ugg wellington boots Annapolis resident Askew wins class in Sydney Hobart Race with new racing machine
Annapolis resident David Askew and his brother have set a goal of completing most of the world’s major ocean sailboat races.
David and Peter Askew checked off several big time boxes while campaigning a Reichel Pugh 74 footer for several years. They captured the prestigious Barn Door Trophy as first to finish the prestigious Transpacific Yacht Race from Los Angeles to Honolulu, secured overall victory in the iconic Chicago Yacht Club Race to Mackinac and set a course record for the venerable Fort Lauderdale to Key West Race.
When the Askew brothers set their sights on a new set of events they decided a different platform was in order. They donated the RP 74 to the United States Merchant Marine Academy and purchased a Volvo 70.
“Our method is to identify the racing we want to do, then find the right equipment for the mission,” David Askew explained.
David and Peter Askew made an impressive debut aboard their new boat, leading Wizard to a first place finish in Division 0 for the renowned Rolex Sydney Hobart Race. Annapolis based professional Chris Larson served as program manager for Wizard, which also finished fourth overall out of 77 entries competing under the IRC rating rule.
“Our expectations were fairly low going in because it was our first time racing the boat and we did not have our normal crew. We trust Chris Larson as the sailing master and he did a great job of putting together a strong crew and a solid strategy for the race,” David Askew said. “We sailed the boat as hard as we possibly could and got favorable downwind conditions. To wind up winning such an incredibly competitive class is very rewarding. We are very, very pleased.”
Peter Askew said the brothers were pondering the next step of their sailing careers when the conversation settled on a desire to take on the likes of Sydney Hobart, the Transatlantic Race, Middle Sea Race and Fastnet Race. They quickly agreed that a canting keel design would be necessary and were thrilled when this particular Volvo 70 became available.
Annapolis Yacht Club leaders should be applauded for thinking outside the box with regard to their ongoing efforts to increase participation in local sailboat racing.
New Zealand sailor Jim Delegat bought the boat from Groupama 4 and renamed it Giacomo, adding to her pedigree by grabbing the Tattersall Cup as overall winner of the 2016 Sydney Hobart.
“Peter and I have always wanted to do the Sydney Hobart, it was just a matter of finding the right boat. It certainly helped that the boat we wanted was already sitting in Sydney,” David Askew said.
This time, the boat now known as Wizard completed the 628 nautical mile race in just under 38 hours and was the fifth entry to cross the finish line in Tasmania. With a corrected time of 2:13:25:26, Wizard wound up winning Division 0, which featured four 100 footers. Mascalzone Latino, a Cookson 50 skippered by Vincenzo Onorato of Italy,
was runner up in that class.
“Considering it was our first time out with not a lot of preparation, to be able to win the class and beat all the big boats was a fantastic achievement,” said Larson, who called tactics during the race.
Annapolis resident Bill “Shaky” Jenkins was also part of the 16 man crew aboard Wizard, mostly working as a grinder. Navigator Artie Means (San Diego), grinder Phil Trinter (South Bend, Indiana) and pit man Ralfie Stietz (St. Petersburg, Florida) were the other Americans on the team.
Larson hand selected a couple veteran professionals to serve as watch captains in Richard Clarke and Rodney Keenan. He filled out the crew with sailors who had been part of the Giacomo crew and therefore knew the boat. Among the most notable was mainsail trimmer Noel “Nitro” Drennan, who has a whopping 31 Sydney Hobart Races under his belt.
As a freshman, Porter Kavle served as spinnaker trimmer for the Annapolis High team that placed third at the inaugural Interscholastic Sailing Association Keelboat National Championship.
Kavle fully expected the Panthers to capture the national title before his career was concluded.
That 2001 edition was a hairy one with the fleet facing fierce upwind conditions and having to dodge waterspouts at various points on the course. This year’s Sydney Hobart was more straight forward as the predicted forecast came through, Larson said.
“Most of the race saw us sailing in 25 to 30 knots downwind,” Larson said. “We didn’t quite have the reaching angles this boat is specifically designed for it was mostly VMG (Velocity Made Good) downwind in which we were driving low angles.”
It was a wet and wild ride for Wizard, which was constantly launching off one wave and burying deep into another. This marked the first time the Askew brothers had raced a canting keel vessel and it proved quite an experience. They realized quickly that a safety harness is the most important piece of equipment.
“It’s amazing how much stability these types of boats have. You can put up as much sail as you can get away with and still maintain control,” Askew said. “In those winds and speeds, the boat basically becomes a submarine. It is physically impossible to hold onto anything. You are constantly being pushed back to the end of your tether by the wall of water coming over the hull.”
Several of the Sydney Hobart veterans on Wizard told David Askew that he will have a hard time topping this voyage.
“I feel very fortunate to have experienced the best possible conditions for this great race,” he said. “A lot of the guys told me to not bother coming back because it will never be better.”
Askew said Wizard would be shipped to the East Coast and arrive in time to compete in the Newport to Bermuda Race. An ambition schedule is planned for 2019 with the Annapolis to Newport Race, Transatlantic Race,
Fastnet Race and Middle Sea Race all on the docket.