|HOBART, 10:000 AM AEDT-(30-12-2004) Two and a half days of bashing your head against the wall in 35 knot winds and vicious seas and then, with Hobart virtually in sight, the wind dies and it takes you almost 12 hours to cover the final 40 miles of the 628 nautical mile course.
Such is the tale of the South Australian yacht Hardys Secret Mens Business in this 60th anniversary Rolex Sydney Hobart Race. The brand new, state-of-the-art Reichel/Pugh 46 foot racing machine passed Tasman Island just after midnight and finally crossed the finish line just after midday today.
Yet dockside, her laconic owner Geoff Boettcher was remarkably philosophical. “We just expected it somehow. Last year we had a parking lot, without it what would the race be.
“We had our downhill hairy ride, we had our bash and bang and a nice little calm coming in is good.”
Boettcher’s race plan had been to hang on as close as he could to the bigger 52-footers Ichi Ban and Yendys. He figured that with his better rating he could afford to give them a few hours across the finish line and still beat them, which would put him in a great position for an outright race win.
For most of the race the plan worked well, until at the height of the gale, Hardys Secret Mens Business fell off a wave and damaged the ring frame just forward of the mast.
They headed in towards Flinders Island to try to shore up the frame before it started to do real damage to the hull. “It started to flex, and that’s when you get cracks in the hull. The boys went to town and strapped a bit of spare sail batten on either side with a hand drill and some self-tappers to shore it up.
“I didn’t want to limp into Hobart. We went slowly for a while and then a bit harder, then we were racing again.”
Boettcher reckons that the incident cost them four hours all up, and, as it turned out, arriving at Tasman Island at midnight instead of 8.00pm proved very costly. Around midnight the wind died in Storm Bay, as it usually does. They had missed the window of opportunity.
Despite the wild conditions and the damage to his boat, at no time did Boettcher consider pulling out of the race. He has found himself stuck a few times in Eden in the past and jokes that his boat will have to sink before he ever turns back again.
“They call me the ‘mayor of Eden’ because I’ve had to pull in there a few times. I’ve got fellow yachties back in Adelaide making bookings for me at the Eden Travelodge.
“I drew a big arc around Eden and said to the guys ‘we’re not going there’.”
Hardys Secret Mens Business is the ninth out of 12 yachts to finish the 2004 Rolex Sydney Hobart Yacht Race, the latest three being Phil Coombs’ Dekadence from Melbourne and the Sydney yachts, Stephen Ainsworth’s Loki and Gunther Schmidt-Lindner’s Austmark.
The first Tasmanian boat due is Craig King’s Interum, which is expected across the finish line at 8.30pm tonight according to Yacht Tracker.