Two brand new 30-metre-long
super maxis, one built in Australia and the other in New Zealand,
will head an international fleet contesting the Rolex Sydney Hobart
Yacht Race 2003. Australia’s premier ocean classic starts
from Sydney Harbour on Boxing Day, 26 December.
Peter Campbell previews this year’s
630-nautical mile ocean race.
A month before the close of nominations
for the 59th bluewater classic, conducted by the Cruising Yacht
Club of Australia, entries had already been received from the USA,
New Zealand and all states of Australia. Other overseas boats are
Judged by widespread early interest,
the fleet could well exceed 80 boats, compared with the 57 starters
in the 2002 blue water classic. Certainly it augers well for next
year’s 60th with the CYCA and Rolex already planning a grand
celebration and extensive international and local participation.
The two new super maxis are Grant Wharington’s
Skandia Wild Thing, a state-of-the-art 98-footer with a
canting keel and radical rig built near Melbourne, and Zana,
an equally high-tech yacht built in Wellington, New Zealand, for
Stewart Thwaites. Both fully carbon boats were launched in early
At 30 metres LOA (length overall) Skandia
Wild Thing and Zana will be the biggest racing yachts
ever to contest the Sydney-Hobart Yacht Race, designed to be just
within the maximum LOA of 30 metres and the IRC Upper Speed Limit
rating of 1.61.
However, high-tech design and construction
for the 2003 race will not be limited to big boats; Rod Skellet,
owner of the 9.54-metre Krakatoa, which set an elapsed
time record for a boat under 10 metres in last year’s race,
has set his sights on beating the big boats on corrected time.
|2002 overall winner,Quest,
in an unusual attitude
Grant Wharington, a highly competitive
and experienced Victorian yachtsman, has scored many wins with his
previous yachts named Wild Thing, but line honours in the
Sydney-Hobart has so far eluded him. This could be his real chance
with the new Wild Thing, designed by innovative fellow-Victorian
Don Jones and built by Mal Hart at Mornington.
Jones has created a striking yacht that
will just come within the CYCA’s maximum LOA of 30-metres
(98 feet) and the IRC Upper Limit of 1.61. The canting keel will
also come within Yachting Australia’s safety limit of 10 degrees
of static heel for Category 1 races. The new Wild Thing
will carry Doyle Fraser D-4 sails on a 15/16 swept-back spreader
rig with non-overlapping headsails. All downwind sails will be tacked
on the centre line, thus eliminating the need for spinnaker and
jockey poles and gear for braces.
The other super maxi, Zana,
virtually the same size as Wild Thing and also built in
carbon fibre, will be the biggest racing yacht ever owned by a New
Zealander and the first maxi owned by a resident Kiwi since the
days of Sir Tom Clark’s Buccaneer. (New Zealander
Neville Crichton lives in Sydney).
It has been a bold move by Wellington-based
entrepeneur Thwaites, who won the IRC Division of last year’s
Sydney-Hobart Yacht Race with the aging 55-footer Starlight
Express. Not only did he decide to build a large racing yacht,
but also to enter into a partnership with boat builder Paul Hakes
to set up a world class boat building facility in the form of Hakes
Marine in Wellington.
Designed by Brett Bakewell-White, Zana
is all carbon and will use water ballast rather than a canting keel.
The carbon spars have been built by Southern Spars, the D-4 sails
from Doyle, New Zealand, with the custom deck gear and winches manufactured
in the USA and Italy by Harken.
When the CYCA confirmed that the Overall
Winner of the 2003 Race would again be the first yacht on corrected
time in the IMS (International Measurement System) handicap category,
it also announced that boats with water ballast, that obtain an
IMS rating certificate, will be eligible to compete in the IMS handicap
category. Multiple entries (IMS and IRC) were allowed for the 2002
Race, but water-ballasted boats were still excluded from IMS.
The decision means that almost the entire
fleet will be eligible for the historic Tattersalls Cup, making
this year’s race to be the overall winner one of the most
open handicap contests in years, with strong contenders right across
Two strong contenders for IMS honours
will be the American yacht Zaraffa, winner of this year’s
DaimlerChrysler North Atlantic Challenge, and the new Yendys,
a Judel Vrolijk 52, which has been a top grand prix racer in Europe.
Zaraffa, a Reichel/Pugh 65
is owned by Dr Huntington ‘Skip’ Sheldon, a member of
the New York Yacht Club, who lives in the east coast state of Vermont.
The yacht carries the sail number USA 16.
Syndey 38s, Uncensored and
Since being launched in 2000, Zaraffa’s
successes have included finishing first in the Super Zero division
of the 2001 Fastnet Race and second Overall, winning her class in
the 2002 Bermuda Race. The yacht also won the prestigious St David’s
Lighthouse Trophy in the USA in 2002 and this year won both IMS
and IRC divisions of the North Atlantic Challenge. The North Atlantic
Challenge is sailed over 3,600 nautical miles from Newport, Rhode
Island, USA, to Cuxhaven, near Hamburg, Germany.
One of the watch captains will be Englishman
Neal McDonald who sailed the Volvo 60 Assa Abloy to a line
honours victory in the 2001 Sydney Hobart Race while the navigator
will be American Mark Rudiger who filled that role on Assa Abloy
in the Volvo Ocean Challenge.
This year’s race will see the
return of successful Sydney ocean racing yachtsman, Geoff Ross,
who has essentially been absent from the sailing scene due to the
pressure of business since he guided his previous Yendys
to victory in the 1999 Hobart race.
His new Yendys is the Mediterranean
based Banco Espirito Santo, designed by Rolf Vrolijk, the man responsible
for the America’s Cup winning yacht Alinghi.
Ross has assembled an outstanding crew
to reinforce his chances of scoring an overall handicap win in this
year’s race. It will include Australia’s Grant Simmer
and internationally acclaimed navigator, Juan Vila.
Simmer was navigator of Australia
II for the 1983 America’s Cup win and acted as design
coordinator for Alinghi this year, while Vila was navigator
for the winning illbruck team in the last Volvo Ocean Race
around the world.
Another well-known Sydney yachtsman
sailing a new boat to Hobart this year is Ray Roberts who last year
skippered his Farr 52, Hollywood Boulevard, into fifth
place in the bluewater classic. This boat is now based in South-East
Asia and Roberts plans to race a new dk46 cruiser/racer built in
Malaysia in the Sydney-Hobart.
Volvo 60, djuice.
Overall winner of the 2002 race, Sydney
yachtsman Bob Steel, has entered his Nelson/Marek 46 Quest
for this year’s race, with sailing master Michael Green sailing
his 25th Hobart. Michael’s late father, Peter Green, sailed
in 35 Sydney-Hobarts between 1947 and 1989, making them the first
father and son to have each competed in 25 or more Hobarts.
Veteran Syd Fischer has given his Farr
50 Ragamuffin a major refurbishment for this year’s
event, changing the rig to a swept-back spreader combination and
making other changes similar to those made to Quest before
her win last year.
For the first time in four years, all
Australian states will be represented in the bluewater classic,
with the much travelled Mummery 45 Ice Fire being entered
by Dutch-born, now West Australian resident, Hans Butter, and South
Australian Gary Shanks returning with Pale Ale Rager.
Veteran Hobart yachtsman John Bennetto
will be returning for his 43rd Sydney-Hobart Race, setting yet another
benchmark for individual sailors.
Small yachts will be given more recognition
this year with CYCA director Rod Skellet donating a magnificent
silver trophy for the fastest small yacht in the race. Called the
Battery Point Trophy – after the historic Hobart landmark
where the 630-nautical mile race from Sydney finishes. The trophy
will be awarded to the fastest boat under a yet to be specified
LOA, possibly 34 feet.
Skellet already has the time of his
Young 32, Krakatoa, engraved on the trophy after sailing
last year’s course in three days, seven hours, 49 minutes
and 45 seconds, the fastest ever time for a yacht of this size in
the long history of the Sydney-Hobart.
Most of the yachts that raced to Hobart
last year are expected to line up again this year. George Snow,
who had Brindabella up for sale, has decided to sail the
80-footer in her 11th Sydney-Hobart and his own 21st race with his
daughter and two of his sons in the crew. It is reported that Snow
has put on hold plans to build a canting-keel 75-footer designed
by Reichel/Pugh for the 60th Hobart, as the most modern canting-keel
designs do not comply under the present Hobart race rules. This
is the reason that Bob Oatley's Admiral’s Cup-winning Wild
Oats is not a starter.
Ludde Ingvall’s 80-footer Nicorette
has undergone a secret redevelopment program at the new marina in
Mackay in North Queensland. The revamp includes a new canting keel,
a new bow sprit to carry bigger spinnakers and a new livery.
While Skandia, Zana, Brindabella
and Nicorette will be the largest boats in the fleet,
there will be an exceptionally strong line-up in the pocket-maxi
class in the 60 to 66 feet range.
Sean Langman’s much modified Open
60 (she is now 66-feet LOA) will be back again after more changes
over the winter.
The Australian fleet of Volvo 60s has
been boosted by the purchase of both djuices by enthusiastic
ocean racer and marine industry retailer Andrew Short. He is racing
one currently as Andrew Short Marine and has sold the second to
Tony Woodruff, Eric Robinson and Shaun James. They will race the
boat as Seriously Ten, with sponsorship from the television
Rolex has also taken up naming rights
for the CYCA’s lead-up regatta, previously known as the British
Trophy Series. To be known as the Rolex Trophy Series, it will be
held in Sydney on December 13, 14, 15, with the Canon Big Boat Challenge
on Friday, December 12.
Race website: www.rolexsydneyhobart.com