Caprice of Huon, Second or First in the 1972 Sydney to Hobart race
With a new handicap we knew we had a chance at winning the 1972 Sydney to Hobart race. We had sailed Caprice consistently from our previous Sydney Hobart in 1969 and competed very well in our domestic races out of Sydney Harbour in 1970 to 1972.
Below is an extract from the Cruising Yacht Club of Australia race program for the 1972 race written by Peter Campbell.
Caprice of Huon Sail No. 13
LOA 45ft 5in; LWL 31ft 5in; Beam 10ft 6in; Draft 6ft 6in.
After the Hobart of 1969 Caprice sailed up the Huon River to Port Huon and went through a retirement ceremony at the yard where she was built, 17 years previously. She is back again with a fat 15 years of age allowance under the CYC’s new handicapping system and must be a hot favourite for handicap honours. She will be hard driven by a top notch crew, led by Gordon Ingate, with Bill Manning, a long-time stalwart of Caprice’s being blooded in his new position of navigator.
Crew: Owner/skipper Gordon Ingate (4), Navigator Bill Manning (5), G. Ewing (5), L. Cremer (2), M. Walton, J. Robson-Scott (5), F. Johnson (4).
We started in a north easterly breeze building during the day from 10 to 25 knots. We had a quiet night with a light westerly and another north easterly on the second day. This race was unusual in that we were sailing in company with Taurus, Vittoria, Koomaloo and Polaris. In most other Sydney to Hobart races I had competed in we never saw a competitor after the first day. On this occasion all these boats were of very similar handicap and boat speed and sailed as a group almost within hailing distance.
Now on each Sydney to Hobart we were required to provide our position three times each day, called a sked. The radio relay ship took the position details and provided them to the race officials for safety and to the media for publicity. On board Caprice the navigator (that is me) had to draw a chart on graph paper and plot about 5 or 6 boats (our competitors) relative to our position for the skipper Gordon. The yachts in the radio sked were taken in alphabetical order, and as you can see Caprice is in front of the group of 5 I had to plot off Green Cape. Green Cape is 22 kilometres south of Eden in New South Wales and is at the entrance to Bass Strait.
The sked on our second morning took place in a 15 knot easterly at about 0800 hrs. I gave our position and took the positions of our competitors. In the days before GPS our positions were calculated by observation (that is the land position) or dead reckoning. In plotting our position I inadvertently had put an allowance for the south setting set (which commonly runs down the New South Wales coast in a southley direction) in a northerly direction. The result of this error was that, relative to our competitors position, I plotted our position 16 nautical miles behind them. I claim that this was done under a lot of pressure from you know who (a hint is GI).
Up on deck there was much waving and cheering coming from the other boats in our group. Gordon was not pleased, however we planned a redress for the next 4 skeds. The plan was to give our dead reckoning position plus 4 miles (times 4 skeds) to make up for my error. We listened to the ABC broadcast during this charade “and Caprice of Huon is flying through the fleet” “Caprice of Huon must have picked up a private breeze and is coming into contention for handicap honours”. There was much hilarity amongst our competitors with whom we were in close contact.
Our group of 5 boats were still in close contact as we approached the Iron Pot at the entrance to the Derwent River at 0500 hrs in a fading breeze. We were behind by about 200 metres of Taurus, Koomaloo, Vittoria and Polaris. The other yachts rounded the Iron Pot at the mouth of the Derwent River with 14 nautical miles to the finish. We were about 5 minutes behind them and the tide changed so we had to anchor. We attempted to round the point but to no avail. We were there for about 1 hour until the wind came in and we were under way. It was very frustrating. In the river the crew had about 4 sail changes to get the fastest time to the finish. We knew we had to finish by 11.40 am to beat American Eagle sailed by Ted Turner. In the end American Eagle beat us by 21 minutes. Of the boats at the Iron Pot, they beat us to the finish by, Polaris 63 minutes, Koomaloo 58 minutes, Taurus 20 minutes and Vittoria by 15 minutes. Had we not missed the tide at the Iron Pot we would have certainly beaten American Eagle.
That is not all of it. Gordon Marshall was the previous navigator on Caprice and was the official measurer for the race. He advised us a week later that American Eagle’s handicap rating for the race was in error. The boat had been given an age allowance of 3 years but should have been given an age allowance for only 2 years.
It was too late to fix it a week later. Talk about what could have been.
The Governor of Tasmania invited the skipper and navigator of the yachtswho came first and second to lunch at Government House while we were in Tasmania. At the lunch were Ted Turner and his navigator, Gordon Ingate and myself, the Commodores and wives of the Cruising Yacht Club of Australia and the Royal Yacht Club of Tasmania and the Governor and his wife plus some others I cannot remember. I was sat next to the Governor’saide who was in a number one green military uniform. I asked about the uniform and it turned out to be for an army unit from Belfast UK. He explained he was serving in Northern Ireland which was in the middle of “the troubles” at the time. What a transfer from Belfast to Hobart, he must have been the luckiest man in the British Army in 1972.
Corrected Time (D-H-S) 3-2-15.49
Line Honours (D-H-S) 3-4-42.39
CAPRICE OF HUON
Corrected Time (D-H-S) 3-2-36.49
Line Honours (D-H-S) 4-0-31.29
WINNING MARGIN 21minutes