But it was a desperately close finish!
Quest arrived in Hobart at 9:03am on Sunday morning, and then watched as strong northerly winds pushed the back of the fleet closer to Hobart. By this morning’s sked it was clear that this would be a cliff-hanger. Jim Dunstan’s Zeus 11 needed to average five knots to get to Hobart by 10:08 am, and if she did, she would win.
With twenty minutes to go it looked as though Zeus II was in with a chance, but the wind was flukey. After 630 miles, Zeus 11 was less than half a mile from the finish line when time ran out. They were to finish 8 minutes later.
Quest has enjoyed considerable success in club and bluewater sailing since being launched in 1997 and optimised in the last 18 months.
This revitalised champion ocean racing yacht won the Sydney to Mooloolaba Race earlier in the year. The crew has more than 130 Hobarts between them and a string of top results. The boat has also represented Australia in the Kenwood Cup and the Admiral’s Cup.
Bob Steel, competing in his 16th Sydney Hobart Race, thought it was all over at midnight last night. “I pulled down the battle flag and skulked off to bed quietly thinking it was all over but this morning my spies told me Zeus II was still in the river,” Bob said.
“Winning the Hobart Race was our Number one aim for the year and our second aim is to win the Cruising Yacht Club of Australia Bluewater Pointscore, which we are currently leading. Having placed second twice in this race, this is the pinnacle of my 35 year yachting career.
“It is fitting that Sir Edmund Hillary started the Rolex Race on Boxing Day because this is my little Everest,” he said.
Zeus 11 skipper Jim Dunstan, who won the race in 1981 in the same boat, can only ponder on what might have been. This was Dunstan’s 25th race and Zeus 11’s eleventh and final race to Hobart. Naturally, in the closing stages of the race, it was the sentimental favourite.
“At the Iron Pot we thought we were in with a chance. The south easterly had kicked in and we were making good time, but then the wind faded,” Dunstan said. “It picked up again near the finish line but by then it was too late. If it had come 15 minutes earlier we would have won.”
Still, Dunstan was philosophical. “It was a very pleasing result. Good luck to Quest. Second is better than third and better than 57th.”
The last yacht, Alex Whitworth’s Berrimilla, is due to finish at lunchtime today (local time)