“We both like being really involved,” Gough said, adding that with two-handed racing both sailors get to be “skipper, cook, trimmer, tactician, radio operator and navigator.”
Serious offshore sailors often say that races are really won during the boat preparation before the race. Two-handed sailing is no different, except that there are fewer crew members to tackle the details.
Given the race’s tough reputation, organizers require teams to complete qualifications, including first-aid certification, radio-operator training and survival-at-sea instruction. Aboard fully crewed boats, only some of the sailors need to complete this training. In the two-handed division, both skippers must fulfill these requirements, in addition to completing previous (and specific) offshore races and a 24-hour passage together on their boats.
Then there is the task of outfitting a boat to potentially withstand more than 50-knot winds and massive seas.
“The boat has done 30,000-odd miles of two-handed sailing, so it’s all set up,” said Rod Smallman, who is racing aboard Maverick, a Jeanneau Sun Fast 3600, with his co-skipper Leeton Hulley. This is Smallman’s second Sydney Hobart race and Hulley’s seventh. “Once it’s set up, it’s all tinkering and maintenance.”
One decision about two-handed racing equipment has been controversial.
Autopilot systems, which steer a boat to a specified compass course or wind angle, free the crew to trim sails, perform other duties or rest. Unlike fully crewed boats, two-handed teams can use autopilots in this year’s race.
However, the yacht club announced last year that two-handed teams would not qualify for the Tattersall Cup, which is awarded to the race’s overall corrected-time (handicap) winner. The two-handed division is competing for its own trophy.