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Smoke drama lingers over the Sydney to Hobart

Scallywag romping down the coast in the Sydney to Hobart. (Rolex/Daniel Forster)
24th December, 2019
2

Sydney to Hobart stalwart and SHK Scallywag skipper David Witt has hit out at a rule that could result in boats being disqualified.

Witt has warned some boat owners might leave the sport if Sydney to Hobart yachts are disqualified due to a rule he says is outrageous and shows no common sense.

The normally laconic veteran fired up on Tuesday over the lack of communication options for boats reporting from Green Cape on the far south coast of NSW.

At other reporting points during the race the fleet will have the option of using a satellite phone.

However, at Green Cape they can only use the High Frequency (HF) Single Sideband (SSB), otherwise they will be disqualified.

Witt said bushfire smoke across NSW had affected the HF SSB system.

“We put a letter in (to the race committee) asking whether if the was a problem with the SSB signal and if you can’t get through, if you’re allowed to use the sat phone because we all carry them,”‘ Witt said.

“But apparently we’re still in the 1930s not 2019 and that got rejected.

“I think that’s a pretty harsh penalty in the race. It’s a disqualification if you can’t get through on the SSB.”

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Witt’s supermaxi has come from Hong Kong.

He felt the cost of racing boats, especially those from overseas, would make owners less inclined to race them if yachts were disqualified under the existing rule.

“I just find it outrageous given the smoke is affecting the Single Band radio signal,” Witt said.

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“Charleville Radio has already written to us and told us it’s a problem.

“Why we can’t just use technology we’ve got there as a backup, rather than be disqualified out of the race?

“People get disqualified out of this race you’ll find an owner not want to spend any more money in the sport so it’s completely counter productive and in my opinion just zero common sense.”

Cruising Yacht Club of Australia commodore Paul Billingham said the rule was there for a good reason.

“It’s a safety precaution; they need to radio in on HF at Green Cape,” Commodore Billingham told AAP.

“There’s a particular reason why we do the HF and that’s because of stability and if there are emergency issues in Bass Strait you need to have that form of communication. It’s very very important.

“Satellite phones are there, they are a useful aid to have as well but at the moment we’re staying with HF.”

© AAP