If anything, big upwind conditions might suit the smaller yachts in the 40 to 50 foot range. That is what Ray ROBERTS, owner of DK46 Quantum Racing, is hoping for. Following his win at the recent King's Cup and a dominant performance at the Rolex Trophy, ROBERTS must rank as a favourite for handicap honours in the race to Hobart. 'I think we'll need the conditions on the nose. If the big maxis get light to moderate conditions then the big boats with their canting keels can really stretch away. But if we get 30 hours of really hard-on-the-nose stuff, we'll have to see if they can hold the boats together. I certainly hope they do, but if the conditions are tough then I think it will certainly suit the smaller boats.'
Theoretically, every one of the 86 yachts has a chance of winning the Tattersalls Cup, the trophy awarded to the handicap winner of the 628 mile race. However the reality is that many are entered simply to complete the passage to Hobart, as that is sufficient reward in itself. But there are some teams hell bent on winning handicap honours. Along with Quantum Racing, other favourites include Geoff ROSS's Yendys, a Judel/Vrolijk 52 footer, Stephen AINSWORTH's canting-keeled 60 footer Loki and Michael HIATT's Living Doll, a Farr designed Cookson 50 also boasting a canting keel.
Many other yachts have different reasons for taking part in this most challenging of ocean passages. One of the most remarkable stories is that of Berrimilla, a 1977 built sturdy little 33 footer. If Alex WHITWORTH and Peter CROZIER can complete the race, it will mark the end of a remarkable twelve month odyssey around the world. They competed in last year's Rolex Sydney Hobart and then departed for Great Britain, via the Falkland Islands, in order to compete in the Rolex Fastnet Race. There they were runners up in the double-handed division, but they had little time to celebrate, as they are now racing to return to Sydney in time for the beginning of the next race to Hobart. WHITWORTH and CROZIER are set to arrive in Rushcutters Bay some time on Tuesday morning, when they can expect a heroes' welcome.
Notable overseas entries include Gerard O'ROURKE's Cookson 50, Chieftain from Ireland, Dirk WIEGMANN's Beale 45, Conergy from Germany, and Alex THOMSON's Hugo Boss from Great Britain. Experienced ocean racer and holder of the single-handed 24 hour distance record, THOMSON has put together a strong team that includes Australian offshore legend Nick MOLONEY, Olympic medalist skiff sailor Simon HISCOCKS and Jeremy ROBINSON, helmsman of last year's Tattersalls Cup winner, Aera.
When the race starts on Boxing Day 26 December from Sydney Harbour, the whole of Australia will be watching the massed fleet, and wishing them safe passage to Hobart.
For all the news on the Rolex Sydney Hobart Yacht Race CLICK HERE.