Grant Chipperfield and Peter Dowdney are among the 10 remaining Two-Handed Division entries still racing in the 2021 Rolex Sydney Hobart Yacht Race this morning, all toughing it out in what has not been an easy race by any means.
Not only are the Victorian pair out there doing it the hard way on Joker on Tourer, they are having to do with just two pairs of hands, not a full crew. And what’s more, they are on the course surrounded by fully-crewed boats in what has been the slowest race, on par with 2015.
"It was a pretty challenging night. Absolutely horrendous," said Dowdney, the co-skipper for Chipperfield on the latter’s Elliott 1250 Tourer design.
"It’s been horrible and it’s been good. We had the best Bass Strait crossing I’ve ever experienced," said Dowdney, as he and Chipperfield were about to tuck into a hot egg and bacon roll prepared by Dowdney, as he also checked weather maps for the coming 24 hours.
Abeam of Freycinet at 9.15am, Dowdney said, "We’re waiting for a nor’ easter to kick in and that’ll push us along a bit. We’re more offshore than most of the other two-handers and some of the fully-crewed boats. Most went in, we’re hoping to get a nice angle to go around Tasman Island.
"We had a big pack of boats around us last night, but most of them have gone back inshore."
The yachtsman said two-handers Rum Rebellion (Shane Connelly/Graeme Dunlop, NSW) and Speedwell (Campbell Geeves/Wendy Tuck, NSW) had been offshore with them, but had headed inshore. As had fully-crewed boats, B52 (Daniel Farmer, Qld), She’s The Culprit (The Culprit Syndicate, NSW) and Flying Cloud (George Martin, NSW).
Joker on Tourer’s co-skipper said they’d had a close call with Flying Cloud.
"We were in pressure flying under kite. They changed to a fractional so could sail a hotter angle. Suddenly, and our fault, we found we were within two boat lengths of them. It was a bit scary, but we were able to get in behind them. I’ll have to buy the owner a drink when we arrive."
Dowdney said he and Chipperfield found it "absolutely surprising to be up with bigger fully crewed boats.
"We are doing everything they are and we are hanging in with them, boats like Dodgeball (Leith Group Developments, NSW) and Fruit Salid 3 (Mark Drobitko, Qld).
"We’re looking forward to the nor’ easter this morning and looking at three weather models, should get up to 20 knots – and we’re hoping more comes our way, so we can lay Tasman Island.
"To lay Tasman Island is the next roll of the dice. We hope to get around that and find a nice south-easterly – and not a big hole. Either of those things could happen."
Dowdney said sailing in the inaugural Two-Handed Division was "such a great experience. You have to trust the person you are sailing with. If you are in a bunk off-watch in bad weather, it can be disconcerting.
"You have to share the cooking, cleaning, pumping the boat out, sailing, everything with that other person. You have to have a good understanding of the person you’re with. It’s challenging but rewarding at the same time."
Is there more bad weather to come for the 42 boats still out on the racecourse?
"I hope the worst is behind us. We might get a squirt around Tasman Island. Then again, we could run down to it and find a parking lot. The good news is, it’s meant to fill in on the Derwent."
Joker on Tourer should reach the Castray Esplanade finish line "by 6am tomorrow at the latest, but we’re hoping it’s late tomorrow night," Dowdney ended.
Di Pearson/RSHYR Media