Fastnet winners headed downunder for Rolex Sydney Hobart

Mike Slade's Farr 100 ICAP Leopard and Niklas Zennstrom's JV72 Rán, the line honours and overall winners respectively of this year's Rolex Fastnet Race, will make their way to Sydney to compete in the 65th edition of the Australian blue water classic which starts at 1pm on 26 December from Sydney Harbour.

If ICAP Leopard and Rán can each repeat their Rolex Fastnet Race performances in the Rolex Sydney Hobart, they will be the first British yachts to take out the double of the JH Illingworth Trophy (line honours) and Tattersall's Cup (handicap) since Crusade and Morning Cloud more than 40 years ago.

Crusade, Sir Max Aitken's Alan Gurney designed 62 footer, took line honours in 1969 while the Sparkman and Stephens 33ft Morning Cloud was sailed to overall victory by Edward (later Sir Edward) Heath, then Leader of the Opposition and later to become Prime Minister of United Kingdom.

ICAP Leopard will return to Australia from the UK in December and will compete for line honours glory against this year's highly competitive fleet, including four other 100 footers – Robert Oatley's Reichel Pugh-designed Wild Oats XI, Neville Crichton's RP100 Alfa Romeo II, Brook Lenfest's Farr 100 Rapture and the Greg Elliott-designed Maximus, which will be chartered by Sean Langman and renamed.

Peter Millard and John Honan's Bakewell-White designed 30m maxi Lahana and Grant Wharington's Victorian IRC 30m maxi Wild Thing, the 2003 line honours winner, will round out the maxi fleet.

ICAP Leopard finished second across the line behind Wild Oats XI in the 2007 Rolex Sydney Hobart when both were 98-footers under the then maximum length overall limit of 30 metres. The LOA limit has since been extended to 30.48m or 100 feet with this year's Rolex Sydney Hobart the first to allow 100 foot yachts to enter.

“We have our sights set on trying to achieve line honours in all three of the Rolex offshore events in a calendar year,” said Chris Sherlock, ICAP Leopard's boat captain.

“We have succeeded in winning the Rolex Fastnet Race. Our next race is the Rolex Middle Sea Race in October before we pack up Leopard and ship her to Australia for the Rolex Sydney Hobart.”

Prior to the Rolex Fastnet Race, ICAP Leopard also claimed line honours in the RORC Caribbean 600, setting a monohull record of 44 hours 5 minutes 14 seconds for the new 605 nautical mile offshore race.

“Along with a major optimisation program, which we have been running extensively since lengthening the yacht and changing to twin rudders, we have recruited some of the best sailors from the Volvo Ocean Race. These include Ray Davies as race skipper, Brad Jackson as watch leader and Jules Salter as navigator as well as Gordon Maguire, Paul Standbridge and Jason Carrington,” added Sherlock.

“These crew members were part of the winning Rolex Fastnet crew and are ready for all the action a Rolex Sydney Hobart can produce.”

UK based Niklas Zennstrom's Rán, a 72-footer from the design board of the noted German-based naval architects Judel-Vrolijk, was launched in April this year. While conditions in this year's Rolex Fastnet Race favoured the larger boats, Rán sailed an impressive race to win overall.

“One of the key objectives when we were building Rán was to be able to race offshore, and the most obvious race we put on the calendar was the Rolex Fastnet Race,” said Zennstrom after collecting the 80-year-old Fastnet Rock Trophy.

Skipper Tim Powell added that Rán had “proven itself to be very powerful and fast upwind” which was a major factor in the boat not only winning its class but the Rolex Fastnet Race overall.

“It was important to get a crew that could compete in inshore races and challenging offshore races such as the Fastnet and Rolex Sydney Hobart, as experience counts when seeking a strong performance,” said Powell.

The crew of Rán is a veritable who's who of international offshore yachtsmen including Volvo Ocean Race veterans Powell and Steven Hayles and America's Cup sailors Adrian Stead, Andy Hemmings, Richard Bouzaid and Richard Meacham.

Following the Rolex Fastnet Race Rán returned to the Mediterranean to win the Mini Maxi Division 00 of the Maxi World Rolex Cup in Sardinia in September, beating Neville Crichton's RP71 Alfa Romeo 3.

Once the crew arrives in Sydney mid December, Rán will compete in the lead up events the SOLAS Big Boat Challenge and Rolex Trophy Rating Series.

“We are very excited about competing in these two regattas. The Rolex Sydney Hobart because of the high calibre of the IRC fleet in Australia and to be challenged by the tough conditions off Sydney Heads in the Rolex Trophy Series,” added Powell.

“To finish the Rolex Sydney Hobart Yacht Race is an achievement in its own right. The two regattas culminate in a fantastic few weeks of racing in very different formats but equally testing,” concluded Powell.

ICAP Leopard promises to be strong contender for line honours in the 65th Rolex Sydney Hobart Race against the other 100-footers, while Rán could well be the boat to beat for overall IRC honours and the coveted Tattersall's Trophy.

The Rolex Sydney Hobart will be preceded by the Rolex Trophy to be conducted on the waters off Sydney Heads. The racing for the one design classes, including Farr 40's and Sydney 38's will take place between 11 – 13 December and the IRC and Performance Handicap boats between 17 and 20 December 2009. The Notice of Race for the Rolex Trophy will be published in October.

The Rolex Sydney Hobart Yacht Race 2009 Notice of Race is now online at

Applications for entry for the Rolex Sydney Hobart 2009 close Monday 2 November 2009 at 1700hrs AEST.

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