Liston
Two Hands On Deck For Sydney To Hobart

With over 100 boats registered to compete, the 2020 Sydney to Hobart Yacht Race is set to be one of the biggest events held anywhere in Australia in the post-lockdown era.

Precautions will be in place, including temperature-checking crews before they get on board in Sydney and disembark here. Many end of race celebrations are cancelled or scaled back – the Race Village will be closed to the public as will the marina at large. With Wild Oats XI sitting out the race and Comanche sold to Russians and stuck in the Northern Hemisphere, the race could be any millionaire superyacht owner’s game to win. Another change is the inclusion of a Two-Handed Division in the race for the very first time, which is causing big waves in the sailing community. We spoke to Dr John Saul, a veteran Sydney to Hobart competitor, who is sailing his yacht Sidewinder in the Two-Handed Division this year.

So what is Two-Handed Sailing? You have two crew members instead of six, eight, 10 or 12 like normal boats.

And is it a big deal to be in the Sydney to Hobart? Yeah it sorta always is, but I must confess I’ve got friends now who are doing their 25th or 30th race and it’s a way of life for a lot of Hobart sailors just to turn up every year.

Oh that’s lovely, but I meant is it a big deal for two handed sailing to be in the Sydney to Hobart? Yes, it’s the first year of Two-Handed sailing. Two-person crews are quite popular in Europe and it’s been around for quite some time but it hasn’t really taken off in Australia. So Australian sailing is following the European trend and moving with the times to allow this class to develop.

Does Two-Handed Sailing make the race easier or harder? The race is pretty tough anyway and depending on how you load yourself up, 10 people can work pretty hard in the Sydney to Hobart for sure. Sailing with two people you’ve really got to think ahead, try and get your sail combination right and you certainly run the risk of less sleep and more physical activity with sail changes. It can be pretty intense.

Are you disappointed about the reduced festivities of the event? Oh it’s disappointing but in reality it’s been so tough for Australia, and everyone in general, combatting Covid-19 that just to have a race is a wonderful thing. Disappointing that it can’t be a traditional Sydney to Hobart finish and freedom of crowds like we normally have, but considering how bad Covid-19 is world wide, just to have a race is fantastic.

Being that there’s less crew and you’re only racing against each other do you pay the same entry fee as other boats in the big race? Don’t know. Sailing is something where you try to avoid thinking about the damage. It’s much more relaxing not to think about it. So I’m not sure, to be honest. I think there’s a crew levy if there’s lots of crew on board. I try not to think about the cost!

Two-Handed sailing is its own division, that means you’re not racing against the other boats right? Well it depends, they’ll allow some boats to be part of the general handicap rule but you have to restrict your autopilot use and we’re running a boat that really needs autopilot so we’re just entering the Two-Handed division.

Is that a sailing controversy, the use of the third robot crewmate? It sort of is. They’ll allow the use of simple autopilots in the main race but if you’re using a more complicated autopilot with additional sensory equipment then you are restricted to the Two-Handed class. I really just want to do the first Two-Handed race and get to Hobart. Any race that finishes in Hobart is a good race. Whether it’s from Melbourne, Launceston or Sydney to Hobart, Hobart is a great place to sail to.

Image: Alastair Bett

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February 2024

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