Completing the legendary 628 nautical mile Rolex Sydney Hobart race course in 3 days, 7 hours, 4 minutes and 43 seconds, Wild Rose arrived in Hobart on Monday evening, finishing with a corrected time that proved insurmountable for the yachts drifting through an abating breeze to Hobart.
Hickman acquired Wild Rose in 1991 from Bob Oatley, the owner of the all-conquering 100-foot Maxi Wild Oats XI. Two years later Hickman – along with co-owners Bruce Foye and Lance Peckman – won the race on the boat then called Wild Oats.
How fitting that on the year Oatley, who sailed the great race three times with Hickman, witnessed his stellar Wild Oats XI crew make history with an eighth line honours success that Wild Rose claimed the race’s most significant prize. “Fantastic, wonderful, surreal, it hasn't sunk in,” said Hickman, a Hobart native. “I am so elated. Every sportsman old and young loves the feeling of competing and winning.”
Wild Rose, a 29-year old boat, is comprised of a 14-strong crew, including six female sailors as well as family members including Hickman’s sister Lisa, and brother Andrew, both for their first time. Passionate about the competition, by his own admission Hickman is a driven, fierce competitor. “The Rolex Sydney Hobart is something you’ve got to do, whether you say it’s the Everest of yachting, whether it’s the camaraderie, the challenge, or the solitude of being on the ocean. It’s wonderful so many people enjoy the race from the Maxis to the timber boats.”
Claiming victory in the 70th edition of the race clearly carries an extra satisfaction for Hickman, a keen student of the race’s history and 38-time competitor. “I am pleased to have done more than half of the 70 races; this year is a big milestone, it shows the creativity of the people seventy years ago, the enormous efforts that have gone in.”
What drives so many competitors to the Rolex Sydney Hobart is that the handicap system provides any boat theoretical chance of victory. Hickman and his skilled crew sailed the boat hard, to its full potential, and pushed relentlessly to maximise her speed. Nights at sea were short, resources deployed skilfully. “One of the things that can cause you problems in the Rolex Sydney Hobart is fatigue and sleep depravation. As skipper, owner and the one with the most anxiety about winning, losing, and safety, I didn't get much sleep, but I’ve got a great crew and slept when I needed.”
The fatigue is already forgotten as Hickman and his crew toast a historic Rolex Sydney Hobart success having received the Tattersall’s Cup and Rolex timepiece for etching their unique place in sailing history.
Across the finish line shortly after 15:00 AEDT today (30 December), after just over four days of racing, Southern Myth became the final yacht to complete the 2014 race. Out of 113 total starters, 103 boats finished and 14 retired.
Images: Carlo Borlenghi