After a 550 nautical mile delivery from Melbourne, super maxi Skandia arrived today to prepare for the start of the Ingles Sydney Gold Coast Yacht Race on July 31, the first for this boat, launched prior to last year's Rolex Sydney Hobart Yacht Race.
Sailing master Ian 'Barney' WALKER and Skandia's five delivery crew motor-sailed for 50 hours in light conditions to arrive at the Cruising Yacht Club of Australia in Rushcutters Bay today.
Meanwhile the crew of New Zealand super maxi Konica Minolta, which is in the final stages of its 1,200 nautical mile crossing from Auckland to Sydney, is enjoying ideal sailing conditions with 25-30 knot breezes pushing them along at a good pace.
Skandia's owner/skipper Grant WHARINGTON has spoken extensively about his plans for this year's 384 nautical mile Ingles Sydney Gold Coast Yacht Race, which starts at 1.00pm Saturday July 31 from Sydney Harbour and finishes off Main Beach at Southport in Queensland.
"We have decided to reduce our crew number by 50% and go with ten for this next race,"
"Our focus is on performance and also building our crew for the next Volvo Ocean Race, and as such we need to start getting used to a reduced number of hands and an even more intense race experience. "
"We are aware that this reduction puts an even larger strain on the crew and some may argue that it puts us at an disadvantage. It is difficult to analyse the performance increase of weight reduction versus performance gain through more efficient sail handling, but at the end of the day, it's all about trying different options and learning from our experiences".
Wharington has also recently lightened the boat and made some modifications, including installing a retractable carbon fibre canard and a bowsprit to carry larger spinnakers.
Meanwhile Stewart THWAITES, the skipper of Konica Minolta, formerly Zana which finished second over the line to Skandia in last year's Rolex Sydney Hobart Race by just 14 minutes, is staying tight-lipped about his race plan but he has invited Ludde INGVALL, skipper of the 2000 Sydney Hobart Race line honours winner Nicorette to join his crew of 24 while Ingvall's new boat is being built.
Konica Minolta's delivery skipper Dale BARCHAM this afternoon advised an ETA in Sydney of Saturday afternoon or early evening, July 24.
Both these 98-footers are vying for a line honours win in this annual mid-winter race, the first time they have gone head to head since December, but more importantly, they are chasing the elusive race record that has remained the property of George SNOW and his Jutson 79 Brindabella since 1999.
The race record currently stands at 27 hours 35 minutes 03 seconds and a pre-race weather forecast from the Bureau of Meteorology early next week will determine whether Snow can relax for another year.
Following the retirement of Mike KELAHER'S Santana yesterday, a fleet of 75 is expected on the Ingles Sydney Gold Coast Yacht Race start line.