by Ian Grant
Merit, the former Globe race Volvo 60 will have plenty of loyal supporters when Whitsunday Sailing Club skipper Leo Rodriguez contests the gruelling Rolex Sydney Hobart Race starting on Boxing Day.
Rolex Sydney Hobart Yacht Race - "MERIT"
Every person who has either experienced sailing on this famed 1997 vintage Volvo race yacht along with her huge fan club of international, national and Whitsunday Sailing Club members will again monitor Merit’s progress.
However there is no written manual on the best tactical strategy to apply but the Merit crew who have the distinction of safely executing a rescue at sea and later awarded the Performance Handicap class win for their effort will be again testing their skills in unfamiliar conditions.
None of the previous 66 blue water classics have been the same with the race to experience standing on the stable Constitution Dock after 628 gruelling nautical miles of ocean racing this year expected to test the best against the rest.
Naturally the crew of warm tropical water sailors are not expecting another mid race rescue however should there be a call for help the Merit crew who are fully trained professional mariners will transform their role from racing to execute a safe rescue.
The Merit crew like all other Hobart Race crews are expecting to face another searching test of individual endurance which promises to be spiced with a number of hidden challenges.
They remain aware that the open waters of Bass Strait between Green Cape and the landfall sighting of the Tasmanian coast has a significant history of presenting a supreme test of combined endurance and team work.
Generally this stretch of open sea normally tormented by gale strength winds and foam crested waves has proved to be a decider in achieving a major result or finishing back in the pack.
However while Merit will be racing in her 14th year she has the proven design and construction pedigree to master the growling seas and howling winds.
Hopefully the Merit crew will not face to many hidden challenges when they set the course to finish in the top 20 on line honours and complete the course with a faster three day nine hour 18 minute 53 second elapsed time from 2010 to feature in the Performance Handicap class top three in 2011.