The Cruising Yacht Club of Australia and naming rights sponsor Rolex are delighted to announce an impressive fleet of 116 has been nominated for the impending Rolex Sydney Hobart Yacht Race, one of the world's most highly regarded ocean classics.
Last year's event attracted 113 nominations and of those 100 made it to the start line on Boxing Day with 92 crossing the finish line off Hobart's historic Battery Point having completed the gruelling Bass Strait crossing.
In 2004 116 yachts sailed south for the 60th anniversary edition and prior to that 115 made it to the start line in 1998. It's likely that this year's fleet will finish up the second largest in more than a decade.
Expected to rendezvous in Sydney Harbour at 1pm on Saturday 26 December for the traditional blast of cannon fire will be seven 100 and 98 foot heavyweights. They will line up for a title fight like never before – and there is plenty at stake. Apart from a single scare last year, Bob Oatley's Wild Oats XI crew has largely had things all their own way in the 628 nautical mile premier blue water event since they took the treble of line honours, the overall win and set a new race record in 2005.
But as Wild Oats XI stirs for a record fifth charge at line honours, the sharks are circling. At least four other similar sized maxis are capable of stemming Oats' amazing run says Neville Crichton, owner/skipper of Alfa Romeo who is riding high after his 143rd line honours win in New Zealand last week and one of those challenging.
“It's going to be the most spectacular big boat race we've ever seen,” Crichton promises.
In a hard upwind slog his money will be on Mike Slade's proven UK based 100 footer ICAP Leopard, while in a running race he would back Wild Oats XI, Grant Wharington's modified 98 footer Skandia Wild Thing and Sean Langman's soon-to-be 100 footer LOYAL, and of course his own Reichel Pugh-designed 100 foot champion.
Joining the super sleek and modern will be many of the race faithfuls, including three-time overall winner Love & War, Simon Kurts' 1973-launched S & S 47, and Mike Freebairn's 1968-built S & S 49 Ray White Spirit of Koomooloo, a 22-time entrant.
Ian Kiernan's 1958-built Tasman Seabird Sanyo Maris, which tonight is running first in the IRC handicap stakes of the Hempel Gosford to Lord Howe Island Yacht Race, will also add a touch of old world charm to the starter's list.
“The Cruising Yacht Club of Australia is elated with the number of applications to enter this year's Rolex Sydney Hobart,” said Commodore Matt Allen today.
“The decision to extend the maximum length overall limit from 98 to 100 feet has generated strong interest worldwide with five 100 footers promising an intense battle when the focus of yachting worldwide turns to Sydney Harbour on the 26th of December.
“There are a significant number of high quality applications including the Rolex Fastnet line honours and overall winners, ICAP Leopard and Niklas Zennstrom's Ran. They will join last year's Rolex Sydney Hobart overall winner, Bob Steel's TP52 Quest, and other past winners spanning several decades.
“With so many competitive grand prix yachts entered we are anticipating an exciting battle for the Tattersall's Cup, but of course like Love & War's win three years ago, the overall victor could come from one of the classic ranks.”
All Australian states plus the ACT are represented, with 12 international entries sailing for the UK, USA, New Zealand, Spain, New Caledonia and the Netherlands.
Applications for entry, which closed at 5pm today, will continue to be processed by the CYCA sailing office and if all the race entry criteria is met, owners will be invited to submit an entry form, due 4 December.
The fleet for the Rolex Sydney Hobart Yacht Race 2009 will be officially announced at the CYCA in Sydney on the morning of Tuesday 24 November at 10.00am.
The Rolex Sydney Hobart will be preceded by the Rolex Trophy to be conducted on the waters off Sydney Heads. 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.
To view the list of yachts applied to enter go to http://rolexsydneyhobart.com/yachts.asp?key=526
By Lisa Ratcliff/Rolex Sydney Hobart media team