Matt ALLEN'S Farr 52 Ichi Ban is being specially prepared to target the Joico Australian Offshore Championship following its successful campaign at last week's Skandia Geelong Race Week on Melbourne's Port Phillip Bay.
Ichi Ban's entry for the Joico series further strengthens the signs that the regatta, which will be sailed out of Pittwater's Royal Prince Alfred Yacht Club from 3-7 March, will feature the absolute upper echelon of Australia's ocean racing fleet. Already it's known that the championship line-up will include Bob OATLEY'S canting keeled record breaker, Wild Oats, Geoff ROSS' 52-footer Yendys, the 2002 Sydney-Hobart winner Quest (Bob STEEL), and the Swan production yachts Loki (Stephen AINSWORTH) and Joe (Stephen DAVID).
All competing yachts are eligible to contest both the IMS and IRC divisions, however with IRC now confirmed as the premier division for this year's Rolex Sydney to Hobart race new emphasis will be placed on competition in that section of the Joico Australian Championships. Ichi Ban is to be fully optimised for the IRC division.
The Joico series will also see the strongest ever fleet of Sydney 38 one-designs gathered to contest that class' Australian Championship. Organisers expect between 25 and 30 of the top yachts from Victoria, NSW and Queensland to compete, including Wayne KIRKPATRICK'S Asylum from Hamilton Island and Lou ABRAHAM'S Another Challenge from Melbourne.
While the offshore yachts and the Sydney 38s battle for their respective national crowns over five days, a fleet of Farr 40s, 11-Metre One-Designs and Sportsboats which join the racing on the final two days to decide their own championships. These divisions will swell the fleet to more than 70.
Courses will be set off Palm Beach for all but the 11-metre One-Design and Sportsboats divisions. They will race on Pittwater.
This is the third year that Australia's leading professional haircare company, Joico, has been naming rights sponsor for the regatta. This year the prestigious Italian watch brand, Locman, has joined as an associate sponsor.