Bob Steel's TP52 Quest takes overall handicap win. Johno Fullerton reports

Bob Steel’s TP52 has won the Tattersalls Trophy for the overall handicap winner of the 2008 Rolex Sydney Hobart. Finishing less than five hours after line honours winner Wild Oats XI, it’s the second time Steel has won the trophy, the last in 2002.

“I am humble about the double. To win it twice is sensational, the fight was pretty daunting,” said Steel.

His third and latest Quest is a TP52, with which he had already won the 2008 Skandia Geelong Week and finished second in the 2008 Audi Sydney Gold Coast Race.

“This has been one of the best and strongest fleets in a Hobart ever. To be in front of this fleet and to take home this amazing trophy and my second Rolex makes me proud of the crew and the boat.”

Quest was the first of a batch of 50 footers that had virtually been fleet racing all the way. The lead changed hands several times but as sailing master Michael Green explained,

Quest’s winning break from the other TP52s and similarly sized fast boats like Ray Roberts’ Cookson 50 Quantum Racing and Geoff Ross’ Reichel Pugh Yendys, came on the first night when she gybed away from the pack and headed back towards the New South Wales coast.

“We’d been tracking the current, trying to make a decision between wind and current,” said Green, describing the critical moment. “When the latest GRIB (computer generated forecast files) came through we realised there was going to be wind inside us so we decided to take the option of going down the edge of the eddy and into more wind, where earlier the GRIB had said there was going to be no wind. We gybed back in, shot down the eddy and once we got down the eddy we came back out.”

Green estimated that when Quest gybed back across the line of the other fifty-footers, she was in front by four miles. “I think the current made a knot of difference in the four hours.” It may not sound much, but the tightness of the finishing times between the TP52s, four finished within forty-five minutes of each other, shows how crucial the smallest gain was to the eventual result.

Quest held a similar lead over her nearest rival, Cougar II, Alan Whiteley’s TP52 from Melbourne, at Tasman Light. Steel then anxiously faced a northwesterly gusting over 40 knots in Storm Bay, for the last upwind 40 nm of the race.

Green went on to explain that it had not all been plain sailing describing a gust of 48 knots that hit Quest in the Derwent River, “we had a 15-second warning that it was going to hit,” said Green. “We ripped the main and had to nurse that to the finish.”

Overall Handicap Result
1. Quest, Bob Steel TP52
2. Cougar II, Alan Whiteley TP52
3. Wot Now, Graeme Wood TP52


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