Remembering the 1998 Sydney to Hobart Race

I noted Solandra is currently listed for sale on

Solandra is one of four S&S34’s that took part in the 1998 Sydney to Hobart Yacht race. This race was the 54th Sydney to Hobart and its most treacherous. Of the 115 boats which started on 26 December, 71 retired and 44 yachts completed the race.

On the second day of the race, an unusually intense low pressure depression developed which resulted in un-seasonal mid-summer snow across parts of south-eastern Australia. The weather system built into an exceptionally strong storm with winds in excess of 65 knots and gusts to 80 knots. The rising storm caused the sinking of five boats; seven were abandoned and 55 sailors had to be rescued from their yachts by ships and helicopters. Six sailors died.

Solandra was dis-masted during a knock down and retired, sailing back to Eden, N.S.W. The S&S34’s in the race were.

  • T42 Solandra          Craig Vescott          S&S 34 1982      Retired Eden lost mast
  • Misty                   Brian Clague               S&S 34 1975      FINISHED last boat in fleet of 44
  • Morning Tide            A Fenwick / J Davern     S&S 34 1974      RETIRED prudent seamanship
  • Boomaroo Morse Fans   J. McIntosh              S&S 34 1971      RETIRED prudent seamanship

Misty was the only S&S34 to finish and was first in IMS division F. All these yachts are still around today.

The Coroners report report on the event contain interviews with Solandra’s skipper & crew and Misty’s skipper. They are worth a read.

VC Offshore Stand Aside (YC4882) – 1998 SHYR, 1st Mayday Photo Richard Bennett

Azzurro Mounts 2023 Sydney to Hobart Challenge

Azzurro, now under the ownership of Jack Kliner is following on in previous owner Shane Kearns’ wake and putting together an exciting crew for 2023’s Sydney to Hobart race.

Xavier Doerr, Jessica Watson, Steve Quiros, Samuel Duncan, Annie Eastgate, join Jack to take on Australia’s premier offshore race.

We look forward to updates on their performance and race schedule for the year ahead.

39th Commodore’s Perpetual Trophy Race

The 39th Commodore’s Perpetual Trophy race was held in light conditions on 28th March 2021. Ten SS34’s gathered at Fremantle Sailing Club for the race. The format of the race is that Commodores from sailing clubs around Western Australia gather to skipper an SS34 for the jib and main style event.

This year Le Jag (owner Roger Raymond) skippered by  Darren Chatfield of Clarement Yacht Club was the winner on corrected time, with Swagman (owner Andrew Waldby) skippered by Glen Fahey of Nedlands Yacht Club was first across the line.

Fremantle Sailing Club hosted the catered event as usual and it proved to be a fantastic time.

Results Table

Winners are grinners! The crew of Le Jag

Swagman across the line.

Glen Fahey (L) and Fremantle Commodore Ron Greer

Photos courtesy of Chris Bender and FSC

Preparing for Racing an SS34

Recently our resident expert Simon Torvaldsen, now a JPK owner presented some advice to another SS34 owner wanting prepare their yacht for racing. Below is the text of the message. We hope you find it useful.

“In terms of racing S&S 34s, some observations, above and beyond the usual of clean bottom, no excess weight, properly measured sails etc are listed here:

  • Dyform rigging – better than plain wire, nearly as good as rod but lower rating (please check if this is still the case, rod is actually marginally better for S&S 34’s).
  • The tall Mk2 rig is better, as is the Mk2 keel and esp the rudder. SS34 Swagman in WA was converted years ago (before S&S developed the official version) from skeg to spade rudder (& modified keel).
  • The higher performance Mk 2 configuration rates only slightly higher than the old Mk1 but performs a lot better in terms of racing.
  • The main thing is to not have too much overlap on the jib – beyond about 135% you gain very little as it just backwinds the main, if you have the Mk 2 rig with a bigger main this can be better balanced and maybe more towards 130% depending upon the conditions you sail in.  So you reduce IRC rating with little if any effect on performance even in light weather (under about 6 knots the big genoas don’t set well anyway). We used in effect a No2, No3 and No 4 jib with no No1.
  • Get high tech sails, we used Doyle Stratis but upwind North’s 3Di raw is probably better, although I think the difference in a boat the size of a 34 is relatively small. Doyle’s downwind sails are good though.  North is more expensive. Forget Dacron except for storm sails
  • You will need a Code 0, this is vital reaching upwind in under about 15 knots. Doyle’s developed one especially for us.  I think North have quite a good design now too. Cableless is good but hard to furl well (can only be furled bottom up and no cable to furl around).  The 0 needs a short bowsprit –we used the s/s anchor chain guide and roller, although it was a bit short and the Code 0 was painfully close to the forestay (makes it hard to furl and gybe).  A proper little bowsprit would have been better (& begs the issue of an assymetrical reaching spinnaker).  Check with your sailmaker.
  • Other sails will be reaching spinnaker and possibly either a lightweight or a heavy weather “chicken chute” (you can generally carry 4 spinnakers without penalty on bigger races).  A good Code 0 can also be used as a heavy weather reaching or even running kite.  Again check with your sailmaker.
  • Spinnaker stays’l is of benefit, small but significant downwind speed gain mainly around 120-150 degrees. Genoa stays’l is of limited value.
  • Aim to keep weight out of the mast and rig as much as possible.  And use a lightweight anchor and chain.  Overall lower weight is better, your IRC weight should be as close to 5000kg as you can get.  Hard to get most older S&S 34’s much below 5000kg.  And don’t add unnecessary weight especially in the ends.
  • If anything, S&S 34’s like to be slightly stern heavy compared to the designed waterline. They then perform better, upwind and especially downwind.  But still keep weight out of the ends, with the short waterline they also tend to hobby horse in a chop.  Most earlier models tended to be a little bow heavy if anything.

That probably sums up what can realistically be achieved.  If you are really keen you could look at dropping the keel, taking 3-400kg off the top and adding a few cm (about 100kg) onto the bottom with some improvement in righting moment and 250-300kg less boat weight. Just be careful to maintain fore/aft balance.  No loss of age allowance, only IRC penalty would be related to draft/weight measurements.

There is also a new lighter, slimmer spade rudder that was designed for SS34 Azzurro, I think with carbon stock and blade.  This would certainly help performance, it would be worth asking Shane about it and if another could be made, presumably the mould is around somewhere.  There is little if any IRC penalty in doing this.

I have looked at carbon rig etc but if you have a good, lightweight alloy mast you will probably only save about 20kg or so without a full rig redesign.  You might as well buy a new boat!

Hope the above is of help. S&S 34s are starting to be outclassed a bit by designs like my JPK which are good upwind, reaching  and downwind, but they can still get on the podium especially in windward races. Although they are thought of as heavy weather boats, they actually perform relatively better in lighter/moderate conditions, where upwind the speed difference to bigger boats is not great and downwind the more modern boats can’t get up and plane.   There is no way a S&S 34 can compete downwind in 25-30 knots doing 8 -9 knots against my JPK doing 12-15 knots and rating only slightly higher.  But going gently upwind at 5-6 knots compared to my 5.5-6.5, it is in with a fair chance.”

As a side note you might also want to look at your motor! The old Yanmar, Volvo etc diesels are heavy. A new sail drive style motor will save lots of kilos!

Some great advice!! All the best with your yachts upgrades!

S&S 34’s For Sale Around the Globe

Here is a listing of S&S 34’s found to be for sale around the world. See if you can grab a great yacht!!

Morning Star for sale in Queensland. She has an extensive race record, Melbourne to Hobart, Melbourne to Osaka ( 2nd over the line), Brisbane to Gladstone, Surf to City. She is set up for two handed sailing, with all the good gear. Details at

Morning Bird is for sale in Melbourne. Last S&S 34 to be built in the Swarbrick Brothers shipyard, Morning Bird brings with her a pedigree of sailing history. Details at

Azzurro is for sale in Sydney. She has been maintained to impeccable standards with no expense spared by her fastidious owner and high profile ocean racing sailor Shane Kearns. She has been completely restored and fully optimised for competitive racing, evidenced by her outstanding race results including twice overall winner of the Sydney to Gold Coast Yacht Race, first in ORCi in the Sydney to Hobart Yacht Race, as well as numerous divisional wins. Details at

Quixote is under offer. Details at

Swagman is for sale in Perth. She has been optimised over the years with the addition of SS 34 Mk II keel, UFO 34 spade rudder, skeg removed, taller 2 spreader rig. Swagman is quick upwind, and most importantly, one of the quickest and stable downwind S&S 34’s thanks to the larger rudder. Details at

Constellation is for sale in Perth. This brilliant S&S 34 was built in WA in 2005 using the cutting edge vacuum infusion method by Swarbrick Yachts under special license from Sparkman and Stephens, USA. Details at

Ciella For Sale. Derek has had to abort his round the world trek and Ciella is now for sale. Details to follow but she is listed under our yacht directory with photos.

Of course you can still get a new S&S 34 built to your specifications! Contact Mike Finn at Cottesloe Yachts. Ring Mike on +61 419 845336.

Happy buying!!