Rolex Sydney Hobart Yacht Race 2019
Ichi Ban owner Matt Allen, a member of the Australian Olympic Committee and immediate past president of Australian Sailing, launched Ichi Ban in late December 2017. It has paid him back tenfold since. Some of the highlights include: 2017 – line and overall double in Newcastle Bass Island Race (its first race); won Rolex Sydney Hobart overall.
“To win again this year is just incredible,” Allen remarked, after sailing his 30th Sydney Hobart.
“We’ve spent so many years putting this boat together with two aims – winning the Sydney Hobart and winning the Blue Water Pointscore (BWPS),” the yachtsman said when told he had won both the race and the BWPS from Matt Donald and Chris Townsend’s Gweilo and Bob Steel and Craig Neil’s Quest – in both events.
In 2018, Allen skippered Ichi Ban to wins in the Australian Yachting Championships (won all eight races); Brisbane to Gladstone, Flinders Islet and Newcastle Bass Island and Bird Island races, and the CYCA’s Blue Water Pointscore. Ichi Ban was also named RORC Yacht of the Year.
In 2019, Ichi Ban’s wins included Division 1 of the Australian Yachting Championships; Adelaide Port Lincoln Race (also taking line honors), the Brisbane Hamilton Island, Flinders Islet and Newcastle Bass Island races. These performances landed the TP52 in the finals of the 2019 World Sailing Boat of the Year.
“I helped in the design process,” Allen said. “We put the right package together; the boat, crew and culture. We all just go and work and sail hard together; there are no egos on board. It’s a fulfilment of the sailing capability of the crew and the whole project.
“In 2016, I invited Gordon Maguire (a highly respected yachtsman) to have coffee with me and told him I was putting a new boat together. He has been with me since.
“Gordon, Anthony Merrington, Robert Greenhalgh, Dick Parker, Will (Oxley), James Paterson, Dav (Davin Conigrave) – his third win in nine races; Tim Sellars, Sean (O’Rourke), Charles Kosecki, James Corrie, Matiu (Te Hau), Ashley (Deeks) and Jeremy (Rae). A really amazing group of guys; experienced and calm.
“All the campaigns have really stepped up this year; people have tried to emulate what we have done. There’s no doubt about the competition in this race – in the 44 to 55 footers alone, it is incredible,” Allen said. “You wouldn’t find the competition we have in this race anywhere else in the world.
“We’ve had conditions to suit these boats the last few years in the Sydney Hobart. You go so fast in the north-easterlies; you go very fast. One year we’ll get southerlies again though.”
Allen has been blooded by some of legends in yachting. “I always remember my great sailing times with Lou Abrahams – he won two,” says Allen who raced with the great Victorian yachtsman when he won in 1983.
“I took some time out on that first afternoon to think about Lou and Trygve (Halvorsen), and others that I sailed with that meant something to me,” he said.
Reflecting on his and the crew’s win, Allen said, “It was right to the bitter end. We came around Tasman with a great lead on the others and then Gweilo came back within 2 miles. It would have been on – we would have had to match race them.
“We had to watch Quest (2008 winner, then 2015 winner as Balance, and runner-up to Ichi Ban in 2017 by just 10 minutes) too, and wondered how it would work out.”
Steel and Neil’s Quest was leading the race down the Tasmanian Coast, but found a parking lot that killed their chances.
“Envy Scooters is my previous TP52, and she was always there, sailing with us too,” said the yachtsman who thought the winners would come from the 60 footers down to as small as Daguet 3 (a Ker 46).
“We didn’t go upwind enough to open the door for the smaller boats. The closer we got to the finish, we thought the smaller boats would get shutdown. We were confident that if it came down to the TPs, we were in the box seat.”
In the end, TP52s claimed the top three places overall, with Ichi Ban first, Gweilo second and Quest third.
“We knew we had to beat Quest by over an hour to win,” Allen said of the yacht that has twice won the race and was looking good to win until they found a parking lot in Storm Bay,” Allen said.
“It was fast conditions on Friday night. They (Quest) had the pedal down and so did we.
We were always looking at Gweilo and my old boat, Envy Scooters (Barry Cuneo), too. They were always up to different things.
“We had our game plan. We didn’t alter it for them, but you always keep an eye on them. Once or twice we almost changed it, but decided against it.
“Ichi Ban is two years old now, so we know a lot more about it than we did in the beginning. There were a couple of things that we were still making up as we went along when we won in 2017.
“The boat is great. It’s a good all-round boat and doesn’t really have a weakness. You never know what conditions you are going to get, but we are confident that we can push her hard and we do push her hard. It’s a great, fun boat to sail.”
Ichi Ban will next head to the Australian Yachting Championships, to be hosted by the Rolex Sydney Hobart finishing partner Royal Yacht Club of Tasmania, starting in three days’ time.
“We’ll go there to try and defend the title we won last year. It will be predominantly the same crew as the Hobart minus a couple. Three days of sailing in some of the trickiest waters in Australia.”