Cabbage Tree Island Race - Wild Oats XI headlines a fleet of 30

Wild Oats XI headlines the fleet of 30 for CYCA’s Cabbage Tree Island Race.
For the Cabbage Tree Island Race, Bob Oatley’s Wild Oats XI headlines a fleet of 30 Rolex Sydney Hobart hopefuls when the gun fires signalling the start at the Cruising Yacht Club on Friday evening at 7.00pm.

In last year’s 180 nautical mile race, which takes the fleet to the island north of Sydney return, and is a qualifier for the 628 nautical mile Hobart, Mark Richards smashed the record by one hour 57mins 40secs he set with Wild Oats XI in 2010, setting a new record of of 12 hours 15mins 55secs. The super maxi also holds the Sydney Gold Coast Yacht Race Open Record.

Sporting a new lighter mast and a radical, retractable, hydrofoil-type wing fitted in a bid to make her even faster when running downwind among other alterations, this will be the first time the sailing world at large will catch a glimpse of the Rolex Sydney Hobart triple crown holder’s capabilities. None of the other super maxis will be on the start line, but their owners and crews will be watching.

In a race of ‘Wilds’, Roger Hickman’s 28 year-old Farr 43, Wild Rose, is the favourite to win the race overall, after finishing third overall in the Sydney Gold Coast Yacht Race and consequently winning the Flinders Islet and Bird Island races. They were the first three races in the CYCA’s Blue Water Pointscore Series, of which the Cabbage Tree Island Race is the fourth.

Wild Rose was Bob Oatley’s original Wild Oats and Hickman and his crew still get the best out of her. With two partners, he won the 1993 Hobart overall under IOR, the first time an overall IMS winner was simultaneously declared and the last time there was an IOR winner. The boat and crew are in fine form and Hickman, who has a big lead in the BWPS, of which the Rolex Sydney Hobart is the decider, is hoping to make it three wins in a row.

Roger Hickman and his Wild Rose Crew are hoping to make it three wins in a row.

At the other end of the spectrum, Tony Kirby has been working furiously to get his brand new Patrice ready in time for the race. The Ker 46 has only just hit the water and all eyes will be on her too, especially those in her size range, such as fellow Cabbage Tree Island competitors, the Beneteau 45’s, Black Sheep (Derek and Martin Sheppard are currently third in the BWPS) and Balance (Paul Clitheroe), along with Celestial, Sam Haynes’ Rogers 46.

Others to watch include Darryl Hodgkinson and his latest Victoire. It is Chris Bull’s canting keeled Cookson 50, Jazz, and Hodgkinson, the 2011 Blue Water Pointscore Series champion, is still getting to grips with the boat, and is equal fourth with Sam Haynes’ Celestial in the BWPS. Phil Molony has sailed Papillon to second in the series, after winning the Sydney Gold Coast and third in the Bird Island Race. The Archambault 40’s crew is becoming progressively more consistent and Molony feels they are on the rise.

Queensland’s two-time Audi Australian champion, Rod Jones will have his second major hit-out against fellow Hobart entries with Audi Sunshine Coast. Only recently revamped, the Welbourn 50 was in damaging form in the Sydney Gold Coast race, but was mowed down on handicap by the smaller yachts that brought fresher winds home with them.

The man to rack up the most Hobart races, 47 of them, will be aboard his Hobart ride, Duende. Tony ‘Glark’ Cable is equal to the task of crewing the boat and keeping the troops amused with anecdotes on Damien Parkes’ Judel/Vrolijk 52. According to crew member, Donald Graham, Cable is great at teaching the ropes to the graduates from Pacific Sailing School, who also race on the yacht.

For the first time since some of last year’s Hobart race, crews can expect some decent wind according to the Bureau of Meteorology. Its prediction of fresh 15-20 knot north-easterly winds will be music to the ears, even though it will be on the nose. Winds are expected to fade to around 10 knots in the late evening and stay that way until the following morning when a 15-25 knot south-easterly is expected.

The brand new Patrice is having her first race.
Tony Kirby

This forecast will suit those whose boats revel in upwind conditions, as it is likely to be so for most of the fleet.

Race four of the CYCA’s Blue Water Pointscore Series (BWPS), the Cabbage Tree Island race is a good preview of the Rolex Sydney Hobart to come. Other opportunities boats and crews will have to get in some practice include Middle Harbour Yacht Club’s Sydney Short Ocean Racing Championship (held in conjunction with the CYCA’s Ocean Pointscore Series) on 30 November and 1st December, and a BWPS race on 7th December.

Further, the SOLAS Big Boat Challenge on 10 December and CYCA Trophy Passage Series from 14-15 December will be the final showdowns ahead of the Hobart.