Phil Bennett’s King Billy is returning for her sixth Rolex Sydney Hobart campaign in 2021.
The 38-footer – built from King Billy Pine and designed by John King – turns 30 this year.
This year’s crew aboard King Billy will look very similar to that which took part in the 2015 edition, including Bill Wright, who competed in the 25th, 50th and 75th Rolex Sydney Hobarts.
Building a stable crew with a mix of experience and exuberance has been key for Phil.
“It’s like a co-operative,” he says. “With everything we do, we talk about it for quite a while and it’s just about everyone trying to get the boat to Hobart.
“It’s a real team. There is no one person that thinks they know everything.
“It’s a bit of a family, because we’ve been together for so long.”
Phil’s association with the Rolex Sydney Hobart goes back to the 50th anniversary race in 1994, when he made his debut with King Billy and finished fourth in Division F.
A year later, King Billy led the fleet at one stage – “we couldn’t quite believe it,” Phil recalls – before finishing a very creditable 50th overall.
17 years after retiring from the 1998 race, King Billy was back on the starting line on Boxing Day 2015, finishing second in the Corinthian Division.
“Getting there, and the camaraderie when you’re there, as well as the challenge of getting across Bass Strait, makes it all worth it,” Phil says.
With racing put on hold during the Greater Sydney lockdown, Phil used the time to upgrade the boat’s battery system to lithium.
Small changes over the years have helped King Billy stay competitive, most recently finishing fourth on IRC in Division 7 of the 2019 Rolex Sydney Hobart.
But few results can trump the pleasure of still sailing a custom build three decades on.
“She was originally supposed to be 40 feet, but because the shed is only 39 feet, she ended up being 38 feet,” Phil laughs.
“We ended up with a really good sea boat and we’ve been happily sailing her for years.
“Sometimes I look at the newer boats and think I wouldn’t mind one of them. But when it comes around to thinking of selling King Billy, I couldn’t do it!”
With many ocean miles on the clock for both boat and crew, King Billy will be determined to make an impression in 2021.
King Billy crew:
- Phil Bennett
- Bill Wright
- Simon Estella
- Mick Scott
- Manny Scott
- Josh Thomson
- Deb Dalziel
- Chris McCormack
Entries for the 2021 Rolex Sydney Hobart Yacht Race are open until Friday 29 October 2021.
A reminder that keel and rudder inspections are a requirement of entry. More information is available on the Australian Sailing website.
Please also ensure you complete all race documentation before the deadline.
Should competitors have any questions about keel and rudder inspections, or race documentation, please contact the CYCA Sailing Office via email at firstname.lastname@example.org.