Sydney to Hobart fleet's newest boat rolls the dice

Simon Torvaldsen has described the process of building Sydney to Hobart dark horse Atomic Blonde as more stressful than his career as a high-ranking doctor.

And he knows the 39-footer may only have one shot of making all the blood, sweat and tears worth it, at least for the foreseeable future.

Torvaldsen's hectic year started when he sold his previous boat, a slightly smaller vessel also known as Atomic Blonde but sailing this year's Hobart race as Rockall.

The Perth doctor still had the itch to sail, and had intended to join forces with a partner to have a new boat built.

But the arrangement fell through, as did the back-up plan to sell shares in the boat to crew members.

"I made the really unwise decision of saying, 'OK, we're going to do it anyway'," Torvaldsen told AAP.

What followed was a year unlike any other for Torvaldsen.

To realise his dream of building a new racing yacht, he had to sell other assets and borrow money from family after banks turned him down.

It didn't help that the new Atomic Blonde came in $200,000 over budget.

"Just getting the funds to do it, because I'm spending money I don't really have, was really stressful," Torvaldsen said.

The challenges didn't end there. The company building Atomic Blonde had another project that delayed Torvaldsen's yacht from getting on the water by three months.

start of the 2022 Sydney to Hobart yacht race.
Yachts position themselves before the start of the 2022 Sydney to Hobart yacht race.

Atomic Blonde has only been sailing since October, making her the newest boat contesting this year's Sydney-Hobart.

The boat's keel also had to be air-freighted over from the United Kingdom - no mean feat given the thing weighs 2.5 tonnes.

"I'm involved in a lot of high-level medical politics, but this is a lot more stressful," said Torvaldsen, who runs a medical practice and chairs the Australian Medical Association's Council of General Practice.

But here's the kicker: in the right conditions, Atomic Blonde is a chance to win the Sydney to Hobart.

JPK 11.80s are designed to take advantage of the International Rating Certificate, the handicap system used to determine which boat is the overall winner in races such as the Sydney-Hobart.

JPK 11.80 Sunrise was overall winner of the Fastnet Race in 2021 and came second in that year's Middle Sea Race. Both are off-shore races of comparable length to the Sydney-Hobart.

Sunrise competed in last year's Sydney-Hobart and won her division by five hours, despite breaking her boom mid-race.

 Atomic Blonde is the only JPK 11.80 contesting this year's event.

"We know these boats actually can win these races overall. Sunrise has proven it," Torvaldsen said.

But the 2023 race may be the only shot Atomic Blonde has, at least for now. 

Having the boat built on the NSW South Coast meant Torvaldsen could cut the costs associated with shipping her across from his native Perth.

Skippers including Atomic Blonde captain Simon Torvaldsen (right)
Skippers including Atomic Blonde captain Simon Torvaldsen (right) and the Tattersall Cup in Sydney.

Just to get a boat from WA to the starting line in Sydney Harbour can cost $100,000, on top of any fees associated with bringing crew over and putting them up in Sydney.

"It's like bringing it from overseas," Torvaldsen said.

"We're probably not going to have the funds to come back for a while unless there's sponsorship, because where am I going to find another $100,000?"

Until then, Torvaldsen is keen on making the best of this race, hopefully by winning Atomic Blonde's division against similar-sized yachts.

The ultimate dream is to become only the second boat from Western Australia, after Rampage in 1975, to take overall honours.

"Obviously everyone dreams to win the trophy, but it's a very hard trophy to win," Torvaldsen said.

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