Ichi Ban wins at Rolex Sydney Hobart
Published: Tuesday, 02 January 2018
Matt Allen’s Ichi Ban has been confirmed as the overall winner of the 2017 Rolex Sydney Hobart Race.
Victory was celebrated at the dockside prizegiving, where Allen and his crew received the Rolex timepiece and Tattersall Cup.
A winner of the race back in 1983, as crew on Challenge II, this is Allen’s first taste of success as an owner and skipper. Allen has come close before, including last year when the Derwent arguably robbed him and his crew.
“Winning this race is a dream for us all,” said Allen, who detailed their preparations. “We built a fast TP52 hull, strengthening and waterproofing it for offshore racing and the rigorous conditions of the Rolex Sydney Hobart. We took the rig from our old boat, incorporated the latest technology and combined it with the most amazing crew I have ever sailed with.”
“We had to push the boat all the time,” he explained. “You are not going to win this race without pushing and the crew did just the most incredible effort, from the judgement calls by Gordon Maguire and Will Oxley to the guys driving the boat. The crew left nothing on the table, they worked for each other and were inspirational.”
The race was not without issues. Sails were damaged and bodies bruised in the hard, downwind driving conditions of the second day.
Maguire on his 17th race was quick to recognise the crew’s contribution: “It was not the boat that won us the race and it wasn’t good fortune. We won it through sheer hard work and effort.”
Races can often be won and lost by decisions over when to press and when to pull back. In Ichi Ban’s case, there was little of the latter. There was no room. “It was everything or nothing,” according to Maguire, who has won the race twice before.
“There was no point in not pushing 110 per cent on the December 27, because that was where the race would be decided. A point came where we said ‘stuff it’, forget the sails, just keep going. If it breaks we are out, if we don’t push we are out.”
Navigator, Oxley, also emphasised the significance of human component in this race: “We’ve learnt a lot over the years and invested effort in making sure things function in all conditions. That allowed us to get the information we needed to make the correct decisions. But in this race, the most important element was the guys on deck, driving the boat and trimming. Those guys really won us this race.”
Bob Steel, the two-time winner of the Rolex Sydney Hobart, whose boat Quest posed the biggest threat to Ichi Ban, eventually finishing second overall, said: “The downhill conditions suited our boat, but it was hard work. You had to concentrate 24/7. It was physically very challenging. The guys on the winches grinding the spinnaker and the main in and out needed rotating every 10, 15 minutes to avoid complete exhaustion.”
The threat to the boat in such conditions can be severe, as Steel agreed: “As every puff comes through, you risk being knocked down and your race being over. You can completely wipe a boat out accidentally gybing at 30 knots.”
John Markos, Commodore of race organiser the Cruising Yacht Club of Australia (CYCA), commented on Matt Allen’s success: “Matt’s engagement in sailing and this race is total. As an administrator, he is on the board of the CYCA and is a past Commodore; he is President of Australian Sailing and is on the board of the Australian Olympic Committee. This is his 28th race. it has been a long time coming and we couldn’t be happier.”
Maguire commented: “Winning this race is a life experience. To do so once is amazing. The second time, it doesn’t diminish. Each race is so individual.
“The battle to win the trophy becomes its own entity and each medal has its own story, its own memories. This will probably be my most memorable because everyone on the boat wanted it so much. There wasn’t a quitter among us. Everyone backed everyone.”