Grant Wharington’s 98-foot Victorian super maxi Skandia [read our recent interview with Wharington here] is currently on its way to Hong Kong for the China Coast Race Week where it will contest the 652 nautical mile race from Hong Kong to Vietnam before returning to Sydney to prepare for the Rolex Sydney Hobart Race.
“We believe the race to Vietnam will be another good test for the boat and that we’ll be race ready when it comes time to attempt our second consecutive line honours win in the Rolex Sydney Hobart,” Wharington says.
Since taking line honours in the 2003 Rolex Sydney Hobart Race and more than 30 other races in less than 12 months, Wharington has lightened the boat and made some modifications, including installing a retractable carbon fibre canard and a bowsprit to carry larger spinnakers.
For the Boxing Day bluewater classic, he will sail with just 14 crew rather than the 19 he carried last year.
The greatest threats to Wharington’s ambitious plan are expected to come from Ludde Ingvall’s new 90-foot Nicorette, which is currently under construction, Stewart Thwaites’s same sized Konica Minolta from New Zealand, which as Zana narrowly lost to Skandia in last year’s race, and possibly Neville Crichton’s 90-footer, Alfa Romeo, the 2002 Rolex Sydney Hobart line honours winner.
Not since Condor of Bermuda took consecutive line honours wins in the 1982 and 1983 Sydney Hobart races has a competing yacht and crew managed such a feat.
For Michael Spies, the record of back-to-back Overall handicap wins proves this is an even more elusive achievement with Trygve and Magnus Halvorsen’s Freya the last yacht to be awarded the Tattersalls Trophy not just for two but three consecutive handicap wins in 1963, 1964 and 1965.
Outright handicap winner in the 2003 Rolex Sydney Hobart Yacht Race with the Beneteau 40.7 First National Real Estate and race record holder as co-skipper of Nokia in 1999, Spies is looking to replicate his success for the anniversary event.
This year First National Real Estate is a new Beneteau 44.7 designed by American based New Zealander Bruce Farr and built in France. Since arriving in Australia, the boat has undergone optimization of the IRC Rule, which is now used to determine the Overall winner of the Rolex Sydney Hobart Race.
Many of the First National Real Estate crew for the 2004-2005 season have sailed with Spies for more than a decade and are now recognised as one of the most successful and experienced teams on the Australian offshore circuit.
The Cruising Yacht Club of Australia has received 38 applications to enter this year’s Rolex Sydney Hobart Yacht Race and expects more than 100 yachts to line up for the start of the 628 nautical mile bluewater classic at 1.00pm on December 26.