The fleet for the 68th Rolex Sydney Hobart Yacht Race in December reached 50 with the entry of Bob 'Robbo' Robertson's Queensland yacht, Lunchtime Legend; and just hours later, entries had already reached 60, such is the popularity of the race.
Robertson is coming off a win in the Magnetic Island Race Week series and second in both the Hamilton Island regatta and Airlie Beach Race Week. "This is our year; we have to do it this year,"
Robertson said of the Cruising Yacht Club of Australia's annual race.
The veteran yachtsman built and launched his Beneteau 40 in time for the 2011 Hobart, scoring a highly creditable third in IRC Division 4 in the company of pacesetters of the calibre of Roger Hickman's Wild Rose
, David Rees' Whistler
and Andrew Saies' 2009 victor, Two True
In this year's Rolex Sydney Hobart, Lunchtime Legend
will be leaner and meaner with a younger crew, who are fired up having seen the success of the Australian sailing team at the London 2012 Olympic Sailing Competition. "That has done so much to get young people involved again in sailing,"
"I reckon our average age with be 20 years lower than in the 2011 race,"
said the 72-year-old. "It'll be a great mix of experience and youth and built on the successes we have had in those North Queensland regattas this year."
The crew for the 628 nautical mile race includes Tasmanian Bellerive Yacht Club sailor Lauren Davison, who hitched a ride aboard Lunchtime Legend
for the Airlie Beach regatta and was kept on, on merit, for the other two series and now the Hobart race.
With Australian sailing on a new high, it is already making for a memorable race this year with entries from Japan, Hong Kong, New Zealand and the first from Lithuania, Ambersail, a Volvo 60 skippered by Simonas Steponavièius, with major regattas under her belt, including the Sevenstar Round Britain and Ireland, RORC Caribbean 600, Transatlantic, Rolex Fastnet and Rolex Middle Sea Races.
, a Humphreys 54 launched in 2010, will be the first Japanese entry in the race since 1997 and will be skippered by Yoichi Ito.
Geoff Hill's Dubois 90, Genuine Risk
, which won line honours in the 2012 Rolex China Sea Race, will represent Hong Kong.
The New Zealand entry is Rikki
, a Reichel Pugh 42 owned by Ray Haslar.
Other notable entries so far are last year's overall winner Loki
(Stephen Ainsworth) and a sentimental favourite, the three-time winner Love and War
, made famous by the late Peter Kurts and now sailed by his son, Simon.
As usual, the boat to beat for line honours this year will be Bob Oatley's super maxi Wild Oats XI,
skippered by Mark Richards. It was beaten into second place last year by Anthony Bell's Investec Loyal
, which won by a margin of only three minutes and eight seconds, the fourth closest finish in the history of the race.
Wild Oats XI
is the race record holder and has claimed line honours in five of the last seven Hobart races, including four consecutive victories from 2005, when it broke the record.
After losing to Investec Loyal
in the light conditions of the 2011 race, Wild Oats XI
has a new configuration below the waterline. She still has the retractable daggerboards that were fitted for the 2011 race, but now has another retractable centreboard on the centerline, three metres aft of the bow.
To beat her own race record, Wild Oats XI
has to average 14.7 knots - and that's achievable in the right conditions, according to Richards.
The CYCA is predicting a fleet of about 90 yachts making the start on Boxing Day, December 26 at 13:00 AEDT.