'We'll be competing hard in the Rolex Sydney Hobart,' said ROBERTS, 'and we think we have a good chance at going for handicap honours there. But the type of racing we'll be doing this week in the Ratings Series is a better test of all-round sailing skills. It's much more tactical.' Key to ROBERTS's crew is Olympic bronze medallist Michael BLACKBURN (AUS), who helped Martin and Lisa HILL's (AUS) Estate Master to a dominant victory in the Sydney 38s just a few days ago in the Rolex Trophy One Design Series.
There are many other top quality teams for ROBERTS to watch out for, notably Stephen AINSWORTH's (AUS) new Reichel/Pugh 60 Loki. But while in one respect Quantum Racing and Loki may view each other as rivals, in another they happen to be team mates. These two yachts will be representing Australia in the Rolex Challenge international teams series, which is decided on the teams' combined results from the Ratings Series and the Rolex Sydney Hobart Yacht Race.
In addition to the Australian team, there will be two teams representing New South Wales and two for Victoria. The New South Wales Red team comprises Wild Oats XI, Bob OATLEY's newly launched 30m Reichel/Pugh 98 and Roger HICKMAN's Farr 43 Wild Rose, which was OATLEY's original Wild Oats from more than 20 years ago.
However, OATLEY's main focus will be on gauging his performance against near-sistership Alfa Romeo, owned by Neville CRICHTON. The opening salvo of this duel between the 'Super Maxis' took place on Tuesday in the Big Boat Trophy, when CRICHTON claimed first blood by just 13 seconds from Wild Oats XI in a close tussle around the Harbour. But considering that OATLEY had launched his yacht just ten days previously, compared with four months of work-up time for Alfa Romeo, the crew of Wild Oats XI had every reason to be satisfied with second place.