One year out from the 70th anniversary race, the Cruising Yacht Club of Australia is pleased to announce that 97 entries have been received for the 2013 Rolex Sydney Hobart Yacht race, including five super maxis, 22 international entries, 15 new boats, 36 first timers, previous overall and line honours winners and the many supportive regulars, the 'meat' of the fleet.
"We're excited about the increased number of entries for the 69th Rolex Sydney Hobart Yacht Race,"
CYCA Commodore, Howard Piggott said of the variety and number of yachts that went well beyond the Club's initial expectations of 80, some of which will be crewed by the biggest names in sailing.
The super powers
A the pointy end of the fleet, one of the most compelling in years, is defending triple crown holder Wild Oats XI (Bob Oatley) taking on what is allegedly the fastest racing super maxi in the world, Loyal (Anthony Bell). It is purported the former Speedboat/Rambler is capable of making 45 knots downwind.
That knowledge alone will have Wild Oats XI skipper Mark Richards and his crew working even harder than ever, as they did when George David was ready to head this way for the 2011 race when he owned Rambler. Then its keel snapped off in the 2011 Rolex Fastnet Race.
Richards and crew, who have twice won the triple and can boast six line honours victories including two triple wins, have had to wait a further two years to take up the gauntlet. But it has also given them time to test, add more appendages and a new lighter mast to the eight year old yacht.
Ragamuffin 100 (Syd Fischer) and Wild Thing (Grant Wharington) are as capable. The former, in the hands of Anthony Bell, took line honours from Wild Oats XI in spectacular fashion in 2011, when the two clashed from start to end and Bell survived a protest. Fischer sailed it to second on line last year and took monohull honours in July's Transpac Race from Los Angeles to Hawaii.
Utilising the smaller Dubois 90 Ragamuffin 90 for training and selection for the upcoming 628 nautical mile Hobart race, the 86 year-old broke the 2013 Audi Hong Kong Vietnam Race record held by the 98ft Wild Thing (then called Skandia) since 2004.
Wild Thing, from Queensland, also won line honours in the 2003 Rolex Sydney Hobart. The oldest of the super maxis at 10, it was lengthened to 100ft in late 2012 and has gone on to score line honours victories in the Brisbane Gladstone and Sydney Gold Coast races.
Internationals in for the challenge
There are 22 international entries, a record of sorts. The 50th anniversary race in 1994 produced 25 internationals from its 371 entries. During the 1970's and '80's, the numbers came close in the odd numbered years when the Southern Cross Cup was in vogue and fleet numbers were well over 100.
This time, boats from New Zealand, United Kingdom, Hong Kong, Singapore, New Caledonia, Germany and Cyprus will take their places on the start line.
Zefiro, a 100 foot cruiser/racer is the first ever entry from Cyprus. A crew member warns that this elegant yacht "is a wolf in sheep's clothing," and should not be dismissed. Pushed hard upwind, Zefiro's can do 13 knots, so that is the dream - a hard upwind Hobart race.
German born Gerhard Ruether, who has called Cyprus home for the past 30 years, owns Zefiro and sails every mile on her. He can lay claim to having the first ever crew members in the race from Myanmar (Burma) where he has business; there will be two aboard.
The brand new Clipper Round the World Race fleet of a dozen identical 70ft yachts joins the Rolex Sydney Hobart for the first time too, as a leg of its own race and bolster the entries. Each yacht has a designated professional skipper, but is crewed by individuals who pay to take up the challenge of one or more legs.
Although they all bear the GBR sail number, the yachts are named for and represent many countries, such as Qingdao (China), Invest Africa (South Africa) etc. and what is sure to become an Aussie favourite, PSP Logistics, whose Australian skipper is Chris Hollis from Sydney who has twice sailed the Hobart race.
Not only will the Clipper yachts be racing the rest of the fleet, they will also race against each other for the leg win and will be trying to beat Sir Robin Knox-Johnston, the Clipper Race's creator, who will be aboard one of two previous edition 68ft Clipper yachts.
This will be the first time Sir Robin, the first person to sail non-stop singlehanded around the world will sail against the Clipper fleet and it is guaranteed to provoke some hot competition.
Sir Robin was aboard the British entry, Titania of Cowes, in the 2010 Rolex Sydney Hobart, which is entered again this year. Australian winning skipper of the 2011/2012 Clipper Race (Gold Coast Australia), Richard Hewson and his sisters Gina and Amanda, who were aboard in 2010, join the crew again. Hewson is currently taking part in the Mini-Transat Race.
Hong Kong businessman Karl Kwok is back with a new Beau Geste to attempt to claim the race he won overall in 1997 with the Farr 49, Beau Geste. His new Botin 80 comes in the wake of learning all Kwok could from his Farr 80, Beau Geste, which sustained a major crack to the hull in the Auckland Noumea Race. Being built by Cooksons in New Zealand, it will leave the shed in late November.
New kids on the block
Beau Geste, Ichi Ban and Patrice are the newest of the 15 new boats in the race. All three will be launched this month. Ichi Ban is the brand new Carkeek 60 that CYCA past commodore, Matt Allen, commissioned and is banking on winning the race overall with. "We'll have a strong powerful boat for this year's Rolex Sydney Hobart,"
"Shaun Carkeek designed it to be a fast boat - IRC encourages 50 foot boats to be fast,"
added Allen, who will be using Beau Geste and the newer generation Volvo 70's in the race as his yardstick, but he will be racing the whole fleet for the Tattersall's Cup.
Fellow CYCA member, Tony Kirby, ordered a new Ker 46 to replace his X-41. An extra five feet on his new Patrice might just do the trick for the veteran of 29 Hobart races who has almost held the Tattersall's Cup in his hands until fate decreed otherwise in the final miles of the race.
A light displacement yacht with a carbon hull, it was designed to the IRC and ORCi rules. Kirby says, "It will suit a wide range of conditions."
A rounded hull shape, with plenty of flat section aft for planning, should put him among the contenders - as should the overall length of the boat.
Recognising the lift in international entries and new boats, Commodore Piggott commented, "The addition of so many overseas entries and new yachts add colour to our strong fleet of 97 yachts.
"The strength and quality will ensure vigorous competition, not only for the prestigious Tattersall's Cup, which goes to the overall winner, and the Illingworth Trophy for line honours, but across all divisions. It all points to a spectacular race this year for competitors, spectators and the media."
Contenders for overall honours
With so many unknown quantities in the race this year, because of new boats, those trading up to other yachts and first timers, favourite contenders for the overall win is in the lap of the gods, but there are some regulars whose form is good.
Previous overall winners up for the challenge include Kim Jaggar/Travis Read's Illusion (1988), Roger Hickman's Wild Rose (1993), James Cameron's Luna Sea (as AFR Midnight Rambler in 1998), Philip Child's Knee Deep (as Yendys in 1999) and John Newbold's Primitive Cool (as Secret Mens Business 3.5 in 2010).
Wild Rose, which was originally Bob Oatley's Wild Oats, catches the eye immediately. Hickman, with two partners, skippered the yacht to win the race under IOR in 1993. It was the last time the IOR rule decided the winner and the same year an IMS winner was also declared.
After finishing the Sydney Gold Coast Yacht Race third overall in July, Hickman won both the Flinders Islet and Bird Island races, all under the CYCA's Blue Water Pointscore Series (BWPS) banner. He has won numerous events with the 28 year-old Farr 43, and beat all of Division 2 and 3 yachts in last year's Hobart race.
Chris Bran's Beneteau First 40, Brannew, is the benchmark for the other same designs and 40 footers in the race. Bran won the 2013 Sydney Gold Coast race, then the Botany Bay race and Gascoigne Cup in October.
The 2011-2012 BWPS champion, Darryl Hodgkinson, has updated from his Beneteau First 45 (which is entered this year as Shining Sea) to a new Victoire. It is the canting keel Cookson 50 first known as Jazz, which recorded second overall and first under ORCi in the 2010 Rolex Sydney Hobart and fourth overall in 2011 and 2012.
In his first major offshore outing with the yacht, Hodgkinson finished ninth overall and first in division in the 2013 Sydney Gold Coast race.
Celestial, Sam Haynes' Rogers 46, Black Sheep, the Beneteau 45 being sailed by Derek and Martin Sheppard in their first season as owners, Anthony Williams' IMX 38 Martela (Tas), Midnight Rambler (Ed Psaltis/Bob Thomas/Michael Bencsik), Bill Wild's RP55 Wedgetail (Qld) and the two Archambault 40's, Phil Molony's Papillon and Jean-Luc Esplaas' 41 SUD (New Caledonia), should also be among the front runners.
Entries of interest
For the first time, two of the Volvo 70's from the 2011-2012 edition will be on the start line. Both were designed by Argentinean, Juan Kouyoumdjian, Groupama 4, skippered by Frank Cammas, won the VOR. New Zealand winery owner Jim Delegat now has the yacht.
Delegat will tough it out with the former Telefonica, which Iker Martinez skippered to win the first three legs of the VOR. Peter Harburg (Qld) has the yacht now and renamed it Black Jack. Predominantly designed for downwind and off the wind conditions, both have undergone modifications and their form will become evident soon enough.
Jens Kellinghausen is bringing his Ker 51, Varuna all the way from Germany. He is on a mission to do all the great ocean races around the globe and results have been promising.
Spirit of Mateship, a Volvo 60 earlier named Southern Excellence, will be crewed by 10 wounded, injured, or ill existing and former Australian Defence Force (ADF) personnel, known as 'Brave Mates', to raise money for the Mates4Mates charity which provides support to wounded, injured and ill members of the ADF and their families.
Every state of Australia and the ACT will be on the start line, with the bulk from NSW. The destination port of Tasmania is represented by four worthy entries.
Starting at 13:00 AEDT Boxing Day, 26 December on Sydney Harbour, the fleet will set sail from two start lines off Nielsen Park, Vaucluse. The largest yachts will start from the front line before the fleet converges outside the Harbour to round a mark one nautical mile east of the Heads before heading to Tasmania, where the Royal Yacht Club of Tasmania will finish the race.
The start of the Rolex Sydney Hobart Yacht Race will be broadcast live on the Seven Network throughout Australia, webcast live to a global audience on Yahoo!7 and the Australia Network throughout the Asia Pacific Region.
The final fleet for this year's Rolex Sydney Hobart will be announced at the CYCA on the morning of Tuesday 26 November, 2013.