Five 100ft maxis and one new 80 footer
Just under a month and a half out from the start of the 69th Rolex Sydney Hobart Yacht Race, the CYCA has confirmed that 97 yachts are registered for the race, including 22 international entrants, which when calculated as a proportion of the entire fleet, represents a race record. The tally of competitors should comfortably surpass 2012’s 76 race starters.
Rarely has the front end of the fleet appeared so competitive. Six-time line honours winner and current race record holder Wild Oats XI, the 100ft maxi owned by Bob Oatley and skippered by Mark Richards, again starts as the boat to beat for line honours.
Wild Oats XI currently holds the race record - setting a fastest time of 1 day, 18 hours, 23 minutes and 12 seconds in 2012 - a feat which not only secured line honours but outright handicap victory and the coveted Tattersall’s Cup. Never one to rest on their laurels, over the past twelve months, the Wild Oats XI team has continued its longstanding quest to maximise the yacht’s speed potential and has installed their boat with a DSS foil package (read more about this here).
The revamped Wild Oats XI faces still competition from three other Australian 100ft Maxis. Anthony Bell skippers his new Loyal, now repaired after the boat in its previous guise as Rambler 100 lost its keel and capsized during the 2011 Rolex Fastnet Race.
Loyal’s crew is impressive, featuring the vastly experienced Michael Coxon and Stan Honey, while welcoming an event debutant - 2010 ISAF Rolex World Sailor of the Year and America’s Cup winner Tom Slingsby.
Ragamuffin, expertly skippered by Australian sailing legend Syd Fischer, 86 years young and with 44 Rolex Sydney Hobart races to his name, narrowly won line honours in 2011 under its previous incarnation as Anthony Bell’s Investec Loyal. While the outside bet, Grant Wharington’s Wild Thing, has recently undergone structural changes designed to improve performance. She claimed line honours back in 2003.
A fifth 100ft yacht, the Farr designed Southern Wind 100 DS Zefiro, arrives all the way from Cyprus, one of a rich array of international entrants.
One of the most intriguing entries will be Karl Kwok’s brand new Botin & Partners designed Cookson-built 80 footer Beau Geste, which aims to challenge the 100 footers for line honours. The boat is the replacement for the Hong Kong businessman’s ill-fated Farr 80, which cracked through the middle during the Auckland Noumea Race off Norfolk Island. Kwok won the competition in 1997 with his Farr 49 of the same name and has a strong team once again led by Gavin Brady and Britain's own son, Steve Hayles, as navigator.
“There is a lot more structure in the boat, especially in the deck and some other engineering aft,” Brady explains. “It’s designed to be more of a coastal boat - for the Fastnet, Rolex Sydney Hobart, Bermuda and so on, with a similar beam. With a coastal race you’ve got to sail to VMG, both upwind and downwind, so a coastal boat is more of a Mediterranean style, maxi-worlds type of boat than say a Volvo 70. It also has similar foils to a Volvo 70, with dagger boards and a canting keel that is lighter than most in its division.”
Yachts from Germany, New Caledonia, New Zealand, Singapore and the United Kingdom complete the international line-up, an impressive haul when considering the logistical commitment required in delivering a boat to Australia.
The fleet comprises 15 new boats as well as five previous winners of the race, the most recent returning winner being Geoff Boettcher's Secret Men’s Business 3.5, freshly returned from competing in the Rolex Fastnet Race, but now sailing under new ownership as Primitive Cool.