Australian Admirals Cup champions Bob OATLEY and Colin O'NEIL are poised to become match racing rivals when Bob OATLEY defends his Hahn Premium Race Week trophy off Hamilton Island in August.
Skipper Bob OATLEY and his outstanding Wild Oats crew led by principal helmsman Mark RICHARDS completed an impressive season in 2003 winning the Admirals Cup teams racing championship in England in July followed by their success at Hamilton Island a month later with Another Duchess.
They are planning to continue with this success after piloting the revolutionary Wild Oats to her second successive win in the Pittwater to Coffs Harbour race in January.
Based on this form Wild Oats a winner in her maiden Big Boat regatta at Hamilton Island in 2002 will again prove to be a major contender when the sails are tensioned for the honour of winning Australia's most prestigious Race Week trophy later this year.
However there will be no margin for error with the Wild Oats crew facing a serious challenge from Admirals Cup team mate Colin O'NEIL'S Aftershock and the Sandy OATLEY helmed 2003 champion Another Duchess.
Aftershock has recently been 'turbo charged' with the latest high performance keel technology after similar modifications provided her sister design Another Duchess with the unmatched all angle speed to rule on the warm Whitsunday Island waters last August.
This trio of expertly crewed sloops skippered by three long term sailing mates are poised to stage a 'war on the water' when the International standard fleet line up later this year to contest the 21st anniversary regatta at Hamilton Island.
The sporting pride associated with Trans Tasman clashes between Australian and New Zealand will be a feature of the 21st Hahn Premium Race Week at Hamilton Island in August.
Two of the world's latest super maxi's Grant Wharington's Skandia will carry the prestigious Australian Green and Gold colours while Stewart THWAITES from Wellington will represent the mighty All Blacks with Zana.
These super maxi's will go head to head in a boat on boat match race for the line honours title in what promises to be the most exciting ever in Australia's premier Race Week regatta.
Grant WHARINGTON representing the Mornington Yacht Club in Victoria and the Kiwi challenger Stewart THWAITES provided an insight into their first short course clash when the staged a thrilling duel for line honours in the 630 n/ml Rolex Sydney-Hobart race in December.
Skandia proved the victor with skipper Grant WHARINGTON and crew surviving a mile per mile match race lasting a little over 63 hours to finish with a winning margin of 14 minutes 24 seconds. In reality Skandia sailed the physically tough race which featured a very high workload of sail changing to finish with the slightly superior 1.37 seconds per mile boat speed advantage.
As expected the proud Stewart THWAITES who named his glamour yacht after his youngest daughter Zana and his crew of talented New Zealand sailors will be race prepared to enter the tactical dog fight against Skandia when they resume their intensive match racing duel at Hamilton Island.
All the Zana crew will be searching for is a minor increase in sailing speed to reverse the 1.37 seconds per mile which Skandia held to win the Sydney-Hobart race line honours trophy.
Stewart THWAITES has raced at Hamilton Island before with his former yacht Starlight Express but this will be his first challenge to beat the best of the Australian yachts for the fastest times title.