Hobart, Australia (December 29, 2021) – The thoroughbreds that contend for line honors in the 2021 Rolex Sydney Hobart Yacht Race grab a lot of the headlines, with the 76th edition attracting three 100-footers for the 628nm course.
But nobody likes to get third of three, and that was the position for Seng Huang Lee’s SHK Scallywag 100. Skipper David Witt could not hide his frustration for again missing out on his first Line Honors.
Black Jack took Line Honors today at 1:37:17am. She crossed the Derwent River finish line in the time of 2 days, 12 hours, 37 minutes, 17 seconds.
Christian Beck’s LawConnect was second, finishing in 2 days, 15 hours, 11 minutes, 44 seconds. In third place was SHK Scallywag 100 in 2 days, 15 hours, 30 minutes, 52 seconds.
For Witt and his crew, it was a race that promised so much after the Sydney Harbour race start on Boxing Day, when they sailed SHK Scallywag 100 out of the Heads in first place.
But soon after SHK Scallywag 100 passed the two offshore marks, the boat suffered its first breakage – with the J2 foresail tack fitting – and was passed by LawConnect and Black Jack.
The race then became a series of mechanical issues for the 100 footer registered with the Royal Hong Kong Yacht Club. The one consolation was their ability to find speed nearer the end and challenge for second place.
After finishing in Hobart, Witt said: “The crew did an amazing job. We probably don’t deserve to have a 100-footer arrive here in the condition the boat ended up in after the first night.
“It’s a credit to the team they got here, that we got here, and that we were still in the race just before Tasman Light.
“On the other side, it’s really disappointing. We’ve been trying to win (Line Honors) in this race for a long time. A lot of money [has gone into it] and the sponsors have spent a lot of money on the boat.
“COVID has really bitten us on the arse, so to speak. I live in Hong Kong. I don’t live here. We’ve had to leave the boat in Australia and haven’t been able to prepare it as well as we would have liked. But the crew did a great job. The boat was fast enough. We just couldn’t keep it together.
“We broke a J2 tack coming out of the Harbor. We broke it again – those two times cost us 20 miles. Then we lost all the electronics and then we sailed three quarters of the race with no instruments at all. In a 100-footer, that’s a pretty difficult thing to do.
“Then the ‘PLC’ [Programmable Logic Controller] shut down. So, we couldn’t turn the winches. At one stage we were trying to hand wind the top of the winches.
“But ‘Scallywags’ never give up. To win your first Sydney Hobart, you have to finish. We finished. We just didn’t win. We lost between 40 and 50 miles because of breakages.”
Still, it won’t be long before Witt starts thinking about preparing for another tilt at the race.
First up was to share some race reflection over a few drinks with his crew, then a few days of R&R in Hobart with his wife Kim, after a hard year in which they came down with COVID.
“We had a pretty tough year this year,” Witt said. “We were stuck in the Philippines for 10 months and got COVID. It was a pretty serious thing for us.
“But I think the borders have just opened. So, we can get the boat back to Asia where we do all the [boat] maintenance and spend the next six months preparing to come back next year.
“For five years, we’ve been trying to win (Line Honors) on Scallywag. We’ve always been off the pace. But we certainly know that we have the team and that the boat’s good enough to win.”
The 628 nm Rolex Sydney Hobart Yacht Race will be the 76th edition in 2021 with a fleet of 88 boats that include three international entries. One hundred fifty seven teams set off in 2019 for the 75th edition, but since then the 2020 race was cancelled due to the pandemic and uncertainty has hovered this year.
From the start in Sydney Harbour, the fleet sails out into the Tasman Sea, down the south-east coast of mainland Australia, across Bass Strait (which divides the mainland from the island State of Tasmania), then down the east coast of Tasmania. At Tasman Island the fleet turns right into Storm Bay for the final sail up the Derwent River to the historic port city of Hobart.