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Ocean Safety 2023 - New Identity - LEADERBOARD

2023 Rolex Sydney Hobart Race: Finish sweetens bitter taste of retirement for Eye Candy

by Rupert Guinness/RSHYR Media 30 Dec 2023 07:25 GMT 30 December 2023

It was all about settling unfinished business for the New Caledonia entry, Eye Candy, in the 78th Rolex Sydney Hobart Yacht Race, after a disappointing retirement on debut last year.

One of the international entries representing 10 nations outside of Australia and owned by Frenchman, Thierry Leseigneur, Eye Candy achieved what it set out to do this afternoon.

The Sydney 38 finished the 628 nautical mile race organised by the Cruising Yacht Club of Australia, the 42nd boat to finish, it recorded a time of 4 days 01hour 19 minutes 38 seconds.

For Leseigneur, 71 and a veterinarian, who is set to retire next year, it was a moment to cherish; especially given that in his crew of eight was his son Malo, the sailing master.

While Leseigneur lives in Noumea, New Caledonia, Malo lives in Hobart where Eye Candy is kept throughout the year and he works as a physiotherapist.

So, their well-earned race finish also served as a means to deliver Eye Candy back home.

But more important was settling the leger after the disappointment of last year's race.

Eye Candy is a performer. It won the 2022 Groupama Race overall in IRC and ORC, and showcased its ability today with its tussle against the NSW Sydney 38 Mondo that finished ahead of them in a race where Eye Candy's hopes were dashed by a damaged mainsail.

Asked what their reaction to not finishing was, Leseigneur, from Quimper in Brittany, said: "That we still we have to go back. We want to finish the Sydney to Hobart race."

However, Leseigneur stresses that their conviction to finish was not so much an obsession. Asked if he feels complete now that they have finished, he said: "No, not really completely. It's just a fun race. It's not my life. Okay... it's good to say I have finished the Sydney Hobart."

Leseigneur said Eye Candy had a great sail, notwithstanding the impact of a broken mainsail. "We had a very good start. Then we had this cloud. Then we went onshore and the wind went offshore. So, we lost a lot of time then. We came back yesterday morning and were just in front [of Mako]. The afternoon was perfect. then when we broke the main."

Leseigneur said spending four nights at sea was not the labour that other boat crews found it. He is used to long offshore sailing. He and his wife sailed from Quimper in Brittany to Noumea and New Zealand, before opting to settle into a life in New Caledonia.

"We spent 22 to 25 days at sea at a time," said Leseigneur. "We wanted to change our way of life from 'work, work, work.' We spent two years sailing, then stopped to stay at Noumea."

In Noumea, Leseigneur and his wife raised their son, Malo; but he now lives in Hobart where he sails and maintains Eye Candy throughout the year.

Malo said finishing the Sydney Hobart was "a struggle," but agreed that he, his father and the crew felt they had unfinished business after their retirement last year.

"That's exactly what it was," Malo said. "Dad is 71. A Sydney 38 for a 71-year-old is not so comfy. It had to be done. We crossed the line this year, just for that reason.

"But the weather was quite rough. We didn't have a day where we did not have at least half a day with 35 knot-plus winds. That was rough, that was hard on a small boat like this."

For the full list of entries and more information about the race, visit rolexsydneyhobart.com.

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