Photo by Ian Mainsbridge


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 expected.

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 October.

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.

Ragamuffin and Ausmaid.

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 the fleet.

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 Swish.

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.

Andrew Shorts 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 network.

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.

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