Kialoa II reminded Rolex Sydney Hobart Yacht Race aficionados why she still deserves to be titled the ‘grande dame’ of the fleet when the 73-footer once more bettered her 1971 line honours winning time.
Kialoa II took 3 days 4 hours 43 minutes 55 seconds to finish the Cruising Yacht Club of Australia’s 628 nautical mile race. She placed 35th over the line. It was a little more than 20 minutes faster than her finish time last year of 3d 5h 4m 10s, recorded despite sustaining a broken boom.
But against that time and Kialoa's winning time in 1971 of 3d 12h 46m 21s, it could be asked if the Paddy and Keith Broughton owned S&S aluminium boat, converted from a sloop to a yawl in 1968 by its then-owner, American Jim Kilroy (who had her built in 1964) is getting faster as she gets older. “We think so, or us learning to sail her is probably more likely,” said crew member Jeff Beaton.
Registered with the CYCA in Sydney, Kialoa II was off the winning pace in this year’s 74th edition. She finished 38th overall in the corrected time of 3d 20h 00m 6s, and placed sixth in Division 2 behind the winner, St Jude. Chutzpah was next, then Patrice, Showtime and Smuggler - in that order. She beat her modern grand prix rivals.
However, Beaton believes in the right conditions, and when sailed to her maximum by her crew, Kialoa II could still provide a winning performance.
“You can push her pretty hard,” said Beaton, who has now sailed in 10 Sydney Hobarts. “If we get some of the right conditions, we can have a really good crack for Hobart overall, but it could take a long, long time.”
Beaton said Kialoa II’s experienced crew which shares “about 200 Hobarts” between them all – including 46 consecutive starts by navigator Lindsay May - still enjoyed a terrific sail south this year.
“We had two days of running, then a couple of light spots through the evenings, but we kept the old girl running pretty much on time and made good pace,” he said. “Then on the approach to Tasman we knew there was going to be a bit of a change and hard going …
“We were told 66 knots at Tasman (Island). So we bunkered down and prepared … But it was only about 45 knots when we got there, and then we had it pretty much ‘on the nose’ all the way up to Iron Pot which slowed us up. We had a beautiful comfortable boat though.”
Crewmate and photographer Dallas Kilponen believes the historical significance of Kialoa II resonates with everyone on board – and off.
Kilponen, who has nine Sydney Hobarts to his name, is closely linked to Kialoa II which is one of five incarnations that American Jim Kilroy had built between 1956 and 1989. He sailed on her in last year’s Sydney Hobart after having raced in it on the super maxi Lahana.
Kilponen’s father, David ‘Fang’ Kilponen, sailed on Kialoa III in 1977 when she won line honours and overall, two years after winning line honours in a record time that stuck for 21 years. He stayed on as navigator and died some years ago.
“I was pretty emotional last year, coming around Tassie and then coming across the line,” recalled Kilponen.
“To think I had actually finished a Hobart on Kialoa. I was wearing my dad’s belt from 1977 when he was navigator on Kialoa III.
“Obviously, everyone associated with the race understands the history that Jim Kilroy brought with Kialoa to the race.
“It engages the yachting community around the world as well,” Kilponen says.
“A lot of people know the Kialoa story and how magnificent all five yachts were as ocean racing yachts.
“I say to Paddy and Keith, the owners, how great it is to continue the legacy Jim Kilroy created … and it’s still going. “
Kilponen has enjoyed racing on super maxis. He says sailing on a boat like Kialoa II is a vastly different but positive experience.
“It’s a really different type of sailing on super maxis,” he said. “They are really fast and it’s an incredible experience to race on one of those.
“What I love (on Kialoa II) is the discussion among the crew about how we might sail her, the way we are going to do things, whether it is a manoeuvre or what sails we are going to use.
“It is a pure form of sailing, and it is comfortable. I don’t miss sitting on the rail at night.
“It’s nice to sit in the cockpit down in the dog house. And of course we have a great galley and great food.
“We’re still racing. We take it seriously. It is not a leisurely cruise. We are in it to win it, for sure.”
By Rupert Guinness, RSHYR Media