Rolly Tasker Sails Australia’s Co-Director Sam Newton was part of the winning crew of the 2021 Rolex Sydney Hobart Race, taking line honours on board the maxi ‘Black Jack’. This race, Sam recalls, had been long awaited after last year’s race had to be cancelled due to Covid. Sailed for the 76th time, the race from Sydney to Hobart in Tasmania covers a distance of 628 miles. The fleet encountered rough upwind conditions in up to 30 knots of wind and 24 boats from the 88 starters dropped out. For the maxis, however, it was tough but fast. The winning yacht, ‘Black Jack’, took line honours after two days, 12 hours, 37 minutes and 17 seconds of hard racing.

“After half a dozen downwind slides for the larger boats over recent years, 2021 also saw 95 percent upwind sailing for the maxis and over 2 1/2 days on the water, which is the longest race in a while and what the race is typically famous for”, Sam commented. “For some years I’ve been sailing aboard the famous ‘Wild Oats XI’ maxi however this year, due the owner’s decision not to compete, I was asked to join the new team aboard ‘Black Jack’, another leading maxi, originally launched as ‘Alfa Romeo’ and managed to race alongside a very talented group of sailors.”

Sam’s role on the boat was to trim the huge 360m2 mainsail and keep the mast pointing to the sky. “These larger boats have very complicated mast setups with triple running backstay deflectors and multiple forestay points which can be used in many different combinations. The art is to balance all the loads correctly to work within the design limits of the boat and the mast to give the other trimmers onboard the optimal stay loads and mast bend to make the boat go as fast as possible, while also staying safe”, he explained.


The race however is not over until the finish. ‘Black Jack’ was fighting hard against two other very fast maxi yachts, ‘Law Connect’ and ‘Scallywagg’. “The weather for first 24hrs clearly favoured the wider and more powerful maxis”, explained Sam. “After that we were to see a few breeze transitions and some lighter wind. So, for ‘Black Jack’ which is optimised for the lighter air, it was all about staying tight with the other two 100 footers for the first day so we were ready to take advantage of the favourable weather at the back half of the race.”

At no point are you confident you will win until you actually cross that finish line as even in the last few races, there have been lead changes by the maxi’s close to the finish in the Derwent river. But as ‘Black Jack’ led into the Derwent on night 3 with a solid lead, it was certainly theirs to lose from there.


Sam Newton is a well-known and highly experienced yachtsman and offshore racing sailor. He sailed his first Sydney to Hobart in 2004 on the Farr 52 ‘Ichi Ban’ and then went onto sail a number of other boats including the overall win on the TP52 ‘Quest’ in 2008 and two line Honours wins in the 100ft Maxi ‘Wild Oats XI’.


Even more so than in other technical areas, the first-hand experience gained in competitive offshore racing benefits the sail development also for offshore cruisers in many different respects.

After an exciting year sailing with the Australian Sail GP team on the foiling F50 Catamarans, Sam had a busy month in Sydney, racing the final Sail GP event for 2021 in Sydney Harbour in late December, then going straight into the Hobart race. After that, he enjoyed two days of rest before starting into an Etchells regatta where Sam and the team won the event.

“The broad range of boats on which I sail, from One Design keel boats and skiffs, to catamarans and maxi yachts, along with many cruising miles in my spare time gives me an excellent understanding of sail design and materials which I can then apply to the specific and varying requirements of our clients”, he says with regards to Rolly Tasker Sails.

“Whether it be a cruiser seeking best quality and value or an offshore racer demanding peak performance, with the great range of sail design, cut and materials at Rolly Tasker Sails, we can always develop an optimum solution matched to their needs and budget”.

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Photocredit: Rolex/Andrea Francolini