22 years in the making
On his 22nd attempt, South Australian yachtsman Geoff Boettcher has finally achieved his longheld dream, of winning the Cruising Yacht Club of Australia’s Rolex Sydney Hobart Yacht Race overall.
In being announced the overall winner at 12.00pm today, Boettcher’s Secret Men’s Business 3.5 becomes the second consecutive South Australian yacht to win the race, and only one of five South Australians to win since the race’s inception in 1945.
Boettcher and his crew, including former America’s Cup navigator Steve 'Reggie' Kemp, realised late last evening that their chances of winning the coveted Tattersall’s Cup was increasing as the night wore on. That’s when the nervous pacing began over a few well-earned drinks.
“It was hard trying to sleep last night,” admitted ‘Boettch’ early this morning as he waited to hear that the NSW yacht Victoire was out of the picture and finally that Peter Moseley’s Local Hero, also from NSW, had failed to finish in time to beat Boettcher and his crew.
“It was spooky last night not being sure whether we’d won or not. There was a bit of anxiety. Today’s confirmation means I can comprehend it now,” he said.
The humorous 64 year-old was in good form aboard his yacht today. “It took me 22 years to win this race - so I’m glad it’s finally happened – I’m running out of runway,” he said referring to his age.
Of the race itself, Boettcher told: “We had to take our foot off the peddle a bit in Bass Strait, but we pushed the boat and crew to the limit; you have to if you want to win. We experienced 50 knots, choppy seas and big waves – sometimes it was a challenge just getting on deck!”
The supermarket owner put his win partially down to: “competing against the big boys in the Eastern States,” referring to the grand prix yachts in NSW and Victoria. “It’s made us better at what we do,” he said.
In 2001 Boettcher’s yacht was dismasted during his 14th Rolex Sydney Hobart and over the years he has suffered his fair share of breakages, resulting in disappointment.
In fact, Boettcher wore the moniker 'Mayor of Eden' for some years, as he spent more time there after retiring from the race, than he ever did in Hobart, finally losing the tag in 2004 when he finished the race with a former yacht.
The tide turned when his latest yacht, Secret Men’s Business 3, from designers Reichel/Pugh, underwent a rebuild and hull modification including lengthening after the designers admitted they had got it wrong. The RP47 became an RP51; her name was changed to Secret Men’s Business 3.5 and she went on to record numerous wins.
A strong ocean racing crew includes Tasmanian Julian Freeman, match racer Michael Dunstan and skiff world champion Euan McNicol, both from NSW, and South Australian James Paterson who is making a name for himself in the Olympic Finn dinghy class. Seven other South Australian crew made it a classic win for the state.
Navigator Steve Kemp said the monkey was finally off Boettcher’s back. “22 years - it’s about time,” he said, pointing out the logistics and cost of getting the boat and crew to the Rolex Sydney Hobart start line each year. “It takes a lot of time and money – commitment,” Kemp said.
Boettcher was originally to fly home to Adelaide to celebrate New Year’s Eve with old friend and yachting celebrity Sir James Hardy. Instead, he’s excused himself in order to attend a number of presentations in Hobart.
Today, soon after the announcement that Secret Men’s Business 3.5 had won the Rolex Sydney Hobart, the victorious crew were handed the Tattersall’s Cup and Rolex Yacht-Master. Both will be re-presented tomorrow at Constitution Dock at 11am and finally, the official trophy presentation will be held at the Royal Yacht Club of Tasmania on January 1, 2011.
Previous South Australian winners are; Nerida (1950), Ingrid (1952), SAP Ausmaid (2000) and last year’s winner, Two True (Andrew Saies), which retired from this year’s race after suffering engine problems.