For the first time in many years, Lake Macquarie sailor Tom Braidwood spent Boxing Day at home.
His impromptu Christmas break came about after the Cruising Yacht Club of Australia was forced to cancel the 2020 Rolex Sydney Hobart Yacht Race due to unprecedented pandemic restrictions in Australia.
After a difficult year for many, the sailing community had Boxing Day circled on their calendars as the day when the season returned to normalcy.
It was not to be, and many owners and crew were left high and dry when the Sydney to Hobart was cancelled a week out from the race.
A crew boss on the JV 62 Whisper, Tom Braidwood, oversaw a number of upgrades to the boat in order to get it ready for this year's Sydney to Hobart.
The work took a year to complete after the 2019 race.
"We decided that we need to shift weight back in the boat," Braidwood said.
"We got on to the designer Judel Vrolijk and asked how far we could shift the bulb back.
"For last year's Sydney to Hobart we shifted the bulb back about half a metre, which made a massive difference to the boat. It kept the bow up and allowed us to compete against the TP52s."
After a successful campaign in the 2019 Sydney to Hobart, owner David Griffith committed to making a new keel. The addition was 350mm deeper, allowing for a smaller bulb. Combined with installing lithium batteries, the refit allowed them to save 750 kilograms on the boat.
The project was a Newcastle affair, with many local businesses coming together to complete work on the 19-metre yacht.
Fabricating company T.W. Woods was charged with the welding work, under the guidance of crew member Jamie Woods.
Meanwhile, Newcastle engineering company Brent & Warburton did all the machining for the new keel.
"Guys from Newcastle and Lake Macquarie have a great reputation around the country," Braidwood said.
"Most of our crew come from a trade background, and sailors from the region have a great work ethic.
"They are prepared to get down and bail the bilge, clean the boat and do their bit.
"The goal of the Whisper program is to have passionate and committed sailors involved."
With a host of upgrades to the boat and good form heading into the race, the Whisper crew were confident they could match it with the lighter, faster TP52s, and were pushing for higher honours.
"Leading into the 2020 Sydney to Hobart, the boat was flying. We were really excited to race," Braidwood said.
In the Sydney to Hobart - like most things in life - timing is everything.
"As far as I'm concerned, there is only one race on the calendar that you really want to win, and that's the Sydney to Hobart," he said.
The Whisper team will now reassess their options. There are a number of regattas planned for the Australian summer, with eyes on the 2021 Transpac Yacht Race starting in California.
Jack O'Rourke is a contributor to Ocean Media
Boat Monster has introduced its first model to the market, the 35 Invincible catamaran. Appointed as the US brand's distributor for Australia and New Zealand earlier in the year, Boat Monster is now taking orders for the 35 model.
"We're particularly excited about the Invincible catamarans and believe there's a huge gap in the market here to fill," principal dealer Sam Wallrock said.
The 35 is a 10.9-metre twin hull fishing boat that provides a stable platform and expansive cockpit space for anglers. The 360-degree walk-around deck provides extra access for fishing, with ample under deck storage for equipment and catch.
After celebrating 40 years in business by debuting three new models in 2020, Gold Coast boatbuilder Riviera is looking to develop more releases in 2021, with the company announcing strong sales despite the global pandemic.
"With safety protocols in place since March, we were fortunate enough to be able to continue building motor yachts for delivery to new owners around the world and continue to support our owners," Riviera owner Rodney Longhurst said.
Riviera has revealed upgrades to its Belize 54 Daybridge, which will now be offered in a flybridge and hardtop design.
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