25 years on from her victory...

So the veteran Kiwi Whitbread maxi Lion New Zealand returns to the Rolex Sydney Hobart

Friday October 23rd 2009, Author: Jennifer Crooks, Location: United Kingdom
25 years on from its line honours victory in the great Australian ocean classic, iconic Kiwi yacht Lion New Zealand has this week been stamped the 60th applicant for entry for the Rolex Sydney Hobart Yacht Race 2009.

Skippered by the late Sir Peter Blake and crewed by yachting legends Grant Dalton, Simon Gundry and Kevin Shoebridge, the Ron Holland designed 78ft Whitbread maxi swept to victory in the gruelling 1984 Sydney Hobart - one of only 46 of the 151 starters to finish - a shakedown for the 1985-86 Whitbread Round the World Race.

Skipper for the upcoming Rolex Sydney Hobart will be Alistair Moore who will be joined by a number of the offspring of those heroes from 1984 to commemorate the silver anniversary of Lion New Zealand’s win - one of only six Kiwi boats to have beaten the fleet to Hobart in the race’s colourful 64-year history.

Sarah Jane Blake, daughter of the late Sir Peter Blake, Conrad Gundry, son of Simon Gundry, and Sam Cray, son of Godfrey Cray, have all stepped up to the plate.

Sarah, 26, was a baby in her mother Pippa’s arms when she climbed aboard the then named New Zealand to celebrate her husband’s triumph 25 years ago. “ Lion New Zealand feels as though it’s part of me,” she admits. “I spent so long on the boat when I was younger that I feel comfortable and content when sailing her, and being on the boat really makes me feel closer to my dad.

“The Lion Maritime Development Charitable Trust’s great work with youth and the exciting plans they have for the future are continuing dad’s legacy, I just want to support them as much as I can,” she added.

“The race will be an incredible journey for all of us,” admits Moore, who was mentored by Sir Peter Blake for two years. He also spent a year sailing for Jes Gram-Hansen on the Swedish Match Racing Tour, worked for Ellen MacArthur, and most recently has been working with young people through the Lion Maritime Development Charitable Trust, which is supporting the boat’s Rolex Sydney Hobart anniversary comeback.

“Commemoration and celebration will be the theme on board Lion New Zealand when it embarks on the world famous 628 nautical mile race to Hobart,” added the skipper, Moore. “It’s a great honour to be racing on board such a magnificent yacht that has been crewed by many of our country’s yachting legends.”

Preparation for this year’s blue water classic, which starts from Sydney Harbour at 1pm on 26 December, are in full swing with the boat’s maintenance program well underway and all of the 20 strong crew finalised.

Weighing in at close to 40 tonnes and with a length overall six metres shy of the modern day 30.48m line honours challengers, Lion New Zealand will have to leave the chance to finally upstage Wild Oats XI in the hands of countryman Neville Crichton and his 27 tonne turbo charged 100 footer Alfa Romeo, also sailing for New Zealand.

“While our entry is largely nostalgic we are hoping to push the boat to a top 30 finish,” said Moore.

Lion New Zealand is one of four New Zealand race applicants so far and one of a large contingent of overseas boats representing New Caledonia, the UK, USA, Spain and the Netherlands.

With less than a fortnight to submit entry paperwork, the already impressive list of starters is climbing nearer to the anticipated 90-100 boat fleet and organisers, the Cruising Yacht Club of Australia, are elated at the calibre and depth of the fleet being groomed for the 65th edition.

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