Owners and crews, friends and family, gathered on the Royal Yacht Club of Tasmania lawn in warm sunshine on New Year's Day for the presentation of trophies for the 2009 Rolex Sydney Hobart Yacht Race.
They saw the trophies more widely distributed than usual with the race's varying wind patterns suiting the smaller boats in all handicap divisions.
The winds alternated between calms and light air to strong 25-35 knot headwinds and tailwinds. And there were opportunities to gain a push south in two major eddies of the East Australian Current, which extended into Bass Strait, between the Australian mainland and Tasmania, further than usual.
At different stages of the 628 nautical mile race, IRC overall handicap leaders varied throughout the fleet, between one of the biggest yachts, the Reichel and Pugh 100 maxi Alfa Romeo (Neville Crichton) and the smallest, Zephyr Hamilton Elevators (James Connell), a Sea Nymph 33.
Zephyr was still poised to win at Tasman Island 40 miles from the finish until early morning calms in Storm Bay ended her chances. She finished seventh overall on IRC.
In the end, smaller production yachts topped the podium. Two of the new Farr-designed Beneteau First 40s, Two True (Andrew Saies) and Wicked (Mike Welsh) placed first and second.
Third and fourth were two of the Murray, Burns & Dovell Sydney 38 one-designs, Next (Ian Mason and Jay Krehbiel), and Swish (Steven Proud).
These first four boats followed a similar strategy; heading well out to sea from the start, staying mainly east of the rhumb line and chasing the current eddies. And they pushed each other hard, racing one-design.
The two Sydney 38s ended their 628nm match race with a gybing duel over the last 11 miles in the River Derwent. Next crossed half a boat length in front to win the Sydney 38 One Design division ahead of Swish, but placed fourth behind Swish on IRC overall because she has a slightly higher IRC overall handicap for carrying a masthead spinnaker.
Next's skipper Ian Mason said: "It was a very tough race. It was just match-racing for nearly 400 miles with Swish. We were never more than about 800 metres apart and then she beat us by five seconds."
Two True also won the ORCi division, introduced into the race for the first time this year in response to a growing push among Australian owners for a more measurement-based, transparent rule than IRC.
Ragamuffin's veteran skipper Syd Fischer, strongly behind the move towards ORCi was surprised and gratified that 33 boats in the 100-boat fleet, raced under ORCi as well as IRC. "I think it will be a great rule because it's fully measured, transparent and we don't have anyone's input into it other than the measurements," he said.
"It's fair. I can't stand anything that isn't fair because people spend a lot of money on these boats. If you look around the world there's billions of dollars spent on them and they've come into what's a club rule."
At the presentation, Matt Allen, Commodore of the race organizer, Cruising Yacht Club of Australia, who sailed his first Hobart race in 1976 and the 21st this year on his own modified Volvo 70 Ichi Ban, said: "The race to Hobart has certainly captured my imagination. Now it has never been in better health and I'm convinced that the best years are ahead."
Matteo Mazzanti from Rolex SA presented overall winning skipper Andrew Saies from Two True with a Rolex Yacht-Master timepiece, and the Tatersall's Cup for the overall handicap winner in IRC.
Sailes, sailing in his fifth Rolex Sydney Hobart, but on a brand-new boat this year, was clearly touched and said, "You can't win without a great boat, a great team and an ounce of Hobart luck….This is an iconic race, if you're a yachtie in Australia, you want to win this race."
Alfa Romeo, Neville Crichton, (NZL), Reichel Pugh 100
1. Two True, Andrew Saies (AUS), Beneteau First 40
2. Wicked, Mark and Mike Welsh (AUS), Beneteau First 40
3. Next, Ian Mason (AUS), Sydney 38
IRC Div 0: Alfa Romeo, Neville Crichton, (NZL), Reichel Pugh 100
IRC Div 1: Ran, Niklas Zennstrom, (GBR), Judel-Vrolijk 72
IRC Div 2: Tow Truck, Anthony Paterson (AUS), Ker 11.3
IRC Div 3: Next, Ian Mason (AUS), Sydney 38
IRC Div 4: Two True, Andrew Saies (AUS), Beneteau First 40
PHS Div 1: Wasabi, Bruce McKay, (AUS), Sayer 12
PHS Div 2: She, Peter Rodgers, (AUS), Olsen 40 MOD
Sydney 38: Swish, Steven Proud, (AUS), Sydney 38
ORCi: Two True, Andrew Saies (AUS), Beneteau First 40
Cruising: Holy Cow!, John Clinton (AUS), Oceanis 50
For full results, go to www.rolexsydneyhobart.com
The 66th edition of the Rolex Sydney Hobart will start at 13:0 AEDT on 26 December 2010.