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Fate favours Gun Runner with Rolex Sydney Hobart finish

by Rupert Guinness/RSHYR Media 31 Dec 2022 06:08 GMT 26-31 December 2022
Chris Connelly, skipper of Gun Runner - Rolex Sydney Hobart Yacht Race © CYCA | DH

For the six crew of Gun Runner, the Army entry in this year's Rolex Sydney Hobart Yacht Race, their turnabout of fortune provided them with a poignant reminder of the value of resilience.

Last year, the Jarkan 925 retired at sea after running out of water while parked in the middle of Bass Strait for three days. This year, she finished 10 hours faster than her previous best.

Owned by the Army Sailing Club, Gun Runner is the third smallest boat in the race. She finished at 8:38.10 last night.

"We had a fantastic sail... and we did our best time by 10 hours," said Gun Runner skipper Chris Connelly this morning while cleaning up the boat at the docks.

"It was so good finishing after what happened last year and the race cancellation the year before [due to Covid]."

Gun Runner placed 60th overall, eighth in Division 5 and 19th in the IRC Corinthian division.

For their perseverance, they also take back the Oggin Cup, awarded to the first armed services yacht overall. Navy One, winner of the Cup for the past two years, this year retired with a broken boom.

Prior to this year's race, Gun Runner placed 114th overall on IRC in 2019, after a best result of 50th for fourth in Division 4 in 2018, when she also won the Corinthian division and the Oggin Cup.

Asked about Gun Runner's race this year, Connelly said: "The race went really well for us.

"The first two days we had downwind sailing, and then in Bass Strait it was nice sailing too. One night there we had strong winds that got up to 45 knots, but we had two reefs in and the storm jib up. We handled it really well.

"Then coming up the Derwent, we had a light breeze, just enough to get us to the finish.

"The welcome we got was great too. The crowds were super and we were very happy."

Recalling the disappointment of last year when Gun Runner retired in Bass Strait, Connelly said: "There was a huge high over Bass Strait and we just weren't moving.

"All it was good for was improving our sun tans. We were running out of water. So, the skipper, Murray Stewart, decided to call it for our safety. It was a difficult call, but the right one to make."

Connelly praised his crew of navigator Shane Nicoll, Joel Colling, Aaron Scott, Daniel Sgarano and Trent Spencer. He said the experience also met its purpose for the Army.

The Army uses the boat to train its personnel and teaches the Army values of courage, initiative, respect and teamwork.

"They were all great, and it took a crew effort to get this result," Connelly said.

"Two on board were doing their first Hobart and they will take so much from this experience.

"For this we focus on team work, resilience, both individual and collective resilience. And what they have learned here will certainly rub off elsewhere."

At the time of writing, one boat remained at sea. Currawong, the second smallest boat in the fleet, sailed two-handed by Kathy Veel and Bridget Canham, was nearing Tasman Island, around 40 nautical miles from the finish and expected to cross the line around 11.30pm on New Year's Eve.

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