SPORT — Fleet of 99 (so far) for Sydney Hobart 2010

SPORT - Fleet of 99 (so far) for Sydney Hobart 2010

For the second year running, one-third of the fleet will experience their maiden voyage south in what is regarded one of the world’s three pre-eminent ocean races.

“A significant feature of this year’s fleet is that 30 per cent will be first-time starters in the great race,” said commodore Garry Linacre from the host club, the Cruising Yacht Club of Australia (CYCA) at yesterday’s official race launch attended by a panel of skippers and crew.

“A mix of international, interstate and local high-quality ocean-racing yachts attracted to this iconic event is a strong testament to its must-do appeal.

“It’s a credit to the race also that the likes of Niklas Zennstrom’s JV72 Rán will return to the start line and no less significant to have two of our cornerstone boats, Spirit of Koomooloo and Bacardi, approaching their 25th race milestone,” Linacre added.

At the big end of town, the impending match-up between the polished Wild Oats XI and modified Investec Loyal is expected to be the line honours focal point.

Despite their loss to Alfa Romeo last year, the owner of Wild Oats XI, Bob Oatley and skipper Mark Richards only opted for minor over major changes to the boat, instead spending a lot more time on the water honing the crew work.

Meanwhile Sean Langman and Anthony Bell haven’t raced their supermaxi Investec Loyal since last year’s Rolex Sydney Hobart, instead dry docking and overhauling the Greg Elliott design, including new electrics and North Sails wardrobe to go with the new-fangled paint job.

Langman and Bell have also assembled an all-star cast of both well-known Australian sporting identities and a dream team of Australian sailing talent including crew boss Peter “Billy” Merrington, tactician Michael Coxon, mid bow Morgan White, mastman Will McCarthy and pitman Anthony Nossiter.

Champion boxer Danny Green, Channel Seven’s Larry Emdur and Rugby Union legends Phil Waugh and Phil Kearns have signed on again and joining them this year will be Australian cricketer Matthew Hayden, Olympic swimmer Geoff Huegill and surfing supremo Layne Beachley to complete the crew of 24.

Mark Richards believes that given the right conditions, with their taller rig, larger sail area and crew depth, Investec Loyal “will be a handful”.

As for Investec Loyal spending most of the year out of the water, Richards cites Wild Oats XI’s 2005 result, when fresh from their launch they took out the treble, line honours, the overall win and set the current race record of 1 day 18 hours 40 minutes 10 seconds.
Investec Loyal is due to be re-launched later this week.

There is a logjam of claimants lining up for the coveted Tattersall’s Cup, the trophy for the overall winner of the 628nm classic, which starts at 1pm Boxing Day, December 26, north of Shark Island on Sydney Harbour.

Chris Bull’s canting keel Cookson 50 Jazz signalled her intention as the boat that might just beat Stephen Ainsworth’s RP63 Loki to the Tattersall’s Cup after claiming the IRC handicap win in the CYCA’s Cabbage Tree Island Race over the weekend.

Ray Roberts’ former Evolution Racing was snapped up this year by Bull and underwent a four-month long program of refitting, testing and crew training. In the boat’s debut, the Morna Cup, the 50-footer claimed top honours and Saturday’s win has put Jazz in a commanding position in the countdown to the Rolex Sydney Hobart, which starts in less than five weeks time.

Bill Wild’s RP55 Rodd & Gunn Wedgetail, the former Yendys, is showing excellent early form at the new owner’s fingertips, finishing second on handicap on Saturday while Stephen Ainsworth’s Loki placed third and is giving the rest of the Blue Water Pointscore Series constituents a shellacking going into the Rolex Sydney Hobart, the most significant of the seven-race series.

Also in the hunt for the overall win will be Niklas Zennstrom who is used to winning both in business and sailing. The Swedish entrepreneur wouldn’t gamble on bringing his champion UK JV72 Rán and its highly credentialed crew all the way back to Sydney for the second year on the trot if he didn’t think there was a chance he’ll be standing atop the podium at the finish.

Around 80 per cent of the fleet will be in contention for the Tattersall’s Cup but in the end, the final result could be completely irrespective of past form should there be a repeat of last year’s result when the South Australian production boat, Andrew Saies’ Beneteau 40.7 Two True, pulled one out of the bag and won its first attempt.

All Australian states plus the ACT are represented with six international entries sailing for the UK, USA, France and Italy, plus two-part Russian crewed boats, Vamp and Obsession.

There are plenty of well-known names on the starter’s list. The doyen of ocean racing, 83-year-old Syd Fischer can expect another express ride south for his 42nd race if it becomes a spinnaker drag race between his TP52 Ragamuffin and the other lightweight sleds in the same size range.

Brindabella, arguably Australia’s best-known and most successful maxi, will once again grace the Rolex Sydney Hobart start line, this time under new owner Jim Cooney’s charge, while the husband-and-wife team of Jim and Mary Holley, with 35 Rolex Sydney Hobarts between them, have opted to continue what’s become an annual ritual having entered their 40-footer Aurora every year since 1998.

Grant Wharington’s 98-footer Wild Thing will headline a robust Victorian line-up including Rob Date’s RP52 Scarlet Runner tackling its first Rolex Sydney Hobart, Michael Hiatt’s Farr 55 Living Doll and Rob Hanna’s JV52 Shogun.

For the 66th Rolex Sydney Hobart Yacht Race, 102 yachts were nominated for entry and 99 are confirmed to start this year’s race at this stage. Applications for entry will continue to be processed by the CYCA sailing office and if all the race-entry criteria is met, owners will be invited to submit an entry form by the closing date for paperwork, Friday, December 3.

Last year, 116 yachts were nominated for entry with 100 on the starting line and 95 reaching the finish line off Hobart’s historic Battery Point.

The Rolex Sydney Hobart 2010 will start from two start lines at 1pm on Sunday, December 26, with the honour of firing the warning signals and start cannon going to the surviving crew members from the 1960 Sydney Hobart overall winner Sianda and second placed Kaleena.

The Rolex Sydney Hobart Yacht Race will be preceded by the Rolex Trophy. Racing for the one-design classes, including Farr 40s and Sydney 38s will take place off Sydney Heads between December 10 and 12, and the IRC and Performance Handicap boats between December 16 and 19. The Rolex Trophy Passage Series will take place on December 18 and 19.

Rolex has been the principal sponsor of the Rolex Sydney Hobart and Rolex Trophy since 2002 and recently renewed its sponsorship of the bluewater classic and its associated regattas for a further five years, up to and including the 2015 Rolex Sydney Hobart Yacht Race.

Photos (by Andrea Francolini): Rolex Sydney Hobart media launch panelists — (L-R) Geoff Huegill Investec Loyal, Adrienne Cahalan Wild Oats XI, Gordon Maguire Loki, Will Hubbard Dawn Star, and Roger Hickman Vamp; Adrienne Cahalan, navigator Wild Oats XI, showing Geoff Huegill the intricacies of sailing.