Finnish defender

After winning the Sydney-Hobart on line honours last year, Ludde Ingvall is back to defend this title reports James Boyd
If there is a favourite for line honours in the Sydney-Hobart, then Ludde Ingvall's Nicorette, last year's line honours winner, must be it. 79ft long, Nicorette was built in South Africa to a design by Simonis/Voogd. Launched in December 1999 she was conceived as the world's first IRM/IRC 2000 maxi, but racing to a rule is really not what this boat is all about. "She's a speed machine basically. we just race for line honours," tactician Dean Salthouse tells me as I step on board her in Darling Harbour, Sydney. Salthouse, one of the famous Kiwi boatbuilding family, has been on the boat eight months now including the European tour and events such the Gotland Runt, Cowes Week and the Fastnet. Now the boat is in Sydney, lying nearby the Volvo Ocean Race boats awaiting the start gun of the Hobart race. As modern maxis go, Nicorette seems nothing out of the ordinary. "We built what we thought would be a fun boat to have," explains her Finnish skipper, veteran round the world racer Ludde Ingvall in his understated way. Built in carbon, she also has a 34.5m tall carbon mast and can take on board 3.5 tonnes of water ballast to supplement her 20 ton displacement. The crew have recently beefed up the plumbing so that they can transfer from side to side in 40 seconds (still slow compared to a Volvo 60 where this takes around just 15 seconds ... ) They have some tweaky bits, like a trim tab on the keel. But like an increasing number of boats of this size the fundamental concept is simply to go like the clappers. Although 15ft bigger than a Volvo Ocean 60, her largest kites are almost twice the size (650sqm) and she will have 23 on board for