North Sails NEWS


Oldest Yacht to Race Sydney-Hobart Prepares for the Unexpected

For 75 years, the Rolex Sydney to Hobart Yacht Race has been a Boxing Day highlight for the sailing world. The race attracts a wide range of boats and sailors, from 30-footers sailed by family and friends to the 100’ Super Maxis with professional race crews. While the big boats tend to attract the most attention, we’ll also be cheering on Katwinchar, the oldest boat ever to compete in the race. 

Launched in 1904 at the Watney Brewery in England, the boat was a total wreck when Bill Barry-Cotter, a well-known Sydney boatbuilder, found her. Bill’s brother Kendall, who will skipper the yacht to Hobart, said the restoration took two years and over 10,000 man-hours to complete. “The intention was always to go to Hobart,” he adds.

To help this historic boat be competitive against more modern boats, Peter Antill from North Sails Sydney worked with Kendall and Sailing Master Michael Spies to design an inventory that would suit this classic. “The configuration is quite a bit different,” Kendall says. “You couldn’t just use modern technology, it had to be a mixture to suit this particular boat.”

The goal was “to try to get the best product we could for the boat at the time,” he continues. “So that was a combination of Peter and myself, going through and designing the sail plan and the types of sails that we wanted to use.”

Michael Spies says that the back and forth between skipper and sailmaker was really valuable. “Rather than telling us what we’re going to get, it’s been an open discussion.” He’s also looking forward to racing under both IRC and ORC. “Katwinchar is quite clearly the oldest boat to have ever done this historic race. The parity created by the IRC rule and the ORC rule gives us the opportunity, hopefully, to be competitive against the more modern boats.” 

Katwinchar will join the estimated 150-strong fleet at the start in Sydney Harbor on December 26th sporting her updated sail configuration, which features 3Di sails and a furling Code Zero. 

“I hadn’t had the opportunity to sail with Code Zeros before,” Kendall says. “It’s been a great learning curve to find out how efficient they are; actually, they’re brilliant.”

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