Secret Mens Business wins Hobart after 22 years by Patrick 'Tenpin' Bollen

The 2010 Rolex Sydney to Hobart Race had all the makings of one of the great yacht races.
It had a quality fleet, a mixture of wind and sea conditions from light to heavy and, at the end, it had the potential to cause quite possibly the biggest controversy, or debacle if you like, since the start line issue between Peter Kurts’s Drakes Prayer and Gary Appleby’s Sagacious. In 1985 Drakes Prayer was found to have fouled Sagacious on the line and was penalised twenty percent. Sagacious finished 2nd overall and the record books show no winner was declared.
When five-time line honours winner Wild Oats XI sailed into Hobart at the finish of the Rolex Sydney Hobart Yacht Race, controversy also shrouded her as she slipped into Hobart’s Constitution Dock.
A protest lodged against the boat by the event Race Committee, prior to the finish, left the outcome uncertain. But after the International Jury met to hear the facts, the protest was dismissed and Wild Oats XI was announced as the official Line Honours winner.
In taking line honours, Wild Oats XI finished well outside her 2005 race record of 1d 18h 40m 10s ahead of Investec Loyal, Lahana and Ichi Ban.
Meanwhile, after 22 years of trying and three gruelling days at sea South Australian Geoff Boettcher skippered Secret Mens Business 3.5 across the line at Battery Point to secure the coveted Tattersall’s Cup beating Jazz by 35 minutes on corrected time.
“Going into this race I was quietly confident about our chances. Michael Dunstan put together a terrific crew and I believe the conditions and weather was to our advantage. I think we sailed one on one with Shogun, Loki, Limit and Jazz but we never took our eyes off Ragamuffin. The dark horse was Victoire of whom I became very nervous. We won because we stuck to our game plan.
Chris Bull's Cookson 50 Jazz battling the wilds of Bass Strait. “I’m 64 years old now and winning the Hobart is the thrill of a lifetime but right now I’m not sure if I’ll do it again,” said a jubilant Boettcher.
“I owe this win to my great crew particularly Steve Kent from Port Lincoln and Julian Freeman who pushed the boat hard all the way,” Boettcher added.
A grey and overcast morning greeted competitors on Boxing Day with forecasters at a loss as to what the fleet might expect at the start. Some thought a spinnaker might be the call while others suggested the breeze might come from the north.
When 1960 winner Siandra crewman Doug Paterson sent the fleet on their way, both Wild Thing and Investec Loyal hit the line with speed reaching fast out of the blocks with Wild Oats XI mixing it up in the middle.
It wasn’t long before the four time line honours winner hit the front and by the seaward buoy Mark Richards and the Wild Oats XI crew had established a lead that would not be threatened for the entire race. ‘Richo’ was hunting for number five.
The fleet of 88 cleared the harbour in good time and without incident except for Grant Wharington’s Wild Thing which came to grips with a media boat just off Watsons Bay, a Daily Telegraph photographer capturing a pic of Wild Thing’s bow from just an arm’s length.
All at sea and enjoying a pleasant sail south before the first of two vicious southerly fronts began to sort out the players from the stayers.
At 8pm just seven hours into the race the Z39 Jazz Player became the first casualty retiring after damaging their mainsail in the aggressive 40 knot winds.
On the first night it became apparent that this race was going to be a thriller with just miles separating the front runners.
Behind the super maxis Skype founder Niklas Zennstrom’s Ran was keeping company with Loki and Limit with one mile separating these three highly competitive yachts all considered the best chance for handicap victory.
Titania lost a liferaft over the side off Jervis Bay forcing them to stop in Eden to off load five crew in order to comply with the sailing instructions before entering Bass Strait.“This was a great Hobart. A good start and then some really tough weather with winds reaching 50 knots at times in Bass Strait. At one stage we were down to three reefs and a No:5. It was tough on the boat but we kept her together in those big seas because of good management,” said Limit owner Alan Brierty.
Titania, a Swan 68 with Sir Robin Knox Johnson and America’s Cup helmsman Andy Green aboard was doing well on handicap when they lost a liferaft over the side off Jervis Bay forcing them to stop in Eden to off load five crew in order to comply with the sailing instructions before entering Bass Strait.
This mishap cost them any chance of a good result.
Meanwhile as the weather continued to force retirements, eighteen in all over the course of the race, a real contest was forming between a number of boats including Victoire, Jazz, Pretty Fly, Shogun, Secret Mens Business 3.5 and Rodd & Gunn Wedgetail.
“At Tasman Island we were in with a chance. We had 20 knots of wind but as we rounded the island the breeze shifted and then again at Cape Raoul. We just couldn’t make course,” said Victoire sailing master Sean Kirkjian.
Chris Bull’s Jazz, a pre-race favourite put in a terrific effort finishing second overall.
“I thought it was a typical Hobart race. Relatively simple the first night but the next day with the reinforced sou’westerly flow things got quite heavy. I considered Jazz (formerly Evolution Racing) as a very good chance and for twelve hours in very tough conditions the boat performed well. I think we lost the race at Tasman Island where we stopped for about ninety minutes. This is where Secret Mens Business 3.5 caught us,” said Bull.
Of the 88 starters 70 yachts arrived at Constitution Dock with the last boat, Morgan Roger’s Beneteau 40.7 Wave Sweeper clinching the wooden spoon arriving just in time for the New Year’s Eve celebrations and fireworks.
Rodd & Gunn Wedgetail.After much deliberation, Race Committee Chairman Tim Cox did lodge on behalf of the Race Committee, a protest against two competing yachts, Wild Oats XI and Ran alleging that both yachts failed to comply with sailing instructions 44.1a and 44.2 as they did not have an HF signal strength fit for the purpose to proceed south of Green Cape.
Further the sailing instructions require that a competing yacht must carry the required number of life jackets and life rafts capable of supporting the vessels complement; that engine and batteries are operational; that boat and crew are in good shape and that the skipper has comprehensively considered the most current weather forecasts.
Wild Oats XI skipper Mark Richards was adamant he did follow the correct communications criteria.
“The bigger boats are so fast today that often they are well over a hundred miles in front of the relay vessel. We can hear calls from the relay vessel but often they cannot hear us,” said Richards.
“The Wild Oats campaign is a thoroughly professional one that fully supports the CYCA. We did everything by the book. Our radio was working until Green Cape which is the only compulsory HF point in the race. After discovering moisture in one of the connections we contacted Tim Cox via satellite phone and informed him that we had a problem with our radio. Tim informed us that we would not be eligible to continue south of Gabo Island. We remained in the area and rectified the problem then contacted Hobart Race Control via HF radio who logged us as a competitor continuing into Bass Strait,” said Richards.
Later, in Hobart, an international jury found that Wild Oats XI did comply with the requirements of adequately reporting at Green Cape and so the protest was dismissed
“It was a good result. It was the right result. If we’ve learnt anything from this event it is that we will carry two HF radios next year to ensure that we do not get tripped up by a twenty dollar connection. Electrical things can go wrong in heavy rain and lightning,” said Richards.
So, was Tim Cox’s lodgement of protest a knee jerk reaction. Was it fully warranted or was it simply one man’s interpretation of the sailing instructions?
As Chairman of the race committee Tim Cox had the right to record Wild Oats XI as a DNF (Did Not Finish) if he deemed they did not comply with the sailing instructions.
However, Wild Oats XI did fix their HF problem and did log on with Hobart Race Control and by doing so complied with the sailing instructions.
“There are two points that need to be made clear in regard to this event,” said Cruising Yacht Club of Australia Commodore, Gary Linacre. “The first is that the rule regarding compulsory use of HF Radio communications was a result of the findings of the Coroner’s recommendations following the 2000 Coronial inquiry into the tragic 1998 Hobart which claimed six lives.”
“Secondly, there is no better form of voice level communication than HF Radio, it being the world’s best practise for vocal communications between vessels over the wider area.
“That said, the Cruising Yacht Club of Australia and the Sydney to Hobart Race Committee will keep on looking at all forms of alternative communications including satellite in order to improve Hobart race reporting systems and to uphold the standards of SOLAS (Safety Of Lives At Sea),” he added.
In all the 2011 Rolex Sydney to Hobart was a great race. Another race that will linger long in the hearts and minds of all who competed as one of the tough ones.
The Hobart race remains as one of the great tests of seamanship and one of the foremost sailing challenges in the world.
Ichi Ban.The boat most thought had the best chance at overall victory, Ran, put in a top effort in rigorous conditions finishing sixth over the line and eighth overall, five hours astern of Secret Mens Busines and the only big boat in the top twelve. A top effort indeed.
It is expected that as many as six super maxis could contest the next Hobart – so watch out Richo. In the meantime there is a lot of ocean racing to do around Australia and the world between now and then so good racing to all and go on having fun.