Ninety Seven at the finish of the 1993 Sydney Hobart. Photo CYCA archives

Andrew Strachan, the history-making line honours winner of the tough 1993 Sydney Hobart with his Farr 47, Ninety Seven, passed away suddenly on Saturday evening.

Andrew only took delivery of Ninety Seven, distinguished by its 9797 sail number, in December 1993. With little time to prepare, pundits said the boat wouldn’t make it, it was too new and hadn’t had sufficient time on the water for tuning and to iron out any wrinkles.

However, the yachtsman and his crew silenced their critics when Ninety Seven took line honours in the race documented as one of the toughest on record, finished second overall and won division. She was the fourth smallest yacht in the history of the race take line honours and remains the smallest to do so since Solveig in 1953.  

Of the 104 starters, just 38 yachts finished, while two abandoned at sea, the first yachts lost in the history of the race.

Andrew, a member of the CYCA since 1977, remembered when I interviewed him a couple of years ago: “The boat had only been in the water a few weeks, People didn’t think we’d do well because the boat was so new. We were also the top scoring boat in the Southern Cross Cup that year with three wins and a trio of thirds.

“We knew Ninety Seven would be a good boat, because it was a Farr design built by Sari Ullrich of Boatspeed at Gosford. We (Strachan, navigator Phil Morgan and Mike ‘Greenie’ Green, whose father Peter sailed with Strachan in the Satin Sheets years) had a plan of what we would do and the position we wanted to put ourselves in. The crew had sailed together before, so were very experienced.”

Ninety Seven did have a rigging problem, so pulled in behind the bottom end of Maria Island to repair: “Greg O’Shea went up the rig. We had to decide whether we should stop or continue and maybe not finish. We were aware that a lot of boats had retired with damage. We decided to go on. We took line honours because of the seamanship of the team.

”To do it with the small boat we had was exciting. I think our record will hold for a long time.”

Andrew told me that 1993 remains his favourite Hobart “For what we achieved.  We also had good times on my previous yacht, Satin Sheets, in the Hobart.”

Hosting Ninety Seven’s 25th reunion at Kims Beachside Retreat in 2019, the entire crew turned up. It says a lot of their friendship with, and dedication to, Andrew and Maryjane, who was fully involved with Andrew’s sailing campaigns.

Proving the yacht’s worth, Andrew sailed Ninety Seven in the 50th anniversary 1994 Sydney Hobart and finished second overall again and placed seventh in 1997, at which point he sold the boat that has gone on to achieve other top results in the Hobart and other races.

Before 1997, Andrew owned Satin Sheets, another well-known yacht, with which he scored multiple wins. He contested the Sydney Hobart from 1978 to 1983 with a best result of 12th overall in 1982.

Andrew sold that boat after the 1983 race and took an extended break from yacht racing. One of life’s gentlemen and a good friend to so many, was welcomed back with open arms when he returned to yacht racing with Ninety Seven.

Apart from sailing, he loved to fish and took regular trips away and in the days before his passing, Andrew delivered his fishing boat from Tasmania to Sydney.

In his work life, Andrew owned the luxurious Kims Beachside Retreat on the beach at Toowoon Bay on the Central Coast, with his wife Maryjane. They welcomed many yachties among others, to the relaxing getaway, where guests will find a mast from Satin Sheets displayed.

The mast had broken on a delivery home from Hawaii, so the crew lashed it to the side of the boat, as Andrew had his plans for it!

Andrew, one of life’s gentleman and a gentle man, was respected and loved by those who crossed his path. He will be missed by all.

Our deepest sympathies to his wife Maryjane.

Di Pearson