Rolex Sydney Hobart: Levelling the Playing Field

There’s a sense among the crews competing for a win in the inaugural Corinthian Division of the Rolex Sydney Hobart that it’s levelling a playing field that has been uneven for a while under the handicap system.

“In theory, the handicap system makes it feasible more or less for anyone to win no matter what kind of boat you’re sailing,” Alien skipper and Corinthian debutant Justin Brenan said.

“But having a professional crew on board is a real advantage, and not having them makes it harder, so a Corinthian Division where there’s no professional crew, yes please.”

It is this kind of logic that makes the Corinthian Division “long overdue” according to divisional competitor and skipper of Quetzalcoatl Anthony Sweetapple. “I think this will encourage more people to participate in the sport and this race.”

The beauty of the Hobart is it attracts the world’s best. In this year’s race we’ll see America’s Cup champions, several Volvo Ocean Race competitors, Olympic gold medallists and world champions.

The fans love it. It brings the eyes of their global followers to Australia. They share their skills and knowledge. And, there’s no doubt they’re inspiring the next generation to get out on the water.

But their presence is also a testament to the calibre of the race’s amateur sailors – sailing’s elite are here to compete against the local weekend racers.

“We need their skills, and also we benefit from their experimentation as well,” Brenan said. “When they test something that works, we benefit from that.

“But ocean racing is not a spectator sport, it depends on participation…from all levels.”

Yachts from almost every state are competing in the Corinthian Division. Who does Brenan fancy?

Enchantress is definitely a boat that they sail very hard, if they get the right conditions they could win the Hobart,” he said. 

Alien will do 16 to 20 knots downwind, but Enchantress will do an extra half a knot. That’s very fast. They’re going to surprise quite a few people.”

Competitors are vying for the York Family Corinthian Trophy – donated by prominent Cruising Yacht Club of Australia members Michael and Jeannette York.

Michael, an OAM, is the longest standing member of the club, joining in 1945, and has represented Australia in the America’s Cup, Admiral’s Cup and Olympic Games. Jeannette joined the CYCA in 1952, and was the first woman to be given Life Membership, in 2002.

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

A Parade of Sail will take place from 10.30am to 11.30am, before A fleet of 117 will set sail from three start lines in the Rolex Sydney Hobart Yacht Race on December 26 at 1.00pm AEDT.

– Danielle McKay, RSHYR media

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