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SOLAS Big Boat Challenge - Sailors look for psychological edge

by Jennifer Crooks on 5 Dec 2012
Wild Oats XI powering towards the finish line and her fifth line honours win in the SOLAS Big Boat Challenge. Credit www.sailpix.com.au www.SailPix.com
The upcoming SOLAS Big Boat Challenge is expected to be a fierce battle to the finish as competitors look to gain a psychological edge over their opponents before the real test at the 2012 Sydney Hobart Yacht Race. Bob Oatley’s super maxi Wild Oats XI, Grant Wharington’s Wild Thing and Peter Millard and John Honan’s 98ft Lahana are some of high profile boats competing in the only maxi yacht race organized by the Cruising Yacht Club of Australia.

The Cruising Yacht Club of Australia’s annual invitation-only maxi yacht race, the SOLAS Big Boat Challenge, will be another day of glamour, showcasing yachting prowess as the powerhouses of the Rolex Sydney Hobart go on display.

An impressive fleet of up to 20 big boats will tear up Sydney Harbour, next Tuesday 11 December, flexing their muscles in order to gain psychological upper hand before they knuckle down and focus on the journey to Hobart.

The SOLAS Big Boat Challenge, now in its 19th year, is just one of the preview events in the lead-up to the Boxing Day start of the Rolex Sydney Hobart.

A stately line-up of Australia’s largest racing yachts, including Bob Oatley’s super maxi Wild Oats XI, Grant Wharington’s Wild Thing and Peter Millard and John Honan’s 98ft Lahana, will take centre stage for the much anticipated saltwater battle.

Wild Oats XI has undergone further modifications below the waterline. She still has the retractable daggerboards that were fitted for the 2011 Rolex Sydney Hobart, but now has another retractable centreboard on the centerline, three metres aft of the bow.

Wild Thing has spent the last 11 months at a shed in Brisbane being completely overhauled and extending her length to 100 feet, joining her fellow super maxis Wild Oats XI and Ragamuffin Loyal at the maximum length.

Stephen Ainsworth’s all-conquering RP63 Loki will headline the 60 foot range, while in the 50 foot range, many of the strong fleet of TP52s and Cookson 50s heading to Hobart will use the spectacular Harbour outing as a crew shakedown. Conceivably one of them will collect the IRC trophy at the end of the day.

The tight 14 nautical mile course will start off Steele Point, Vaucluse at 12.30pm on Tuesday 11 December, and will take the fleet around the Harbour two and a half times. The yachts will pass many of Sydney’s famous landmarks, including Fort Denison, Mrs Macquarie’s Chair and the Sydney Opera House, which provides the picturesque finish line.

The public will again have the opportunity to be aboard a select number of competing maxis via an eBay auction, with the proceeds going to the CYCA Safety of Life at Sea Trusts that was established following the 1998 Sydney Hobart Yacht Race. This is the sixth year that the race will be sailed to raise money and awareness of this important charity. Bidding closes this Friday for the eBay auction – log on to Solas Big Boat Challenge Auction
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