Photo: Howard Wright/

Jessica Watson's next challenge

Round the world sailor to campaign a youth team in this year's Rolex Sydney Hobart

Thursday September 1st 2011, Author: Di Pearson, Location: Australia

Having achieved her dream of being the youngest person to sail solo around the world non-stop and unassisted last year, and turning 18 earlier this year, Jessica Watson is about to embark on another sailing milestone – competing in a Rolex Sydney Hobart Yacht Race with one of the youngest crews in the race’s 66 year history.

Watson and her crew will be sailing south on the Sydney 38 Ella Bache - Another Challenge, once owned by Sydney Hobart luminary Lou Abrahams. The boat has completed eight Hobarts – four with Abrahams at the helm and four with Chris Lewin as skipper; and will be turned ‘pink’ in September.

Lewin holds the record for the youngest average-aged crew, having completed the 2004 race with a crew of Melbourne University students and placing third in the Sydney 38 Division.

Watson’s young crew includes fellow round the world sailor Mike Perham from Britain; Lisa Chamberlain, last year’s recipient and the first woman to receive the Rani Trophy for outstanding seamanship and CYCA Youth Sailing Academy member Alex Paton. The crew will come together in Sydney in October for a two month training program that includes competing in the CYCA Blue Water Pointscore lead-up races.

Leading the battle for line honours will be Bob Oatley’s Wild Oats XI, the defending champion and race record holder, that has claimed line honours in five of the last six Hobart races, including four consecutive victories from 2005-2008.

The super maxi has undergone significant hull surgery this year that included the forward rudder being removed and replaced with twin retractable centreboards – all aimed at improving the yacht’s speed up and downwind.

Trying to end Wild Oats XI supremacy will be Anthony Bell’s Investec Loyal and Rambler 100. Rambler has been recovered after its keel bulb snapped off whilst competing in the Rolex Fastnet Race last month and rumours are swirling that Rambler’s charterer/owner, George David, will have the boat and her new keel shipped directly to New Zealand where the new keel will be fitted and the rig reinstalled before making the trek across the Tasman Sea.

Anthony Bell took sole ownership of Investec Loyal after last year’s Hobart race and has given it a facelift, modified the keel and brought a new carbon fibre canard, all designed to increase boat speed.

Investec Loyal, which gave Wild Oats XI serious run for her money in July’s Audi Sydney Gold Coast Yacht Race, will undergo phase two of a re-modelling program over the coming months to ensure she is at her optimum come Boxing Day.

Since the launch of the Notice of Race just over 24 hours ago, Stephen Ainsworth’s 2010-2011 Blue Water Pointscore champion, Loki, was the first of 10 entries to be received. The RP63 has been the boat to beat over the last couple of seasons, after also being named the 2010 Audi IRC Australian champion.

With the Cruising Yacht Club of Australia announcing the release of the Rolex Sydney Hobart's Notice of Race and inviting Applications for Entry, so Natelle Two is the first Tasmanian entrant and will sail under the burgee of Derwent Sailing Squadron.

Other early applications for entry are Immediate Past Commodore Matt Allen’s Jones 70 Ichi Ban, Murray Owen and Jenny Kings’ Sydney 46 Mahligai, Tony Kirby’s X-412 Patrice Six, Roger Hickman’s Farr 43 Wild Rose ; all sailing under the burgee of the host club, the CYCA.

The CYCA is predicting an international fleet of around 90 yachts will make the start line on Boxing Day, December 26 at 1pm AEDT for the annual 628 nautical mile sprint to Hobart, Tasmania.

The start of the Rolex Sydney Hobart Yacht Race will be broadcast live on the Seven Network throughout Australia, webcast live to a global audience on Yahoo!7 and the Australia Network throughout the Asia Pacific Region.


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