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Michael ‘Spies’ new sight in Rolex Sydney Hobart Yacht Race

Michael ‘Spies’ new sight in Rolex Sydney Hobart Yacht Race
Rolex Sydney Hobart Yacht Race CYCA © Salty Dingo 2021 CG Must credit Salty Dingo. © Copyright Salty Dingo 2021

Michael ‘Spies’ new sight in Rolex Sydney Hobart Yacht Race

You would think that Michael Spies had seen it all when it comes to new experiences in the Rolex Sydney Hobart Yacht Race with this year’s race marking his 44th participation.

But after finishing this year’s race, Spies, skipper of the Gold Coast-based Schumacher 54, Maritimo, was reminded how the more time passes, the more things can still surprise you.

Spies was understandably disappointed about a lack of wind putting an end to Maritimo’s chances of winning the Cruising Yacht Club of Australia’s 628 nautical mile race overall.

But something good came from the bad; the bad, being twice parked in windless conditions off Tasmania. Up until then, Maritimo was in a tactical race with the TP52s on handicap.

“Unfortunately, we stopped near Flinders Island,” Spies said after Maritimo finished at 2.43pm in a time of 4 days 1 hour 43 minutes 24 seconds, putting them 11th on line honours.

The stop off Flinders Island at least provided Spies with a never before seen moment.

“That was my 44th race. I had never seen Flinders Island I don’t think in all those years … and there we were, you can virtually touch it.”

Maritimo got going again, but soon after a lack of wind dashed their winning hopes for good.

“We had a really good sail up until Tasman and unfortunately just stopped there for another four or five hours and that was us spent,” Spies said.

Spies knows that dealing with the unexpected setbacks is part and parcel of any Sydney Hobart, and that over 628 nautical miles, most – if not all – crews will face that challenge.

The race began well for Spies and his crew on Boxing Day. “We got out the Harbour really well, got a glamour start, settled down, found a nice rhythm,” Spies said in Hobart.

“We were well ahead of everyone in our division. Then probably at about five o’clock a really big rainstorm came through; so much so, that’s where a lot of the boats retired.

“It was 37 to 38 knots. We handled that alright. We came back [out] the other side. We were quite conservative but lived to fight another day.

“The first night was quite tough. That compounded the retirements. The next day [it] became a tactical race.”

The rest is history. For him, this year’s race will be confined to memory, from the lessons learned to the unexpected experience of seeing Flinders Island as close up as he did.

He agrees that this year’s race was one of the toughest in years, probably since 2015.

“The first night was pretty exceptional and it wasn’t forecasted,” he said.

“It was out of local squalls. We were expecting 20 to 25 [knot winds] – and then you look at that again and that’s certainly what brought a lot of the boats down by attrition.”

Spies was grateful that the race was still held, considering the current environment of COVID that forced last year’s event to be cancelled one week out from the Boxing Day start.

“I don’t think anyone had an ideal preparation this year,” he said. “Hats off to the organisers CYCA and RYCT, as well as Rolex for getting it away. But it was a disruptive preparation for the whole fleet.”

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 Rupert Guinness/RSHYR media