The Cruising Yacht Club of Australia today announced details of what it described as a fleet of the highest quality from Australia and six overseas nations for the 630 nautical mile bluewater classic that starts from Sydney Harbour on Boxing Day, 26 December 2002.
“This is one of the best line-ups of grand prix IMS and IRC rated yachts of any long ocean race worldwide,” Commodore John Messenger said at a media briefing at the Rushcutters Bay-based yacht club.
The fleet represents a cross-section of Australian ocean racing boats, plus overseas entrants, crewed by some of the world’s top professional sailors as well as by amateur sailors taking their summer holidays to meet the challenge of racing 630 nautical miles south in the Tasman Sea.
- Jim Dunstan is sailing his Currawong 30, Zeus II, on her 16th race south and also to achieve his 25th personal Sydney Hobart.
- His 20-year-old son Michael is sailing his first aboard Syd Fischer’s Farr 50, Ragamuffin, as a helmsman.
- John Bennetto is coming up yet again from Hobart with his Frers 47, Mirrabooka, to better his own record of 41 Sydney-Hobarts.
- Englishman Mike Slade has spent around three million dollars re-furbishing his 97-footer Leopard of London to bring her Down Under for the Rolex Sydney-Hobart and the Millennium Cup during the America’s Cup festival in Auckland.
- Natasha Henley-Smith and the other owners of the Sydney 38, Next, have high hopes for a win in this one design class against four other Sydney 38s.
- Terry Mullens, after his recent success in the Gosford to Lord Howe Island Race, is looking to skipper his Farr 49, Sting, to her second win but his first in the blue water classic. Sting won as Yendys in 1999.
- Neville Crichton is skippering his super maxi, Alfa Romeo (formerly Shockwave), with the prime objective of taking line honours, maybe taking the double of line and first place overall in the IRC handicap category, and if the winds are a strong and abeam or from astern, breaking the race record.
- A crew of Frenchmen and another team of Brits are flying in to enjoy our hot summer and hot racing competition, sailing on chartered local boats.
They are just some of the yachts or crews coming from Great Britain, France, Sweden, New Zealand, the Netherlands and the United States of America to do battle over the challenging 630 nautical mile race south against Australian boats from New South Wales, Queensland, Tasmania and Victoria.
Commodore Messenger also stressed the safety aspect of the event. “The fleet heading south on Boxing Day will be the best prepared in the 58 year history of the ocean classic, in boat stability and construction, in mandatory boat and crew safety equipment, and in crew experience.
“This year not only must at least 50% of the crew have had ocean racing experience but we have increased from 30% to 50% the number of crew who must have completed the AYF Sea Safety and Survival Course or an accepted equivalent.”
Commodore Messenger said the CYCA had been honoured by having the famous mountaineer and adventurer, Sir Edmund Hillary, as the Official Starter on Boxing Day.
“Sir Edmund, with the 50th anniversary of his epic climb of Mt Everest being celebrated next year, is giving his support to another great challenge, the 58th annual Sydney Hobart Yacht Race,” the Commodore added.
This year’s 58th annual race, in addition to having a new sponsor in Rolex, the Swiss-based watch-maker, has a number of significant changes to the format of the event.
For the first time yachts may enter, if eligible, both the IMS and IRC rating divisions. The vast majority of owners have taken up the opportunity to contest both divisions. Water ballasted yachts may only compete in the IRC category or in the PHS Division.
With the growth of one-design racing offshore, the CYCA has also introduced one-design classes within the rated divisions, with five Sydney 38s and two Farr 52s competing this year in boat-for-boat encounters as well as on handicap in IMS and IRC.
Short odds line honours favourite is Sydney-based New Zealander Neville Crichton’s Reichel/Pugh-designed Alfa Romeo.
Launched in August, the silver-hulled super maxi has already notched up some impressive results and given the right conditions, sailing experts say she has the potential to break Nokia’s race record of 1 day 19 hours 48 minutes 02 seconds, set in 1999.
However, Alfa Romeo will have strong competition from the other maxi yachts in the fleet – Ludde Ingvall’s 80-footer Nicorette from Sweden, which took line honours in the 2000 race and placed a close second to the Volvo 60, Assa Abloy, last year, along with Sydney yachtsman George Snow’s 80-footer Brindabella, also a former line honours winner, and the 83-footer, Australian Skandia Wild Thing, owned by Victorian Grant Wharington and line honours winner of the Sydney–Gold Coast Race in August.
Then there is Leopard of London, the racey-looking Reichel/Pugh designed super maxi that has been lengthened to 97-feet LOA, making her not only the biggest boat in the fleet but also the biggest racing yacht to have ever contested the Sydney Hobart Race. Her English owner, Michael Slade, has spent around $3 million in refurbishing the yacht before shipping her here to Sydney where she arrived last week.
Snapping at their transoms in a hard downwind race will be the Open 66s, Grundig (Sean Langman) and Broomstick (Michael Cranitch and Ray Wallace) and the former Volvo 60s, Merit (Ian Treleaven), which recently broke the race record in the 408 nautical mile Gosford to Lord Howe Island Race, and Magnavox, owned by the partnership of Stan Zemanek, Mark Gray, Julie Hodder and Peter Sorensen.
Picking the Overall Winner of the Rolex Sydney Hobart Yacht Race, the best performing boat on corrected time (handicap) under the IMS (International Measurement System) is like picking the winner of the Melbourne Cup. Commodore John Messenger, an experienced ocean racing yachtsman, said today the fleet is the not only the best but the most open he has seen in many years.
“Virtually any boat in the fleet has a chance of winning under the IMS or IRC (International Rule Club2000) handicap categories, or indeed both categories if they are eligible,” he said. “There will be great competition right across the fleet with more emphasis also being placed on divisions within IMS and IRC and, of course, the boat-for-boat contests between the one-design Sydney 38 and Farr 52 classes.”
The IMS/IRC fleet ranges in size from 30-footers Red Rock Communications (Chris Bowling) and Zeus II (Jim Dunstan) through to the Sydney 38 One Designs headed by Australian champion, veteran Lou Abrahams in Another Challenge, the grand prix 50-footers such as Ragamuffin (Syd Fischer), Sting (Terry Mullens) and Quest (Bob Steele), the Farr 52s Ichi Ban (Matt Allen) and Hollywood Boulevard (Ray Roberts) through to the super maxis, Alfa Romeo (Neville Crichton) and Leopard of London (Mike Slade).