Biddy Badenach raring for start of 2012 Rolex Sydney Hobart Yacht

James and Biddy (Robert) Badenach on the dock in Hobart
Bruce Montgomery
Robert ‘Biddy’ Badenach has been an avid follower of the Rolex Sydney Hobart Yacht race and there won’t be any difference this year as the former Royal Yacht Club of Tasmania commodore and his family look forward to pulsating races in one of the world’s most prestigious sailing event in Australian waters.

Robert ‘Biddy’ Badenach, a past Royal Yacht Club of Tasmania commodore, co-ordinates all that happens at the finish of the Cruising Yacht Club of Australia’s Rolex Sydney Hobart Yacht Race – from the finishing box on Castray Esplanade to the prizegiving at the Club in Sandy Bay.

Biddy (he has carried the nickname ever since a kid over the back fence noted his penchant for his Aunt Biddy’s tarts and pastries – ‘you’re nothing but a biddy yourself', the kid said) is a lawyer by trade, the former senior partner at the Hobart firm Murdoch Clarke, and a principal race officer by practice. So the natural order for Biddy is to ensure the rules are adhered to, that the law prevails.

Biddy has also been a football umpire. His name stands in the record books of the Tasmanian Football League. Back in 1980 at Hobart’s Queenborough Oval, a cove from New Norfolk, a player, disagreed with one of his decisions and had a go at him. The player was given a 51-match suspension for 'kneeing, abusing and attempting to trip central umpire Robert ‘Biddy’ Badenach'.

The suspension was later reduced to 40 matches, but it remains a TFL record.

Biddy was the race director for the 1998 race with the Cruising Yacht Club of Australia’s Phil Thompson. In the aftermath of the ‘98 race review, there is now just one race director and one finish co-ordinator.

Biddy started sailing at 13 in International Cadets and then moved to Rainbows, Lightweight Sharpies, Dragons, and Diamonds. Son James followed a similar course and now he and Biddy’s son-in-law, James Polson, will be aboard the TP52 Calm from Victoria in this year’s race.

James Badenach is a partner with Ernst and Young in Hong Kong and Polson runs Australian Independent Diamond Drillers, also based in Hong Kong. Polson grew up at Burnie, sailing sabots, James Badenach sailed optimists, international cadets and sharpies out of the Sandy Bay Sailing Club.

Two years ago both were aboard Calm with the boat’s co-owner, Jason Van Der Slot. In 2011 Van Der Slot engaged Ian ‘Barney’ Walker and Richard Grimes; this year the crew also includes Tim Burnell, who sailed with Mike Slade on the British super maxi Leopard. They want to give it a proper shake this year.

A few weeks ago, James Badenach flew from Hong Kong to do the Melbourne-Stanley Race and then flew back. On Christmas Day, he will leave Auckland at 4.00pm to make the 1.00pm Boxing Day start of the Rolex Sydney Hobart Race in Sydney, after spending Christmas with his in-laws in New Zealand. James Polson will take the 6am flight from Hobart.

For Biddy, it means a special interest this year: 'I’ll be following them closely,' he says.

'Every year something unfolds. I want to see everyone get to Hobart - it seldom happens.'

Biddy says the Rolex Sydney Hobart puts Tasmania on the map.

'It is great for the economy. It is good for the human interaction. I like the drama and mystique of the race.

'I like being involved. I’m 68; maybe when I’m 70 I’ll reassess what I do, but you get to meet so many interesting people.

'Yachties are a special breed; they are good people.'

So don’t knee Biddy, abuse him or try to trip him up.

Rolex Sydney Hobart Yacht Race website