Fun, overseas sailors back for great race

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The good vibes and a host of the world’s best sailors have brought the joy and the international feel of the Sydney Hobart back after a cheerless lead-up to last year’s race.

The 2022 fleet contains 126 overseas-based yachties compared to just seven foreign sailors last year, all of who were already in Australia.

There are eight overseas boats in this year’s race and crew from 21 nations including Antigua, Panama and Thailand.

The build-up to the 2021 event was dominated by COVID-19 restrictions.

Within 72 hours of the start, every competitor and race official had to take a COVID test in Sydney before being cleared to set off for Hobart.

There’s no restrictions this year and the usual buzz and hum around the Cruising Yacht Club of Australia has returned, with a particularly big crowd attending the Australian maxi championship presentations in early December.

“All the maxi crews got together after and there was good camaraderie and it was more like old times,” LawConnect sailing master and New Zealander Tony Mutter, one of the few foreign sailors to participate in the 2021 race, said.

Socialising and attending pre-Christmas festivities in the lead-up to last year’s race was banned across many boats, including supermaxi LawConnect, because of the fear COVID might decimate crew numbers if the infection spread.

“That was our policy, it wasn’t enforced but it was requested by myself and (LawConnect owner and skipper) Christian (Beck) and I think the great majority of the crew adhered to it,” Mutter said.

“There’s probably a few who didn’t but we managed to get through it. The last thing you can really do at Christmas time is ask people to stay away from their families.

“It’s a hell of a big ask and we asked it, but obviously some people would have ignored it and gone ahead anyway and I don’t disagree with that decision either, there’s some things more important than yacht racing.

“This year we have basically no COVID policy other than the fact that if you’re sick and you test and if you are positive, stay away.”

Mutter had to endure spirit-sapping quarantine periods in New Zealand after 2020 when the race was cancelled the week before and again last year.

This time around Mutter and two other LawConnect crew members won’t fly from to Australia until the day before the race starts, something that was standard practice before COVID emerged.

“We do Christmas Day with the families then get the four o’clock flight in the afternoon, land in Sydney 530,” Mutter said.

“There’s still another two flights after that if something goes wrong that night and there’s one in the morning, so we can still get there on time.”

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