Sydney is forecast to be bathed in sunshine and the expected winds are set to create the perfect playground for the maxis contesting Tuesday's SOLAS Big Boat Challenge, one of the big boats' key Rolex Sydney Hobart shakedowns.
Entries currently stand at 18, headlined by Neville Crichton's 100 footer Alfa Romeo and Bob Oatley's same sized Wild Oats XI, the two about to get in the ring for the first time in more than two years. Both have been out separately for boat and crew testing but are yet to square off.
Tuesday's 12-14 nautical mile race around the harbour in a forecast ENE 10-20 knot breeze will signal a return to racing for two well-known maxis, both which have been dry docked for a number of years.
Ludde Ingvall's 90 footer Tokolosh has been on the hardstand next to the Anzac Bridge at Rozelle since its last outing, the 2005 Rolex Sydney Hobart, while Sean Langman's Investec LOYAL was in a paddock in New Zealand until Langman and Anthony Bell put together a deal to bring the boat to Australia.
Tokolosh , the 2004 Rolex Sydney Hobart line honours winner when it sailed south as Nicorette, is a very different boat. The rig is brand new with a taller mast and longer boom, and new sail configuration, and the boat has been resprayed.
Ingvall and his team, including legendary 18 foot skiff champion David Witt as co-skipper, only made the decision to enter this year's Rolex Sydney Hobart 10 weeks ago. They've worked hard to prepare the boat for the Boxing Day ocean classic with some on-water crew training and boat testing thrown into the busy overhaul. Up until now they haven't had the opportunity to eyeball their adversaries in a racing format but come Tuesday 15 December, that will all change.
Tokolosh's waterline length may be 10 feet shy of the 100 footers however given the weight advantage of being around 10 tonners lighter, Ingvall rates himself a chance at line honours in this year's Rolex Sydney Hobart, which starts on Saturday 26 December at 1pm.
The crew of Investec LOYAL has started work again today at Woolwich Dock to install a brand new keel before the SOLAS Big Boat Challenge, the boat's highly anticipated first Sydney race outing since it set sail in the 2006 Rolex Sydney Hobart.
Alistair Moore's Whitbread maxi, Lion New Zealand, is due to complete the delivery trip across the ditch from Auckland today. The SOLAS Big Boat Challenge will be the boat's debut event in Sydney and is part of the crew's planned celebrations to mark 25 years since Peter Blake steered her to victory over the line in the 1984 Sydney Hobart.
One of the regulars amongst the SOLAS Big Boat Challenge fleet, Grant Wharington's 98 footer Etihad Stadium ( Wild Thing) will be noticeably absent from the start line. The boat will arrive in Sydney this evening sans mast with Wharington scrambling to transport a spare offered by Neville Crichton to Sydney in time for the Rolex Sydney Hobart start in less than a fortnight.
Five of Tuesday's starting line up generously donated two places to the now annual eBay auction to raise money for the Cruising Yacht Club of Australia's SOLAS Trusts that were established following the stormy 1998 Sydney Hobart Yacht Race.
The club is pleased to announce that the results from this year's auction have netted more than $5,000 for the CYCA SOLAS Trusts, a significant increase on last year's result. The top bid of $2001 was for Wild Oats XI, the lucky winner and their guest claiming their spots on the four-time Rolex Sydney Hobart line honours winner which is backing up for a fifth consecutive tilt at the title.
The race committee will select from two courses on the day, one a 14 mile course and the other a 12 mile course around Sydney Harbour, ensuring a windward start. From the 12.30pm start off Steele Point, Nielsen Park, the fleet will complete two and a half laps of the natural amphitheatre that is the southern end of the harbour before finishing off the steps of the Opera House.
Entries close at 1200hrs tomorrow, Monday 14 December, with a final fleet of 20, broken up into IRC and line honours and a separate PHS division, anticipated.
By Lisa Ratcliff