|SYDNEY, AUSTRALIA-(17-12-2005) The German entry in this year’s Rolex Sydney Hobart Yacht Race has arrived at the Cruising Yacht Club of Australia to make final preparations and wait for its keen crew to arrive over the next few days.
“We didn’t advertise for crew - as soon as word got around that a German boat was going to sail in the Rolex Sydney Hobart we got so many applications,” said Dirk Weigmann, owner and skipper of Conergy
“In Europe, the Hobart has a big reputation.
“Every sailor in Germany wants to be in the race but of course you usually don’t know any Germans with a boat down here.”
Sitting in the cockpit of his sparkling Beale 45 yacht in the Rushcutters Bay sun, Dirk Weigmann has the look of a man deeply happy with what life has on offer at the moment.
Looking tanned and relaxed he is a million miles from Hamburg’s December snows, counting down the days to a Boxing Day start that has been a long time coming.
Live It, the name his boat carries when she is not racing in sponsorship mode as Conergy, sums up his approach to sailing and to life in general.
A member of the famous Keiler Yacht Club, Weigmann has long had the Hobart bug, so when he started looking for boats down under three years ago the Rolex Sydney Hobart was firmly on his mind.
“Whatever boat I chose had to be good for cruising, but it also had to be a boat that could be competitive in a Sydney Hobart,” he said.
Investigations in New Zealand and Australia had convinced him that the New Zealand designer Ray Beale was his designer of choice, and back in Hamburg he bided his time, waiting for a Beale design to come up. When he spotted the successful Brisbane racer White Ice for sale on the internet Weigmann was on the plane in a flash and had the deal sown up before a wavering seller had time to change his mind.
“I asked Ray Beale if this boat could be genuinely competitive and he said yes,” remembers Weigmann.
“He said we wouldn’t win against the pure racing boats but we would cross the line in the top quarter of the fleet.”
Unusually for a Rolex Sydney Hobart yacht, Conergy features a lifting keel - a great advantage for cruising boats that want to get into shallow anchorages but a configuration widely frowned upon by the racing set.
Weigmann had his own reservations at first, but has become a convert.
“We have used the lifting keel a lot,” he said.
“I worried about having another moving part on the boat that could go wrong but it has been really good.
“In fact when the keel is fully down the lead bulb is half a metre deeper than it would be on a conventional keel and that has been very good.
“We have a very tall racing rig so it is good for stability.”
Weigmann has cruised the yacht along the East Coast and to Lord Howe, and has loved it. Although the boat has a huge, light rig for a cruiser he says she can be easily handled by two people and he can even cruise her on his own.
But for the race south she will be in full racing mode with a crew of nine.
“We have one Australian, Neil Gray, who has done the race twice and knows Tasmania,” said Weigmann.
“That is very important for us. The rest are all from Germany. Some have done the Fastnet, some have done Atlantic crossings but none of them have sailed out here so they are very keen.
“We don’t expect to win but I am a very competitive person. We are not doing this as a cruise.”