115-year-old boat to race Sydney to Hobart

Tiffanie Turnbull
Kendal (l) and Bill Barry-Cotter have oldest-ever Sydney-Hobart entrant, 115-year-old Katwinchar

She's a 115-year-old yacht bought off Gumtree in disrepair two years ago, but the brothers behind Katwinchar's return hope she can contend for handicap honours in the Sydney to Hobart race.

Sailing Katwinchar, which was built in 1904 and predates the race itself by over 40 years, has been a family affair for decades.

She once belonged to current owner Bill Barry-Cotter's father, and the boat builder's brother Kendal will skipper her next month when she becomes the oldest yacht to ever contest the race.

Getting the 32-footer ready to compete was a race in itself.

Bill Barry-Cotter hunted for the Katwinchar for over a decade, finding her two years ago, in a state so decrepit she was "almost beyond restoration".

"I started advertising for it 10, 12 years ago and we got nothing. And then suddenly somebody rang me up and said it was on Gumtree ... in a very bad shape," he told reporters at the race launch on Wednesday.

Restoring Katwinchar to her former glory in time for the 75th anniversary race was a passion project for the brothers. She needed a complete rebuild, including a stronger rig, and a modern keel and rudder.

While Bill won't be on board, this will be Kendal's 11th Sydney to Hobart but the first since 1985, which he says brings a smattering of nerves.

However his crew includes sailing icon Michael Spies, who has traversed the Tasman 43 times for the race.

"It is absolutely imperative to have someone like Michael on board, not just from the amount of Hobarts he's done, but for the sheer enthusiasm he has for the sport - he's always thinking, always assessing and always developing something" Kendal said.

Katwinchar also has some Sydney to Hobart experience - albeit much less.

The last and only time she raced was in 1951. She was blown out to sea and began motoring back in to Hobart on New Year's Eve.

The crew stopped at a pub to celebrate the new year, but were promptly disqualified once they finally reached the finish line.

This year's crew would love to end their year the same way, with one exception - they'll cross the finish line before heading to the pub.