Melbourne becomes sailing capital with Sydney to Hobart cancelled

If you had said a couple of months ago that the Sydney to Hobart yacht race would be cancelled and that the Melbourne to Devonport yacht race would go ahead, you would have got pretty long odds.

But, because of the coronavirus outbreak on Sydney's northern beaches and Melbourne's stunning run of relatively COVID-free days, that's exactly what has happened.

Melbourne to Devonport racers, Glen Merchant, Steven Fahey, Damon Fahey and Nick Fahey on their yacht Cartouche at the Royal Brighton Yacht Club.Credit:Jason South

Most of the Sydney to Hobart crews are now stuck on the northern beaches but south of the border 22 crews are gearing up for the Melbourne to Devonport, Australia's oldest ocean race.

Also known as the Rudder Cup, the race begins in Portsea on Sunday, the day after a record fleet of 106 yachts are due to contest the Cock of the Bay race from Port Melbourne to Mornington.

The longer Melbourne to Hobart race was cancelled earlier this year when organisers realised lockdown meant there would not be enough time to prepare but the shorter Melbourne to Devonport event will go ahead.

Nick Fahey, 26, will skipper his family's yacht Cartouche for the first time in the Melbourne to Devonport.

He'll set off with his father Steven – who owns the yacht – his 23-year-old brother Damon and friend Glen Merchant from Portsea on Sunday.

“It was a bit of a ‘hey son do you want to do it?’," Nick says when asked how his first chance at skippering in a race came about.

“It’s something I have done before, taking the lead in deliveries to or from race start. [My dad] found more than anything it was taking a bit of a weight of his back, being able to delegate that responsibility.

“For me, being a skipper is something I have always wanted to do since I started racing about seven years ago. It is such a great opportunity, the boat in the family and the three of us sailing together constantly for those seven years and being able step up now is so great, I couldn’t pass it up.”

It's been a bit of a mad dash for all the crews in preparation for the 195 nautical mile race across Bass Strait to Devonport.

Sailing was off limits in Melbourne for a lot of 2020 because of the pandemic, and the crews only recently got confirmation that the race would go ahead.

"[The need to train and prepare] really is a constant thing, with COVID it was very hard this year. Usually we’d prepare for 12 months for an end-of-year-race like this," Nick said.

"This year it’s been so tight because the race wasn’t confirmed until about a month ago."

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