Love & War - a 1973-built, timber Sparkman & Stephens 47 - wins Rolex Sydney Hobart 30/12/06

Love & War, the magnificent timber Sparkman & Stephens 47 skippered by Lindsay May, has been declared the official winner of the Tattersalls Cup, the trophy awarded to the winner of the race on IRC handicap. The Race Committee has calculated that none of the remaining yachts at sea have a reasonable prospect of finishing in time to beat her.

The win guarantees Love & War her own indelible page in Australian ocean racing history. She has now won three Hobart Races, in 1973, 1978 and now 2006. Only one other yacht has won the race three times; Trygve and Magnus Halvorsen’s legendary Freya took a hat trick of races in 1963, 1964 and 1965.

The win cements Love & War, built in 1973, as one of the great stayers of ocean racing with 33 years between her first win and this one.

Lindsay May has dedicated this race to Love & War’s previous owner, the late Peter Kurts, who had sailed the yacht to victory in 1974 and 1978, and who died in January 2005. The yacht is now owned by Peter’s son, Simon.

At one level it seems extraordinary that a fleet boasting some of the world’s most advanced, high tech racing boats should be pipped by a couple of oldies but, on reflection, no Rolex Sydney Hobart has been more suited to the boats built under the IOR rule, for this was a windward bash all the way. The only times spinnakers came out of their bags were for the dash down Sydney Harbour and the final 11 miles up the Derwent River, and many yachts didn’t even enjoy that luxury. The remaining 610 nautical miles were hard on the nose.

While the IRC ratings system encourages all-round boats, the IOR rules, favouring huge genoas, small mainsails and graceful tumblehome hulls resulted in boats that were magnificent to windward, and a handful downwind. In an all upwind race, if the handicappers were doing their job, the older, heavy upwind specialists were always going to be in with a chance.

“If it had been downwind we wouldn’t have been anywhere. IOR boats downwind just dig holes. Love & War does seven knots upwind and eight down (compared with the 20 plus knots a typical IRC boat can achieve off the wind). The speedo only goes to 12 knots. You might reach 12 knots going down a big wave, but by that time she is out of control. Upwind she is incredible though, and much faster than her rating,” said May.

“Southerly conditions were really important to us so I was watching the forecasts unfold for the last week and I’d been saying ‘we’re going to do this, we’re going to do this.’

“I just knew that this boat could win overall. It just had to be on the start line on a day when the conditions lasted for four days. And it had to be upwind.”

May, who has previously navigated for Peter Kurts on Love & War and on George Snow’s iconic maxi Brindabella, has a reputation for tactical nouse and cunning, and a profound belief in the virtues of a favourable current. He will go a long way off the rhumb line to find it and, this time, it won him the race.

“We have just had the most amazing race with current. On the first night we had four and a half knots,” he said. “If you looked at the current chart beforehand you could see where it was. We had two and a half knots of current down the Tassie coast. I have never, ever seen current like that before.”

Simon Kurts was unable to take part in the race this year so as Love & War approached the finish line May telephoned him to talk him over the last 400 metres. “I told him what was going on and I guess he and I choked up a little bit. He had difficulty talking. So we talked him over the line,” said May.”