At least a dozen nations and 80 boats are expected to converge on the tropical Queensland town of Yeppoon to race in conditions that catamaran sailors dream about. The racing will be intense.
The F18 catamarans are designed for two crew with trapeze, with spinnakers, self-tacking jibs and square top mainsail, making them one of the fastest boats on the water. The F18s allow multiple sports catamaran manufacturers (including Hobie, Capricorn and Nacra) from around the world, to compete in one class, often called the F1s of sailing.
Seawind F18 Worlds Race Director Mark LARUFFA explains. 'The weather is all about probabilities. The six year forecast for the course is, for around 80% of the time, by 9-10 am we should have 12 knots and building all day. We are planning up to four races each day and we expect they will be sailed in 15-18 knots. Later in the afternoon, the wind swings a little bit more to the north and builds up to 25 knots, so we should see numbers of late afternoon heavy races. The seas are fairly flat because the course area is protected by the Keppel Island group.'
LARUFFA continued, 'We are expecting around 80 boats now, entries are coming in still and they will be all on one start line. We've got plenty of room to run as many races as we like up there and with the sea breeze coming in very early, we can start as early as we like.'
The 80 boat field will be filled with Olympic and World multihull champions and the 2006 F18 World Champions, Helge SACH and Christian SACH (GER) know they will have a fight on their hands to keep the southern hemisphere sailors at bay. Looking for fresher conditions in which to train, this pairing sailed Tornados in the Canary Islands in November 2006.
Darren BUNDOCK and Glen ASHBY (AUS), the 2004 and 2005 F18 World Champions and the 2006 Tornado World Champions thrive in strong conditions. They will be right on speed. Today they are sailing in the Tornado class at the ISAF Rolex Miami OCR.
Challenges will come from across the fleet. Mitch BOOTH (NED) won in 2001 and 2002 and with Pim NIEUWENHIS (NED) as crew, he will right on the pace. Other leading contenders include Steve BREWIN and Andrew WILLIAMS (AUS), Mark LARUFFA and Rick HEASMAN (AUS), Spaniards Fernando ECHAVARRI and Anton PAZ who are ISAF ranked second in the Tornado class and the French team of Jean-Christophe MOURNIAC sailing with Franck CITEAU. ABN AMRO Volvo Ocean race helmsman Rob GREENHALGH and his brother Peter GREENHALGH (GBR) are new to the class, but they are campaigning the Extreme 40s as Team Basilica, so they know how to sail fast.
Leading southern hemisphere catamaran manufacturers, Australia's own Seawind Catamarans, are the naming rights sponsors for this prestigious event.
Seawind's Marketing and Sales Manager Brent VAUGHAN will be racing at the Worlds. He commented today, 'The Formula 18 catamaran class is amongst the fastest-growing sailing classes in the world.
'Seawind Catamarans is keen to foster all forms of catamaran sailing within Australia and we proud to be involved and to be an event sponsor.
'It is a big commitment from a little company but we are really excited to be supporting such a large event hitting Australian shores
'The F18's are an innovative class and so is our company, Seawind. It has been an extraordinary 2006 for Seawind, probably the most exciting since I have been there, and I've been there for seven years. We won many awards in 2006, the best sailboat over at the Newport boat show and more recently the most innovative boat and multihull of the USA for 2007, as awarded by the Cruising World magazine. It is a huge coup for a boat from Australia. It has been very exciting and a great way to start our 25th year.'
The Queensland State Government is providing funding assistance to aid the promotions and marketing of the event as part of the Queensland Events Regional Development Programme.
Organized by The Australian Formula 18 Catamaran Association in conjunction with Keppel Bay Sailing Club and Rydges Capricorn Resort, Yeppoon, the venue in tropical North Queensland will provide perfect sailing for these spectacular speed machines.
The event headquarters, Rydges Resort, is nestled amongst 22,000 hectares of sprawling tropical landscape. With 280 rooms, nine conference venues, a choice of restaurants and bars and one of the largest salt-water swimming pools in the South Pacific, this venue caters for everyone; from a fierce competitor to those after a relaxing holiday or a place to party.
Just a one-hour flight north of Brisbane in Sunny Queensland, the small coastal town of Yeppoon is a gateway to the Great Barrier Reef and surrounding tropical islands that protect Keppel Bay, a large area of open water that is sure to see competitive and skilful racing throughout this exciting event.
NOR and entry application are now available online at the event website www.2007f18worlds.com.