Local sailors win twin Hobart crowns
TORQUAY sailor Stuart Richardson and his ship crew conquered treacherous seas to claim two handicap honours at the iconic Rolex Sydney to Hobart yacht race.
Richardson’s Geelong Yacht Club sailing crew guided their vessel Solera to a first-placed finish in the Fully Crewed and Corinthian PHS divisions, which are scoring systems for amateur racers that handicap competing boats based on their previous performance.
Solera crossed the line at 2.20am on New Year’s Eve – four days, 13 hours and 20 minutes since setting off from Sydney Harbour on Boxing Day.
The 2021 race was the first Sydney to Hobart voyage for the Elliot 1350 yacht that Richardson acquired from New Zealand from its designer Greg Elliot in late 2020.
He had previously skippered his parents’ boat Moody Buoys in previous editions, including a second-place PHS finish in 2019 and third in 2016.
Sailors in the 76th Sydney to Hobart faced challenging conditions early in the race, with 30-knot (55kmh) southerly headwinds and heavy rain contributing to 38 retirements from the 88-strong fleet that launched from the start line.
“We’ve had a lot stronger winds before, but it was the fact we had that short chop at the start of the race and heaps of rain, so everyone’s drenched at the start of the race,” Richardson said.
“We just went into safety mode to protect the boat, that was the key.
“We went downsized in sails and didn’t try to push too hard in that first night.
“Five out of our seven were crook, we just tried to manage the boat and keep plugging away.
“The wind became very tricky, whether you went left or right or stayed the course, that was the hardest part. We tacked at the right time. It’s hard to know in such a long race, you make a decision and you’ve got to stick with it, and a few things just seemed to go our way.”
Richardson said the win was extra sweet as the first dual-division winner of the bluewater classic from the Geelong club.
The Solera crew’s focus would now shift to the Festival of Sails that Geelong will host next weekend, before aiming to return to a full calendar of ocean sailing events set to return in 2022.