Sydney-Hobart preparations

S/y Ocean Gem, racing in Australia
A bit more about my preparations for the Rolex Sydney Hobart Yacht Race 2017. Less than a month left now, getting pretty excited. Can’t help checking out the current local weather – on Sunday, there will be a S wind blowing straight from the Antarctica, up 30-40 kn, in places up to 50 kn a bit off Tasmanian coast. Just such winds have caused many a boat to retire from the race in the past years. The shallower waters around Tasmania and the Bass Strait cause waves to become very steep, and the Roaring Forties cause swells and mess up the seas even more. With today’s weather reporting tools though, there is a better chance to be prepared and lay out a course that will take full advantage of the winds, and be ready for the seas.

S/y Ocean Gem, lifted out of the water
The preparations are ongoing - click around to read more. There are a few jobs to do on and outside of the boat, done currently by the parts of the team who are in Brisbane. The mast and the rigging will be set up, there is stainless steel work being completed, plumbing and electricity finished up. The boat will go back into the water, with several jobs to be done (stowage solutions, equipment loading etc), radio check, and finally the Cat 1 inspection, due 4/12. There is a long list of parameters that the vessel has to comply to, in order to be able to race. This procedure is the result of many years’ work with improving safety of the race, in order to prevent unnecessary risks, as learned from other boat’s mistakes made in earlier races.

Work is being done on board
A lot of work that is not boat-specific is also being done. The race planner task document is at 200+ tasks, but new stuff is getting ticked off every day. Everyone’s gear has to be doublechecked, medications and health status documented, forms and disclaimers need to be filled in. The team has been divided into watches, and everyone has received their primary and secondary roles and responsibilities. Our matching gear set has been ordered, with correct sizes and sponsor names. Food is being prepared, and portions frozen beforehand. A local organic butchery sponsors us with meat, so the menu is impressive. During the race, we will not have to cook – only heat the pre-cooked meals, that’s great for saving energy, keeping motivation, and staying in focus. The project management is done on a highly professional level, with weekly Skype meetings and a detailed time/cost plan. Everything is optimized for the race. No details are overlooked. There’s even a list of how everyone wants their hot drinks made.

Lamb roast meals being made, to be frozen for the race
After the Cat 1 audit, the boat sails from Brisbane to Sydney via Lord Howe Island. A shakedown trip allows for more training together, and to test the new gear, rigging, and other equipment. It seems a good time to sail – despite the 4 meter swell, the winds will stay Northerly. Upon arrival, the boat will stay in Sydney, ready for the last touch-ups.

I will arrive to Sydney on early morning of the 24/12, in time for the race briefing. Then, I’ll get acquainted to the boat and the crew, will spend the two days training and doing any last jobs. And finally, the race will start on the 26/12 at 13:00 local time. It will be possible to follow the Sydney-Hobart race through the official RSHYR website, as well as through local and global media.
There are 110 boats competing, including a record of 31 internationals. There are different classes, but only two symbolic prizes will be dealt out: one for the boat who is first to cross the finish line, and one for the best time related to the boat’s handicap. The largest newest Maxis with professional crew are the ones who cross the finish line first nowadays. We will be racing to get the other honors. In 2009, two similar boats to Ocean Gem (Beneteau 40's) finished 1st & 2nd on handicap, and a Beneteau 47.7 finished 9th. Ocean Gem has done quite a bit of racing. Looking to the history of the races, I see that latest this year they took Queen Cup line honors, where Ocean Gem won the start in both races, and led each race from start to finish, taking out the Queensland Beneteau Cup Line Honors Trophy for the regatta for the second time in 3 years. They took the first place on handicap the two previous years and were second on handicap this year.

When the race has been done, upon arrival to Hobart, there will be some events and celebrative meetups. I will stay in Tasmania to do some exploration of the island, and then head home via Sydney, or possibly Melbourne again.

Now that it’s less than 4 weeks until I am leaving for Sydney. The time before the race will be spent working out to gain strength. Here is an example of a calisthenics workout scheme recommended generally forsailing. I’ll be settling the last arrangements, and getting the last of gear – I will need new sailing shoes, waterproof gloves, and sealskins socks. Sponsors welcome! I will be needing the wet weather gear to meet any challenge posed by air or sea. Checking the statistics of Sydney-Hobart race weather, it seems that the only thing you can count on is rough seas, tough winds, unexpected weather changes, and during the end of the race quite low temperatures both day and night. So, I will have to come prepared!

For sponsorship questions, email - it is also possible to donate right away to Swish 1232073575 

Here are some photos from Ocean Gem's previous races.