Hell Sal, its
just a race...
Three days out from the start of the
Rolex Sydney Hobart and all is relaxed on board Helsal IV.
Skipper Sally Smith is in the cockpit comfortably chatting with
family and a couple of the crew, a raging nor-easter is blocked
by the big spray dodger and awning.
A hundred yards away lies Helsal III. Her decks are an
obstacle course of tools, spare parts and other assorted bits
and pieces. Sallys brother, Rob, juggling phone calls from
suppliers and tradesmen is in surprisingly good spirits in the
chaos that surrounds him.
You should be wearing a hard hat here, he jokes in
welcome. Its more like a building site than
It sums up the two sides of a unique competition.
For the first time in the Rolex Sydney Hobarts 63 year
history, boats skippered by a brother and sister will be competing
head to head.
Others siblings have pistols at 60 paces, Sally jokes.
For us its yachts at 60 feet.
Sallys Helsal IV is surely the most comfortable boat going
to Hobart this year. The French built Dynamique 62 weighs
in at 26 tonnes. She is big, strong, with everything you
could want for a round the world cruise. Her galley would do
some household kitchens proud.
This is just a beautiful boat, Sally says proudly.
We are going to have a champagne cruise. She
is absolutely five star.
While most of the other race crews will have to limit the amount
of spare, dry clothing they can bring on board, and food is largely
of the mars bar and sandwiches variety in the never ending quest
to keep boat weight to a minimum, the Helsal IV crew can fill
their boots. In a 26 tonne yacht no amount of clothing,
freezers of food or bottles of red are going to dent the waterline
one inch. The only down side is that Rob has nicked Helsal
IVs chef, so Sally will have to do the cooking herself.
I didnt steal him. He wanted to come with us,
Rob protests. He was horrified when he saw the two
burner stove though.
It certainly is more spartan on Helsal
III, even making allowance for the bits and pieces strewn everywhere
in the mad dash to get her right by Boxing Day.
Rob and Sallys father, Dr Tony Fisher, originally owned
the 20 metre pocket maxi Helsal III in the late 80s and
early 90s, setting a race record for the Gosford to Lord
Howe Island Race and winning line honours and on handicap in
the Sydney Mooloolaba Race.
Because she had a centerboard she was always more a cruiser
racer, Rob says, and never that successful.
Tony and Rob took her to Bali for some charter work and sold
her there, but in 2000 she came back to Australia, sitting neglected
on a mooring for most of the time until they bought her back
in April last year. By this time she needed a complete
We decided to replace the centerboard with a fixed keel,
so that has meant completely rebuilding the interior of the boat,
We have pulled the rig out and extended the mast.
We carry the same sail are but it is much more user friendly
now. We are only half way through the whole job. We hadnt
had the sail up before we left for Sydney last week. We
didnt have steering or an engine until the day before.
I have spent so much on this refit I could have bought
a brand new TP52 for less money. But I couldnt take
the family out on the weekend on a TP52 and the sort of racing
I want to do with my mates, if I turned up with a TP52 Id
feel like an idiot.
Since buying Helsal III back Tony has got the racing bug back
again too. Instead of going south with his daughter on
the luxurious Helsal IV he will be roughing it with his son.
Sally doesnt mind. With the men out of the way she
gets to be skipper. Indeed she is the only woman skipper
What a fantastic position Ive been handed,
she says, it will look great on the resume wont it?
I want us all to have fun, have a safe trip, and be able to say
Ive done a Hobart. Thats a bucket list
thing isnt it? Something you have to do before you die.
Its my first chance to do the race. Rob doesnt
mind cruising with women on board, but he refuses to race with
one. Says its bad luck. Thats why I want
to beat him.
Rob says the rebuilt Helsal III is definitely faster than she
With the current forecast we should be doing 20s,
he says, and we only need to average 11 knots to do be
in Hobart in two days.
That will be at least two days earlier than his sister.
But beating Helsal III isnt what she is focused on.
Its beating her brother.
The fastest he has done the Rolex Sydney Hobart on Helsal
IV is four days, five hours and 29 minutes. I have to get
there in less time than that. When we beat him I want the
bottle of Bollinger we bet properly chilled.
Sally might be more comfortable than us, Rob responds,
but its 26 tonnes versus 14 and weve got a bigger
rig. For two days we will be in port while theyll
have 50 knots on the nose. I hope they enjoy their dinner
By Jim Gale/Rolex Sydney Hobart media team