SPORT – Line-up of 100-footers grows for 2009 Rolex Sydney Hobart

SPORT - Line-up of 100-footers grows for 2009 Rolex Sydney Hobart

Rolex Sydney Hobart Yacht Race 2009 organisers are expecting an unprecedented contest for line honours as a result of the Cruising Yacht Club of Australia’s decision to increase the overall length limit (LOA) of competing yachts from 98 to 100ft, or 30 to 30.48m.

The 0.48-metre increase announced by the Cruising Yacht Club of Australia 12 months ago might not seem like much, but it’s attracted the likes of Mike Slade’s UK-based Farr designed 100-foot maxi ICAP Leopard and Neville Crichton’s NZ-registered Reichel Pugh 100-footer Alfa Romeo.

Alfa Romeo was one of the first yachts to undergo modifications to extend its LOA to 100ft, which made it ineligible to race under the Rolex Sydney Hobart Yacht Race’s previous overall length limit.

Garry Linacre, rear commodore and chairman of the CYCA sailing committee, said: “Last year, the Cruising Yacht Club of Australia consulted with its members and yacht owners regarding the change to the overall length limit and the decision was taken to extend the LOA, thereby providing owners sufficient notice to modify their yachts in time for the 2009 race.

“This decision brought the Rolex Sydney Hobart Yacht Race LOA into line with the Rolex Fastnet and Transpac yacht races.”

Crichton, the 2002 Rolex Sydney Hobart line honours winner with a previous Alfa Romeo, who has been campaigning his 100-foot Alfa Romeo overseas with great success, describes the move as “very positive”.

“The competition at the front of the fleet is going to be like nothing we’ve ever seen before. Potentially six 100 and 98-footers lining up is a damn good effort,” said Crichton, who recently won the Transpac Race in course record time with his 100-foot
super maxi.

In Crichton’s sights is Bob Oatley’s Sydney-based Reichel Pugh-designed
Wild Oats XI, the current and four-time consecutive line honours winner, which has dominated Australia’s best-known bluewater classic since 2005 when it scored the triple of the overall and line honours win and set the current race record of 1 day 18 hours 40 minutes 10 seconds.

Since finishing runner up toWild Oats XI in 2005, Alfa Romeo has enjoyed a sublime run of victories in the northern hemisphere, including beating Wild Oats XI over the line each time the pair has met. Continuing on from last month’s Transpac Race win, the crew of
Alfa Romeo is delivering the boat across the Pacific Ocean for the Boxing Day showdown.

Alfa Romeo will arrive in Sydney later in the year fully prepared to smash the record for the run from Sydney to Hobart,” said Crichton.

Sydney Hobart organisers said the Oatley camp is tight-lipped, with the boat undergoing a number of top secret modifications according to skipper Mark Richards, who is less enthusiastic about the increase to the overall length limit, but equally, is looking forward to the toughest line honours contest in the event’s 64-year history.

Mike Slade, owner/skipper of ICAP Leopard, which finished runner-up to Wild Oats XI in the 2007 race said: “I applaud the CYCA’s decision to extend the overall length limit to 30.48m or 100 feet in my age group.
“We have achieved this by adding a stern scoop, increasing aft buoyancy and maximising waterline length.
It also helped us to retro-fit twin splayed rudders to work more efficiently with our forward asymmetric dagger boards.

“Overall, we now see much better boat speed all round and the lighter helm has allowed us to build a larger main, specifically designed for the Rolex Sydney Hobart,” concluded Slade, who yesterday morning (August 12) secured a second consecutive line honours victory with ICAP Leopard in the Rolex Fastnet Race.

Sydney yachtsman Sean Langman is moving from classic timber boats back to the thrill of big-boat sailing with plans to charter and extend the Greg Elliott-designed NZ maxi
Maximus to 100 feet — and finally break the boat’s Hobart Race hoodoo.
Maximus was dismasted during the 2006 Rolex Sydney Hobart and failed to make the start of the 2007 race after cracking its keel en route to Sydney from Auckland.

Langman’s lean-and-mean approach will see him once again push the boundaries of the sport by reducing crew numbers to a minimum. “It’s going to be the most difficult race for line honours ever,” he said.

Grant Wharington’s Victorian IRC 30m maxi Skandia Wild Thing, the 2003 line honours winner, has the design capability to go to 100 feet but at this stage, Wharington is not planning to lengthen the boat prior to this year’s race.

Peter Millard and John Honan’s Bakewell-White designed 30m maxi Lahana, formerly
Zana/Konica Minolta will round out the top end of the fleet, staying at her current length of 98 feet. Damage to Lahana’s deck sustained in the recent Audi Sydney Gold Coast Yacht Race has been repaired and Millard is looking forward to testing the boat’s mettle heading south in December.

The CYCA is predicting an international fleet of around 90 yachts will make the start line on Boxing Day, December 26, with the biggest display of maxi muscle ever seen in Sydney leading the charge out of the harbour for the 65th edition of the 628nm dash to Hobart, Tasmania.

The Rolex Sydney Hobart Yacht Race 2009 Notice of Race will be available online at later this month.

Applications for entry for the Rolex Sydney Hobart 2009 close on November 2, 2009, at 1700hrs AEST.