The Royal Perth Yacht Club burst back onto the international sailing scene today with the launch of a spectacular and innovative non-stop ocean race, starting and finishing in Fremantle, and passing the three most notorious capes in the world.
With a total prize purse of $US6.4million, the race will pass the three notorious Capes, Leeuwin, Horn and Good Hope, to port, and take about 45 days, from a start in December 2004.
This will be a non-stop blast around the infamous Southern Ocean, sailed in identical 25 metre boats, with the winner taking $ US2.5million, and a "skins" type format making it possible for one boat to collect up to $US4.65million
The organisers of the "Antarctica Cup" race will supply the boats, which are to be designed by Ron Holland and built in Western Australia, with the entry fee for the event including the purchase price of the boat.
America's Cup sailor and lifetime Fremantle resident John Longley said about this new project, which is scheduled to happen every two years: "It is not often that a great idea corresponds with a great need. I am sure that everyone interested in long distance, bluewater ocean racing will be captivated by the potential of this great race."
Although this is a non-stop ocean race, there will be 11 legs, each one starting and finishing with the fleet passing through a gate, either created with electronic waypoints, or a physical gate like Cook Strait, between North and South Islands, New Zealand.
Each leg will have prize money of $US100,000 for the fastest boat, which will not necessarily be the leading boat, and there will also be points scored, so there will be a points winner as well as a first across the finishing line winner. The gates which divide the race into legs, are also an important safety feature, because they will prevent the fleet from straying too far south into dangerous iceberg territory.
This race will be open to yacht clubs around the world, which will represent their countries, boats will have to be skippered and crewed by nationals of the country they represent, making this very much a "nations cup" of bluewater ocean racing.
The driving force behind this daring new concept is Fremantle identity Bob Williams, the former owner of the champion Australian basketball team, the Perth Wildcats, he was also one of Western Australia's most successful ocean racers in the 80s, with a pocket maxi called Freight Train.
He has gathered around him a team of international sailor, including John Longley, and Sir James Hardy, who will be patron of the race, to develop the concept. Williams said: "Fremantle is a place where every sailor in the world dreams of sailing, and now we are able to give the world's best sailors an opportunity to come back here and be a part of a totally new concept in ocean racing."
Talking about the boats he is designing for this unique race, Ron Holland said, "my aim has been to create a new design for this great race, that presents an exciting high performance platform, yet acknowledges the desirability of greater safety margins than would have been possible to achieve outside the one design concept."
The course will take the boats south from Fremantle to Cape Leeuwin, where they will turn left, and head across the Great Australian Bight, passing Cape Horn - which is almost exactly half way, then on to the Cape of Good Hope, before finishing back in Fremantle.
Each of the legs is named after a famous ship connected with the southern hemisphere, including Endeavour and Cutty Sark, while the gates that separate the legs will be named after sailors or explorers like Scott and Tabarly