Sydney Hobart – Two Hobart winners stood in the way of overall Victory

Victoire turning south at the Heads
Rolex Sydney Hobart 2013 - Overnight there were just two boats still on the water that for a short while appeared could spoil the party for Darryl Hodgkinson’s Victoire, interestingly both previous race winners, the Travis Read skippered David 34 Illusion, the 1988 Sydney Hobart winner and Roger Hickman’s Farr 43 Wild Rose, originally Bob Oatley’s Wild Oats, which won the 1993 race under IOR.

But in the end the wind gods were on the side of Victoire, not the case for the boat in the last two races.

Darryl Hodgkinson's VICTOIRE, 2013 Rolex Sydney Hobart Yacht Race Overall Winner - Rolex Sydney to Hobart 2013
The canting keeled Cookson 50, which her previous British owner, Chris Bull, raced as Jazz, finished second overall in 2010, fourth overall in 2011 and come very close to an outright win in 2012 but she was beaten by a sleeping river. But this time the breeze stayed in.

It’s been a steady rise on the racing scene for the Sydney plastic surgeon who began campaigning a Sydney 38 called No Options in 2003, then moved to a Beneteau 44.7 Vivacite and then his Beneteau 45 Victoire before buying the Cookson 50.

Just two years ago, in December 2011, Hodgkinson was named the CYCA’s 2011 Ocean Racing Rookie of the Year. A year ago he was named Ocean Racer of the Year following many successes, including winning the Club’s Blue Water Point Score with his previous Victoire, a Beneteau 45.

Hodgkinson was beaming as he faced the media scrum: ‘I think this is the combination of a great campaign. It’s a personal victory. I have to share it and I love sharing it with all the sailors who did this race. I feel somewhat humbled to actually have won this event. It hasn’t properly set in yet.

'It’s an amazing achievement – and the people you gather around you – you believe in them and they believe in you. It’s also having the right equipment. Crossing the line in one piece – we did have a rather nasty Chinese gybe – I had a personal taste of the water,'

'This morning Katherine (his wife) was recounting how I came home and said I wanted to win this race. It can be a dangerous race, but the boat is so solid – and my crew – they are so good. I thought it would be a two-year program before I had a serious chance to win.'

'My philosophy was to buy something tried and tested. It’s a real machine, this boat. Cooksons knew what they were doing when they built it.'

The Victoire team

He praised tactician and strategist Sean Kirkjian and principal helmsman – a 17-time race veteran – 'He’s a wizard, who is just playing ‘ocean chess’ all the time'. As well he praised Danny McConville, who has prepared Hobart winners before, and said 'This boat was in marvellous condition before we left the dock. We had a fair bit of preparation, I’d say.'

Hodgkinson recounted the key moments in Victoire’s win, 'It was a fairly tough race. When we got that heavy north-easterly, there were moments when we had to believe in ourselves, and our yacht.

We knew this boat had won before, and so we let it run. We knew we were only going to win if we pressed really hard, and we couldn’t let our foot off the pedal.

And there were some moments when the foot was right down and it was like ‘oh, this is a ride’, and we were thrilled.
‘Of course it was part terror! At one point, we had a Chinese gybe – which was pretty scary – but amazingly we got the boat up and going, and it worked out.

'But we changed our sail plan after that, and were quite surprised with the change from the A4 (headsail) to A6, how we could still maintain the speed. So I think we learned on run, as it were, on that one.'

Secret Mens Business - Rolex Sydney Hobart Yacht Race 2010

A similar story to Geoff Boettcher’s Secret Mens Business 3.5’s 2010 Sydney Hobart victory when a ‘pedal to the metal’ hard run produced the overall win for the Richel-Pugh 49.

Generous as ever, Hodgkinson praised his opposition. 'Wild Rose, it was a waiting game – Roger is always a good competitor. Sam Haynes (who finished second overall) was always going to be hot competition.'

Asked how he thought the boat’s previous owner, Chris Bull might feel, ‘he said: 'Chris is a gentleman and has been so helpful. He said he would be very happy for me to win.'

Victoire won the race from Phil Simpfendorfer’s Victorian yacht Veloce, Celestial (Sam Haynes, NSW) and the German Ker 51 Varuna (Jens Kellinghusen). It also means another 'almost' for Victorian Bruce Taylor in Chutzpah, who finished fourth.