New Zealand's biggest-ever racing yacht, the super maxi Zana, is due in Sydney late tomorrow to challenge Australia's largest ocean racer, Skandia, for Line Honours in the Rolex Sydney Hobart Yacht Race.
Wellington property developer Stewart THWAITES has built Zana specifically to take out Line Honours in what is shaping up as a unique TransTasman duel with Victorian Grant Wharington's new Skandia, also designed to be the fastest boat in the fleet that heads south on Boxing Day.
Both yachts represent the cutting edge of yacht design, construction, rigs and sails from Australia and New Zealand, with the crews almost all nationals of each boat's country of origin.
Both boats are 98-footers, just within the overall length limit of 30 metres for the 627 nautical mile race, and both are totally carbon fibre construction, in their hull, rig and sails.
However, Skandia has a revolutionary canting keel and electric winches, whereas Zana is a relatively conventional maxi, although she does have trim tabs on the rudder.
Early this afternoon, Zana was power-reaching across the Tasman Sea in an 18 knot south-easterly breeze, sailed by a delivery crew of eight, but was still 450 nautical miles from Sydney.
Thwaites advised the Rolex Media Centre at the Cruising Yacht Club of Australia that he expected Zana to berth at Rushcutters Bay tomorrow evening or Thursday morning.
"I am flying across to Sydney tomorrow to welcome the boat. The rest of the crew will fly in over the next few days for some intensive training and sail evaluation,"
added Thwaites who last year won the IRC handicap division with his much-travelled 55-footer Starlight Express.
Unlike Skandia, Zana's first ocean race will be in the Rolex Sydney Hobart Yacht Race, but Thwaites sees this as no handicap for his highly experienced crew of New Zealand international sailors.
"We sailed her hard from Wellington to Auckland, a distance that is only 100 miles short of the Sydney to Hobart course,"
Thwaites said. "We got a hammering in 45-55 knot headwinds; nothing broke and there has been no damage on the delivery trip,"
"I have an outstanding crew of 24 for the Rolex Sydney Hobart, headed by America's Cup sailors Stu BANNANTYNE and Cameron APPLETON, Peter SUTTON, the boat captain, with the others including other Team New Zealand sailors and six former Volvo Ocean Race crew.
"The crew is basically from Wellington and will sail under the burgee of the Royal Port Nicholson Yacht Club although we do have a Tasmanian on board, Alex NOLAN, who has been working with the Bakewell-White design office,"
How they match up:
||Royal Port Nicholson Yacht Club, Wellington, New Zealand
||Mornington Yacht Club, Victoria, Australia
||Bakewell-White Designs, New Zealand
||Wildthing Designs, Australia
||Carbon fibre composite
||Carbon fibre composite
||Conventional keel, trim tabs on rudder
|Special deck equipment
||Both yachts represent the cutting edge of yacht design and innovation