Sydney Harbour will be the spectacular venue for the much-awaited clash between at least five line honours contenders in this year's Rolex Sydney Hobart Yacht Race when the Canon Big Boat Challenge takes place this Friday, December 13.
The latest entry from the 97-foot UK-based maxi Leopard (Mike Slade) has set tongues wagging as the local favourite, Neville Crichton's super maxi Alfa Romeo is yet to meet its bigger international rival on the water.
Leopard arrived in Sydney by ship from New Zealand last month and has been reassembled in time for the Canon Big Boat Challenge maxi showdown and for the start of the British Trophy Series, a pre-Rolex Sydney Hobart Race regatta, next week.
Prior to the start of the Canon Big Boat Challenge, Leopard will be renamed 'Canon' for its Rolex Sydney Hobart Race debut.
Special guests on board 'Canon' this Friday will be a child from Canon's national charity, the "Make a Wish Foundation", who will join the regular crew for the race which starts off Point Piper at 12.30pm and takes the fleet twice around Sydney Harbour to finish at the Opera House.
Other Canon Big Boat Challenge 'glamour' entries and Sydney Hobart Race line honours contenders include Ludde Ingvall's Nicorette, Grant Wharington's Melbourne maxi Australian Skandia Wild Thing and George Snow's champion Brindabella, a five-time line honours winner in the annual 14-mile big boat race.
Fittingly, George Snow, who grew up in Canberra, has agreed to present a sizeable cheque to the Snowy Hydro SouthCare Aero Medical and Rescue Helicopter Service on behalf of the CYCA's Safety of Life at Sea Trust, just prior to the Canon Big Boat Challenge prize giving on Friday after the race.
Lang Walker's 138-foot super yacht Kokomo is the biggest entry in the 16-strong fleet and should provide a spectacular sight for onlookers as she manoeuvres around the harbour marks and the expected flotilla of spectator craft.
A number of 60-footers will also compete including two Volvo 60s, Ian Treleaven's Merit Navigator and Magnavox (Hodder, Sorensen, Zemanek, Gray) and two Sydney 60s, formulaonesailing.com (Rob Robertson) and Sydney (Charles Curran).
For the first time, two handicap divisions have been offered to skippers with the PHS Division attracting strong interest. UBS Wild Thing, the smallest boat in the fleet at 50-feet, David Pescud's Lyons 52 Aspect Computing, Australian Skandia Wild Thing and Sean Langman's Grundig have all elected to race under PHS handicap.