Next Tuesday 10 December marks the first time that Bob Oatley’s super maxi Wild Oats XI and Anthony Bell’s super-charged Perpetual LOYAL will race each other in the SOLAS Big Boat Challenge – a much anticipated event before their 2013 Rolex Sydney Hobart Yacht Race showdown.
The Cruising Yacht Club of Australia’s annual invitation-only maxi yacht race, the SOLAS Big Boat Challenge, will be a day that showcases the power, speed and glory of these technologically advanced racing machines prior to the Boxing Day classic.
For the first time in many years, the race will feature some brand new boats from Australia and overseas, featuring the latest in technology in both the build and sails. Expect to see three modified and enhanced super maxis and some old regulars.
Wild Oats XI and Perpetual LOYAL, the former Rambler, will also have to contend with Grant Wharington’s Wild Thing.
Since recording a second historic Rolex Sydney Hobart treble of line honours, overall win and setting new race records, including last year, Wild Oats XI has undergone further modifications inclusive of a new mast and a radical, retractable, hydrofoil-type wing which was fitted in a bid to make her even faster when sailing downwind.
Ongoing modifications are aimed at keeping the eight-year-old super maxi competitive against more recent designs. However, all of the super maxis have undergone extensive work as they ready for the Rolex Sydney Hobart.
Since acquiring Perpetual LOYAL earlier this year, Anthony Bell embarked on a mammoth project to re-build the yacht after its keel snapped off, causing her capsize in the 2011 Rolex Fastnet Race.
In a thriller from start to finish, Bell took line honours by just three minutes and eight seconds from Wild Oats XI in the 2011 Rolex Sydney Hobart with his former super maxi, Investec Loyal (which is now in the hands of Syd Fischer), after surviving a protest by the Race Committee.
Bell has once again assembled a crew who forms part of the ‘who’s who’ of yachting, such as the return of American navigator Stan Honey and Olympic gold medallist and winning America’s Cup strategist for ORACLE Team USA, Tom Slingsby, plus some celebrity crew members that include rugby union forward turned sailor Phil Waugh.
Grant Wharington’s Wild Thing has been a process of evolution over some 10 years and after extending her to 100ft and making improvements to her original hull shape last year, he secured line honours in the Brisbane to Gladstone Yacht Race earlier this year, and followed up with line honours in the Sydney Gold Coast Yacht Race in July.
Headlining the 70 footers will be New Zealander Jim Delegat’s Giacomo, the 2011-2012 Volvo Ocean Race winner better known as Groupama, while Matt Allen’s new Carkeek 60, Ichi Ban, will lead the charge in the 60 foot range. In the 50 plus footers, expect a strong fleet of TP52s and Cookson 50s. Their owners will use the spectacular Harbour outing as a crew shakedown for the Hobart race and one of them could, conceivably, collect the IRC trophy at the end of the day.
The highly charged race, which is also a big attraction to spectators both on and off the water, starts at 12.30pm on Tuesday 10 December. It takes the yachts on a tight 14 nautical mile course starting off Steele Point at Vaucluse, down the Harbour to Manly for two and a half laps. The yachts will pass many of Sydney’s famous landmarks along the way, including Fort Denison, Mrs Macquarie’s Chair and the Sydney Opera House, which provides the picturesque finish line.
Now in its 20th year, the SOLAS Big Boat Challenge raises money for the CYCA SOLAS Trusts which were set up after the tragic 1998 Sydney Hobart. To-date, the Trusts have donated just on $900,000 to search and rescue organisations Australia-wide and provide assistance (financial and other) to immediate families of those lost at sea during Yachting Australia sanctioned races.
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 SOLAS Trusts. This is the seventh 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 http://www.cyca.com.au/news/racing/2013/11/cyca-opens-ebay-auction-for-crew-spots-on-maxis-racing-in-the-cyca-solas-big-boat-challenge/