‘It’s very sad’: Boat crews ditch Christmas celebrations to help race go ahead

‘It’s very sad’: Boat crews ditch Christmas celebrations to help race go ahead

12/21/2021

Sydney to Hobart crews have been forced to implement extra measures to avoid the famous race being cancelled for the second year in a row, as COVID-19 cases in the harbour city continue to soar.

Last year, the race was cancelled for the first time in its 75-year history just a week out from Boxing Day.

With the scars of 2020’s cancellation still raw, this year participants are taking no chances with the recent surge of cases in Sydney, with skippers banning their crews from attending bars and restaurants.

Some have implemented a COVID-19 bubble system for their crew members to train while others separated their crew altogether out of fear of their entire operation being put in jeopardy.

Owner and skipper of super maxi LawConnect, formerly known as InfoTrack, Christian Beck separated his crew last week in a bid to stop crew members catching the virus from one another.

“If one or two gets it we are okay, it just won’t work if a lot of us get it, so we decided to shut it down and stay apart,” he said.

Sydney to Hobart crews are taking extra precautions to ensure the famous race goes ahead, including Maverick’s Leeton Hulley and Rod Smallman.Credit:CYCA/Andrea Francolini

“There is a lot of things we would like to do that we can’t do and there’s not much we can do apart but we just don’t want to jeopardise it.”

Beck said his crew had cancelled Christmas celebrations in an effort to keep their campaign alive this year.

“We are still wearing masks, avoiding pubs and restaurants. It’s very sad. We’ve sacrificed a lot of things, unfortunately,” he said.

“I didn’t get any Christmas parties this year, just staying away from people outside the immediate bubble.”

Fellow line contender Mark Bradford, who is the skipper of the supermaxi Black Jack, has put his crew in a strict bubble with contact only with immediate household members to ensure they are able to train in the lead up to the race.

“We’ve been in a bubble this week together and testing every day. The really critical thing is to keep out of the general public really,” he said.

“This is our grand final. We are treating it very much like that, it’s pretty important to us.”

This year’s race will see a reduced fleet of 94 boats for its 76th year. There were 157 boats in 2019 before last year’s cancellation.

Commodore of race organisers the Cruising Yacht Club of Australia Noel Cornish said he was “very confident” the race would go ahead as planned.

Cornish said the Tasmania government was eager for the state to “open up” and said race organisers were doing everything in their power to ensure it would go ahead.

“We’re getting wonderful cooperation from both the NSW and Tasmania governments and I know all the crews and skippers are being very conscious. They’re keen to open up and work with us. They seem to be happy with all the plans we’ve put in place,” he said.

Cornish said he himself had postponed his family Christmas until January in an effort to minimise the risk.

“There are many of us who have cancelled Christmas family functions to limit our contact with COVID, so I am very confident we will be able to get the race away,” he said.

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