The magnificent seven

We look at the unprecidented supermaxi line-up heading to Hobart on Boxing Day
This year’s Rolex Sydney Hobart race is lining up to be genuinely one of the top classic offshore 600 milers of all time. Bucking the global economic melt down the race this year sees an unprecedented roster of serious offshore yachting hardware. This is strongest in the 50-55ft range where the entry includes six former TP52s, as well as in the Mini-Maxis, where the recent Rolex Trophy Series held off Sydney Heads has seen two of the top contenders go head to head in the similarly sized 60 foot Reichel Pughs, Loki and Limit. And then there are the seven supermaxis, led, as ever, by Alfa Romeo and Wild Oats XI. The Rolex Fastnet Race this year, for example, only featured one super maxi, although there were a few more competitive Mini Maxis and other high profile classes such as the IMOCA 60s. Incredibly, while there are some big players such as Mike Slade’s ICAP Leopard and Niklas Zennstrom’s Ran which have made the long trip down under from Europe, the majority of this impressive line-up is Australian. So are Australians a lot richer than they’re letting on? "We just like big boat and the Hobart is a big incentive for people. Down here the sponsorship dollar goes a long way down here over Christmas time," says Alfa Romeo’s Wade Morgan. The fact is that in Australia the Rolex Sydney Hobart Race seems to be much more of a mainstream sporting event than its rivals in their respective countries. This is partly due to its long history and particularly the 1998 disaster still being relatively fresh in the public’s mind, when six participants lost their lives - including British Olympic sailor Glyn Charles, 55 were rescued and of 115 starters just 44 boats made it to Hobart. Of all the classic