Victoire Wins Sydney Hobart Race On Handicap

Celestial, which took 3rd place overall, in the 2013 Rolex Sydney to Hobart, rounding Tasman Island in blustery conditions on Sunday morning. Photo: Rolex/Daniel Forster

Sydney plastic surgeon Darryl Hodgkinson’s 50-foot yacht Victoire has won the 69th Rolex Sydney Hobart Yacht Race.

The Cruising Yacht Club of Australia (CYCA) declared Victoire winner of the Tattersall’s Cup this morning after the only remaining challenger at sea, Wild Rose, ran out of time at 7am today, still 26 nautical miles from the finish.

Light conditions overnight, in stark contrast to the gale-force south-westerly that battered the fleet the previous evening, delayed the progress of the tail end of the fleet.

A number of boats, in Storm Bay, just 40 miles from the finish last night, took all night to travel up the Derwent River and cross the line, including faceboat Sailors with DisABILITIES, who finished just after 7.30am today in 31st place on line honours.

Victoire is overall winner of the race, with Phil Simpfendorfer’s Victorian yacht Veloce 2nd and and Sam Haynes’ 46-footer, also from the CYCA, Celestial coming third. Wild Oats XI took line honours.

Hodgkinson has won the blue water classic in his first attempt, having bought the boat from Chris Bull, a British sailor who raced it as Jazz, finishing second overall in 2010, followed by two fourth places in the past two years.

The win is not that surprising, since two years ago, Hodgkinson was named the CYCA’s 2011 Ocean Racing Rookie of the Year, then just a year later, Ocean Racer of the Year.

Meanwhile, the crew aboard faceboat Sailors with DisABILITIES are celebrating surviving a rugged race after 3 days, 18 hours, 45 minutes at sea.

The 54-foot yacht, skippered by Kirk Watson, who is legally blind, included wheelchair-bound teenager Grace Kennedy, optometrist and Paralympian Albert Lee, who has no legs, and Robert Speedy and Tony Purkiss, who are both legally blind in the wake of the Bali bombings, crossed in 31st place on line honours.

SWD founder and the yacht’s navigator, David Pescud, said conditions were trying but he was impressed with the new skipper in his first Hobart race.

“Kirk did a fantastic job. He’s very good seaman and that came to the fore when it got tough and the way the team came around him and supported him impressed me too.”

The boat had some difficulties during the race, and as they prepared to cross Bass Strait, concerns about the propellor saw crew member Rob Sealey dive overboard at night with a torch in his mouth to check everything was ok.

And two headsails were damaged in Saturday night’s gale-force winds.

“We were getting bashed up and the crew had to change sails with a couple of feet of water smashing over the bow trying to wash them off the boat,” Pescud said.

He was full of praise for Kennedy, 19, in her first ocean race.

“Someone like gracie has a light in her eyes. She’s just special. I don’t know where people like that come from. We were in short, steep 4-to-5 metre seas and it was like smashing onto concrete and she just got on with it.”

Kennedy’s mum, Nicki, met her at the dock with a cold Boags beer. Pescud said the crew were now looking forward to “finding the bottom” of a bottle of rum.

SWD is still ‘seeking sponsorship for the boat’, which costs just $25, tax deductible, and donors will have their photo on the hull of the yacht for 12 months.

faceboat Sailors with disABILITIES enters Constitution Dock in Hobart after nearly 4 days at sea. Photo: Sandy Clark

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