Sailors from the United States, England and New Zealand have descended on Sydney for the Rolex Trophy Series, to be sailed over three days beginning Saturday December 13.
Top American Farr 40 skipper Jim RICHARDSON, who won the series last year in this division, is bringing an all-star crew of America's Cup and Whitbread veterans to Australia to try to make it two in a row.
Teaming up with Richardson again on his Sydney based Barking Mad will be Volvo Ocean Race winner Stu BANNATYNE. The duo formed a powerful winning combination in last year's regatta and they will again be reinforced with America's Cup campaigners Skip BAXTER (Prada 2003), Morgan TRUBOVICH (Stars and Stripes) and North Sails program designer Dave SCOTT, who has been involved in a number of America's Cup and Whitbread campaigns.
This is the third year the group has sailed together on Barking Mad and, aided by a strong crew of local sailors, they will be very hard to beat.
Local Farr 40 champion Marcus BLACKMORE will still fancy his chances though. With two regattas remaining in the class' season, Blackmore leads the Australian Farr 40 circuit pointscore with Emotional Hooligan and will be taking full advantage of local knowledge this weekend.
Richardson will also have to contend with New Zealand Sailor of the Year Neville CRICHTON, who has had the sort of year sailors dream of. Ever since his silver maxi Alfa Romeo lead the fleet into Hobart in the 2002 Rolex Sydney Hobart Yacht Race, Crichton has been on a high.
Alfa Romeo dominated the international maxi circuit this year, most recently winning the Rolex Middle Sea Race. Heady stuff, but now Crichton is returning to the very different demands of one design racing, after an 18-month break, with his Farr 40 Team Shockwave.
Chris LITTLE, Commodore of the Royal Ocean Racing Club, will represent Britain in the Rolex Trophy Series. Little can normally be found campaigning his Farr IC45 Bounder in the UK, Mediterranean and US but the lure of the Rolex Sydney Hobart has proved too much this year.
He describes the Rolex Sydney Hobart as one of those races on the "Tombstone Tick List", something you just have to do, and he's chartered the 1999 Overall Winner Sting (won the race as Yendys) to get him there, renaming her Bounder.
Little is bringing the majority of his regular crew with him and the Rolex Trophy Series will give this experienced team a chance to get used to their new boat and to look at the local competition they face come Boxing Day.
Little is reinforcing his campaign with local knowledge in the shape of Australian Andrew CAPE. Cape has navigated four winning yachts to Hobart, two Line Honours and two Overall.
During the Rolex Trophy Series, Little will get a close look at Matt ALLEN'S Farr 52 Ichi Ban, veteran Syd FISHER on Ragamuffin, Victorian Bruce TAYLOR'S Chutzpah, Geoff ROSS on his new Yendys and Howard DE TORRES with his consistently well sailed IMX40 Nips N Tux.
All are considered strong pre-race chances for the Rolex Sydney Hobart Yacht Race and will be looking at the Rolex Trophy Series as a final preparation for the big race.
The Rolex Trophy Series begins this Saturday, December 13, with a total of eight races inshore and offshore over the three-day regatta.