It was never going to be anything but emotionally charged when Sam Haynes and his Celestial crew were crowned overall winners of the Rolex Sydney Hobart Yacht Race.
Haynes and some of the same crew lost the race win last year after being penalised for an infraction of the rules, but accepted second place gracefully.
On winning the Cruising Yacht Club of Australia’s 628 nautical mile race, Haynes said, “I’m screaming loud and proud. It means everything, everything, especially after last year. We put together a program targeting this race.
“It’s like an elation – it’s huge for me and the crew. I can’t believe it; it’s a bit of a life changer,” an excited Haynes said.
“This boat is a weapon. It’s up there with the best 52 foot IRC boats in the world.
“It was hard waiting (to be told one way or the other). It was extremely difficult waiting. We couldn’t really enjoy the experience until now. I’m so proud of the whole background – our program – and to sail against the best IRC fleet I’ve sailed in, ever.
“It was an outpouring of emotion when we finally got the result. We are so proud of our team.”
This year, the competition was stiffer than ever with two top international TP52s in Caro, the Max Klink-skippered 2021-launched TP52, and Chris Sheehan’s Warrior Won from the US. Those two finished third and fourth respectively, behind Haynes’ TP52.
The Aussie competition was hot too, especially Gweilo, which has been sailing up a storm these past two seasons. Matt Donald and Chris Townsend’s boat ultimately placed second overall. In all, there were a record 12 TP52s in the race playing cat and mouse, not to mention the rest of the field.
Maybe it was the competition from these TP52s driving each other hard, maybe it was the need to avenge what he lost last year, but Haynes was at the top of the leaderboard for the overall win from the moment the fleet of 109 left Sydney Heads, pointing south to Hobart.
“I knew they (Warrior Won, Caro and Gweilo) were all over us at the top of the division. It was ‘their turn our turn’ in areas of the current,” he said.
“Warrior Won and us were close together for so long – 4 nautical miles separated us at some points – we could see each other. We were match racing the whole way before we got to Tasman Island.”
Haynes acknowledged the TP52s, “it was a great fleet of them, pushing each other the whole time.”
The Sydney sailor spoke of his passion for the sport of sailing: “Being involved in sailing, in ocean racing and to win the race for the Tattersall Cup is the ultimate. I’m from Sydney, where I am Vice Commodore of the Cruising Yacht Club of Australia and I have a close relationship with them and our sponsor, Rolex.
“I nearly gave it all away last year though…. then I went and did some racing overseas on my J/70 and came back and discussed it with the crew and we decided to give it another go.”
On his crew, Haynes said, “I can’t speak more highly of them. This time Rob Greenhalgh (a British sailor) and Josh Junior (New Zealand) joined us,” he said of the highly respected yachtsmen. “Lindsay Stead, Luke Payne and Frank O’Leary were good new additions this year too.”
Those who were on Celestial last year and joined Haynes, a Sydney veterinarian, again this year, were: David Chapman, Wulf Wilkens, Callum Cecil, Lewis Brake, Harry West, James Dagge, Jack Macartney, Malcolm Parker and Tasmanian yachtsman, Troy Grafton.
After docking in Hobart yesterday, Haynes said while he waited for confirmation of his win, “we’ll do the usual,” which is to pay a visit to Customs House Hotel, when every yachtie worth their salt goes. “And I’ll do lots of tracker watching,” he said, with a laugh.
He will have worn out the refresh button waiting.
Haynes has an illustrious association with this race and other majors at the CYCA. In 2018, he sailed his former Celestial, to 17th overall in the Rolex Sydney Hobart (second best placed TP52 to Ichi Ban), to finish the Audi Centre Sydney Blue Water Pointscore (BWPS) second to Ichi Ban.
In 2017, he placed ninth overall in the Rolex Sydney Hobart to be runner-up in the BWPS. In 2016, he was 16th for a divisional third, and in 2015 placed 29th for divisional third.
Before that, with his Rogers 46, also named Celestial, Haynes was second in the 2012 BWPS and won all three (IRC/ORCi/PHS) crowns in the 2014 BWPS – one of the closest on record – including winning the 2014 Sydney Gold Coast race. He placed 11th overall for second in Division 2 in the 2014 Hobart, following on from third overall in the 2013 race.
These impressive results and persistence have culminated in winning the 2022 Rolex Sydney Hobart.