Kangaroo Island sailors do battle in Sydney to Hobart

HOBART BOUND: The yacht Bowline and its crew skippered by Ian Roberts heads out of the Sydney Heads on Day 1 heading down to Hobart. Photo: Rolex | Andrea Francolini
HOBART BOUND: The yacht Bowline and its crew skippered by Ian Roberts heads out of the Sydney Heads on Day 1 heading down to Hobart. Photo: Rolex | Andrea Francolini

Two sailors with Kangaroo Island connections tackled the tough conditions in the 2021 Sydney to Hobart yacht race.

Ian Roberts last sailed in the epic race back in 1981 as a crewman for the late Jamie Cowell on the 34-foot Morning Hustler.

This year he entered his recently purchased yacht Bowline, finishing a respectable 33rd for line honours and sixth in his division - Div. 3 IROC.

The other Kangaroo Island connection was Bay of Shoals winery owner and veteran campaigner John Willoughby, whose eighth race ended on the first night in dramatic fashion, but more on that later.

Started on Kingscote beach

Adelaide barrister Ian Roberts grew up on KI and learned to sail off the beach at the Kangaroo Island Yacht Club at Kingscote.

"I started in boats in the yacht club and I would like to think anyone at the club would be able to sail in the race if they wanted ," he said. "If you have the desire, you can do it."

Ian back in March acquired his latest yacht, a Beneteau 44.7, renaming her Bowline.

Now the vice commodore of the Royal South Australian Yacht Squadron intends to campaign her offshore extensively throughout South Australia to assist the promotion of offshore sailing both locally and nationally.

A component of the crew will be women and beginners, in order to support of the sport of yacht racing.

In November, Ian and his crew on Bowline won the 200 nautical mile Haystack Island Race, a good precursor for the Hobart.

Ian described the conditions for this year's Sydney to Hobart as "horrible" with about half of competitors retiring.

"The first 48 hours were very hard going but to balance it out it became a lot calmer and we had a great finish sailing down the east coast," he said.

Bowline and its crew of 10 from Adelaide crossed the finish line at 7.30pm on New Years Eve, with an appreciative crowd on hand.

His brother Greg Roberts from American River has joined the crew for the leisurely sail back to Adelaide, stopping at stunning locations on the Tasmanian west coast including Strahan and Gordon River.

KI YACHT: The Enchantress belonging to John Willoughby pictured on Day 1 of this year's epic race before it ran into trouble in the darkness. Photo: Rolex | Andrea Francolini

KI YACHT: The Enchantress belonging to John Willoughby pictured on Day 1 of this year's epic race before it ran into trouble in the darkness. Photo: Rolex | Andrea Francolini

Eighth attempt for race veteran

John Willoughby and his crew meanwhile had an eventful race this year, his eighth race.

He too is now making his way back to South Australia, having rounded the bottom of Tasmania, stopping in King Island and his yacht Enchantress should be back at Kingscote by the middle of the week.

A total electrical system failure occurred right in the middle of a sail change in the darkness of the first night as storm front hit.

This resulted in sails being ripped and the reefing line broken.

Unable to secure a replacement sail back in Sydney, he reluctantly made the call to pull out of the race, although the crew did sail her down to Hobart three days later to pick up gear and start the sail back to SA.

The journey actually began a year prior, when he and his crew sailed Enchantress all the way to Sydney from South Australia, only to discover the 2020 race had been cancelled two minutes before their arrival.

Not able to get the boat home in time due to COVID lockdowns, Enchantress had for the past year been in Queensland being raced by some of the crew.

The Muirhead 11 has contested six Sydney Hobarts and finishing the race 98th overall in 2019.

She placed 20th for fourth in Division 4 in 2016, 23rd in 2015 and 19th overall, third in the Veterans 30 Year and fourth in the Veterans 20 Year in 2014.

In 2012, her first Hobart, she was 19th for third in Division 4.

This lovely red hulled home-designed and home-built timber boat has raced and cruised since launched in 1983, including about 30 Adelaide to Port Lincoln races.

When we spoke to him as he sailed along the Victoria coast, he said a highlight was the southern coast of Tasmania, including Port Davey.

"All up its been about 3000 miles from Brisbane to Sydney to Hobart and now back to South Australia," John said.

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