Cruising Yacht Club of Australia Commodore Hans Sommer confirmed today that the Sydney Hobart Yacht Race would be going ahead, with an expected fleet of about 80 yachts lining up on Boxing Day, 26 December 2001.
'There has been some press speculation that the race itself was threatened due to the lack of a major sponsor', he said. 'We are in fact proceeding without a naming rights sponsor, enabling us for the first time in many years to return to a race run under the Club's own name'.
'The Club's sponsorship committee has obtained private sector support for this year's race, and is in the process of negotiating with a party for future year's events. We are very excited about the opportunities for our great race with that party, and anticipate making an announcement as to the arrangement by the end of February 2002', Commodore Sommer continued.
As to the 57th CYCA Sydney Hobart Yacht Race itself, international challengers swung their campaigns into top gear this week with the arrival by ship of two overseas maxi yachts.
Last year's line honours winner, the Swedish maxi Nicorette, is already undergoing a major refurbishing in Sydney after arriving by ship last week following a hard campaign in Europe.
The 80-footer will have new sails and a new keel fitted for the rugged 630 nautical mile race to Hobart but will be back in the water late next week before going on public display out of the water during a charity event at Darling Harbour.
Owner/skipper Ludde Ingvall will then begin an intense crew training exercise aboard the water-ballasted maxi off the NSW coast through December until the Sydney Hobart start on 26 December.
The Polish maxi, Lodka Bols, also arrived by ship from Europe at the weekend, but owner/skipper Gordon Kay has chosen Melbourne to give the 80-footer a major refit.
Most of the international crew of 23, including a number of Polish sailors, will not arrive until mid-December, and their qualifying sail aboard the 80-footer in Australian waters will be from Melbourne to Sydney, leaving on December 18.
'There is huge public interest in Poland in this boat, particularly so as she will be the first Polish maxi to contest the Sydney to Hobart,' owner/skipper Gordon Kay said in a visit to the CYCA last week. 'A group of eight to ten Polish journalists is flying out to cover the event and television links are being organised.'
Sydney yachtsman Sean Langman has also re-launched his skiff-like downwind flyer, Xena, now called Grundig, in striking new hull colours, with a new deep keel and six feet added to the transom, making the water-ballasted boat an Open 66.
Soon to hit the water again in Sydney is George Snow's conventional maxi, Brindabella, her hull having been extended by five feet to the owner's satisfied comment: 'I've always wanted to own an 80-footer!'
As the maxi yachts undergo their modifications and refits, the action is already on the water for many of the 81 boat fleet entered for the 57th Sydney Hobart Yacht Race.
Melbourne's new 42-footer, Don Jones' Cadibarra, continued its unbeaten record under IMS handicaps in Victorian waters, winning the 200 nautical mile Bass Strait race from Queenscliff to Low Head.
In Sydney, veteran Syd Fischer is strongly campaigning for an IMS Overall victory in the Sydney Hobart Race with his Farr 50, Ragamuffin, taking top IMS honours in the 180 nautical mile Cabbage Tree Island Race.
Only by 41 seconds behind on corrected time was Kevan Pearce's Farr 47, SAP Ausmaid, the Overall IMS winner of last year's Hobart Race, which took top honours under IRC handicaps in the Cabbage Tree Island Race.
This coming weekend, Tasmanian yachts heading north for the big race will be out in the ocean in the 189 nautical mile Maria Island Race, with the newly launched Beneteau 40.7, Vitesse, sailing her qualifying race along with other Tasmanian entries, B52 ((Hughie Lewis), Mirrabooka (John Bennetto) and Valheru (Tony Lyall).
The toughest preparation for the Sydney Hobart is, of course, the Volvo Ocean Race's second leg from Cape Town to Sydney which started on last Sunday, November 11. The 6,100 nautical mile course will take the eight 60-footers deep into the Southern Ocean as they surf eastwards on huge rolling seas in gale-force winds, with breakaway icebergs an added hazard, before sailing through Bass Strait and heading north to Sydney.
The Volvo fleet is due between December 1-4 for a well-earned rest before the start of the third leg from Sydney to Auckland, via Hobart as part of the fleet in the 57th CYCA Sydney Hobart Yacht Race.