Two handed sailing has a strong pedigree and a big following in the northern hemisphere but with the notable exception of the Melbourne Osaka Race it hasn’t attracted sustained mainstream interest here.
Short-handed sailing represents a huge physical and mental challenge. You get virtually zero sleep and have to physically push the boat while balancing learning to work together as a team. All of which makes it complicated, but also extremely rewarding and it must be said, fun.
If any of that sounds interesting, as opposed to a nightmare, then there’s some good news as this year there is a big and some would argue long overdue expansion of short handed events on the sailing calendar.
The Royal Prince Alfred Yacht Club is offering a short handed division in the Club Marine Pittwater to Coffs Harbour Yacht Race getting underway on Friday 3 April and in the Cat 1 Moonen Yachts Sydney to Auckland Ocean Race 2021. A few months later the Cruising Yacht Club of Australia will include a two handed division in the Noakes Sydney to Gold Coast Race 2020 as a qualifier for the 2020 Rolex Sydney Hobart, which will for the first time include a short handed division.
RPAYC Tuesday 11 February, 6.30pm. Halayrds Bistro also open for dinner.
There’s also the JPK Pacific Two-Handed Pointscore Series currently underway, with the third race of the series starting in Sydney on February 15 and running in conjunction with the Sydney to Newcastle race.
JPK Pacific is the Australian arm of the French boat manufacturer and is solidly backing the local development of two handed racing. JPKs have forged a formidable reputation in racing circles and seem to be the weapon of choice for a lot of the top crews due to their versatility and durability.
More than 60 boats lined-up in the 2019 Rolex Fastnet IRC Two Handed Division, everything from the class-leading JPKs to Swan 44s. French offshore legend and JPK founder Jean-Pierre Kelbert combined with another highly accomplished French sailor Alexis Loison, to scoop the honours, in a brand new JPK 10.30 Léon, which showed its pedigree in fast surfing conditions.
“The best time was just after the Fastnet (Rock)”, Losion recounted after race.
“We put up the little spinnaker. We had over 20 knots of boats speed many times and there was a lot of water on board. Although we were just two, we changed the sails together and talked strategy, we made a very nice team. Jean-Pierre is a great windsurfer so he was very good downwind to the finish, jumping from wave to wave.”
Losion knows a thing or two about short handed racing. In the 2013 Rolex Fastnet he and his father Pascal raced their JPK 10.10 Night and Day, to become the first double-handed crew ever to win not just their class, but the race outright, ahead of all the fully crewed boats.
For Loison, the main attraction is that there is never a dull moment. No sitting on the rail for hours at a time.
Setting up a boat for short handed racing is a big undertaking and to explain some of things any prospective competitor should keep in mind, JPK Pacific and North Sails will be hosting an information night on February 11 at the Royal Prince Alfred Yacht Club.
The presentation will cover boat selection, deck layout, essential equipment , sail design and selection, crew credentials, training schedules plus a Q& A opportunity.
JPK Pacific Directors Paul Glynn and Mattijs Willenborg will be attending the session and have checked-out France’s booming two-handed circuit and are happy to share their knowledge and expertise.
Australia will also be fielding an entry in the Mixed Two Person Offshore Keelboat event at the Paris 2024 Olympics. Australian Sailing is collating a list of sailors who believe they have the mental and physical attributes to battle it out over a three to four-day offshore event. More on those driven individuals another time.
World Sailing have signalled that there will be 20 entries at the Offshore World Championships in Malta in October this year and if more than 20 country nominations are received then there will be a country qualification event in Europe in May/June.
So, if you are attracted by the challenges and benefits of two-handed sailing it’s time to start looking for a boat – and logging some offshore practice miles. That’s absolutely necessary given what’s acknowledged as the most difficult manoeuvre in two-handed sailing – gybing in big breeze downwind. Mastering that alone ensures you have garnered some very impressive and translatable skills.
If you are interested in attending the SHS information night contact
Written by Scott Alle
Photography by Paul Wyeth