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14 December 2005, 11:55 am
I'm In It To Come First, Declares LANGMAN
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Rolex Sydney Hobart Yacht Race 2005
Sydney, Australia

Sydney skipper Sean LANGMAN (AUS) has announced that he will race the 90 foot maxi AAPT in the Rolex Sydney Hobart this year, withdrawing his much loved Open 66, also named AAPT, the boat he has campaigned so successfully over the past nine years. The big AAPT is the line honours winning yacht of the 2004 Rolex Sydney Hobart, racing then under the name Nicorette.

'I'm not interested at all in handicap,' LANGMAN declared at a press conference at the Rolex Sydney Hobart Media Centre this morning.

'I just want to get there first. There is a Line Honours Division and a Handicap Division in Rolex Sydney Hobart and the press and the public are mostly interested in who gets Line Honours.

'In AAPT we have finished first in every race up and down the coast but never in the Hobart. This is unfinished business for me.'

The former AAPT was a brute of a boat. Nicknamed the 'skiff on steroids' she had to be physically wrestled around a course. The bigger, more sophisticated AAPT, with it's complex electronics, hydraulics and canting keel is not as physically demanding but is a major technical step up for LANGMAN and his regular crew of mostly skiff sailors.

'Normally we would race with a crew of about 15 on this boat, but we will be taking 20 this time because it is so new to us and we need to take extra technical people,' said LANGMAN.

'Also, I made a commitment to the kids involved with my youth sailing group that some of them would be in the crew.'

Noakes Youth is a community initiative LANGMAN has set up to create opportunities for youngsters between 15 and 25 in the workplace and sailing. Under the programme, kids from well off backgrounds who want go sailing with some of the best racing sailors going around work and train with kids from disadvantaged backgrounds and off the streets.

It is an exercise in learning to work as a team, to appreciate other people, learning about commitment and pushing yourself beyond the comfort zone. AAPT's crew will include nine of these youngsters, aged 18 and over.

LANGMAN concedes that the two brand new canting keel 98 footers, Alfa Romeo and Wild Oats XI, and New Zealand's more conventional giant Konica Minolta are the main obstacles to his line honours bid, but he also knows that last year the pundits gave Nicorette no chance against the 98 footers either. She won because she survived while the bigger boats cracked.

He is reinforcing AAPT's bow frames so that he can press the boat hard, but is also mindful of a lesson he learned last year.

'The crew broke before the boat,' he said.

'We were just so exhausted we had to heave to and get some rest.

'As it turned out the other boats kept pushing themselves and, while we were out of it, they cracked and we ended up second across the line.'

At the same press conference Mark RICHARDS, skipper of Wild Oats XI, agreed that, ironically, knowing when to back off might be the key to victory this year.

'Alfa Romeo and Wild Oats XI are virtually identical, so it will all come down to crew work and who manages their boat best - whoever slows down when necessary without breaking any gear.

'I am a speed freak but we will be getting sail off early, reefing at 20 knots instead of 25.

'These boats are very easily driven, so in 35 knots of wind even with three reefs we will still go fast.

'In the right conditions we can maintain 40 knots. You are going to see some ridiculous speeds this time. The challenge with these big maxis is slowing them down.'

LANGMAN will be hoping that the enormous pressure Alfa Romeo and Wild Oats XI put on each other will lead to mistakes. The rest of the fleet, racing for handicap victory will be hoping that for at least 24 hours all the big boats, Alfa Romeo, Wild Oats XI, Nicorette and Konica Minolta will have weather bad enough to force them to back off.

Ray ROBERTS (AUS), skipper of the DK 46 Quantum Racing is one of the mid-sized boats favoured to win the Rolex Sydney Hobart on handicap. If the weather is as varied and heavy as usual ROBERTS thinks that there are around ten yachts, between 45 and 60 feet who are real contenders this year for Australian yachting's most coveted prize, the Tattersalls Cup. A gentler race, though, would suit the latest 30 metre maxis.

'If the big boats get moderate to light conditions all the way they can really stretch out and win handicap as well as line honours,' he said.

'We want hard conditions on the nose so that they have to slow down.'

While LANGMAN could not care less, RICHARDS would love to do the double.

'It is a bigger thrill for Ray to win on handicap than for us to win line honours,' he said.

'For us sailors the winner of the Tattersalls Cup is the real winner of the race.'

So watch this space. Will the big boats be forced to back off, and if they are, will they do so soon enough but not so soon they give the race to their rivals?

'We don't know enough about the beast [AAPT] to know how hard to push,' said LANGMAN.

The truth is, these boats are so revolutionary no one does.

For all the news on the Rolex Sydney Hobart Yacht Race CLICK HERE.

Nicole Brown (As Amended By ISAF). Image, AAPT at the finish line last year:© Carlo Borlenghi/Rolex
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