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After a hectic lead-in to the Sydney to Hobart start, Quikpoint Azzurro is ready to race

“It takes months to get aboat ready for this race”: Quickpoint Azzurro skipper Shane Kearns. Photo: Peter Rae

The past days have been really hectic on the 34-footer Quikpoint Azzurro – the former Shenandoah II that is one of the smallest boats in the Sydney to Hobart.

Thousands of hours and dollars have been spent in restoring her for Friday’s Boxing Day start on Sydney Harbour. She has new sails, a new engine, mast and rigging, and has also undergone a paint job, and had latest electronic navigation and weather aids fitted.

We have also had to finish many last-minute jobs like getting our final two MacDiarmid jibs delivered, and cooking meals, for which I thank my wife Lorraine.

The paperwork has been pretty overwhelming. It takes months to get a boat ready for this race. But on the plus side, every box is ticked.

Nothing has been left to chance or luck like the bad old days when they used to use a Shell road map to get to Tasmania.

Our first mission is to exit the Heads in one piece. That is much more difficult for the small boats as the spectator fleet powers off after the maxis and the harbour becomes a washing machine for us.  

The smaller boats should start first because the confused seas and flukey winds left by the big boats is quite a disadvantage.

We’ll go real hard until about 6pm and, depending on the weather, then settle into our watches, with three on deck and three down in bunks, sleeping on the high side to keep the boat sailing fast.

We will do three-hour watches at night and sometimes swap to four-hour “tricks” during the day to rotate the night watches if the weather is good.

Over four days and with only have six on board, you have to get as much sleep as you can before it gets really cold and rough. Any sail change means most hands on deck, so you don’t get more than a couple of hours’ sleep at a time.

It’s important to get the skills balanced on each watch, too. As all our crew are boat-owners, we are pretty good in steering, which can be rare in this race.

We have three top-class bowmen who could jump on any boat in the race and excel. While Felicity Nelson, in her 20th Hobart race, has done well over 60 Category one or two ocean races.

Unlike the big boats, we all have to steer, change sails, and do a bit of trimming and cooking.  

This is where the big boats have a real advantage. They have so many specialists, such as navigators, who can spend hours down below on their laptops working out tactics and weather routing. They can also afford to lose a few to seasickness, which we can’t.

The first afternoon and night looks like being pretty rough and windy, from the south, which suits us a bit.

The slower the race is over the first few days the more chance the little boats have, especially if the winds turn to the north after two days and we get a spinnaker to Tassie and the big boats are already in dock.

That’s the way the slower boats can win on handicap.

All in all, we are quietly confident … if we get the weather that suits.

Shane Kearns is the owner and skipper of Quikpoint Azzurro*

*Read Shane Kearns’ Sydney to Hobart race diary every day.

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