The Rolex Sydney Hobart Yacht Race 2012 will not only put the spotlight on the perennial Aussie contenders but as well as the international fleet headed by the Lithuanian, Japanese, and of course, the Kiwi challengers, who are very much capable of pulling off some surprises in the Boxing Day race.
Even after 67 editions the Rolex Sydney Hobart continues to deliver something new; this year it’s a Lithuanian team who’ve sailed more than 12,000 nautical miles to compete.
It’s part of the team’s global agenda. They’ve already competed in Rolex’s headline regattas, from the Fastnet to the Middle Sea Race.
Owner-skipper Simonas Steponavicius said there was just one more box to tick for the 18-Lithuanian sailors on board Ambersail.
'The Sydney Hobart is one of those events you start thinking of when you’re at work, it’s one of those legendary races,’’ he said. 'It’s very competitive and very tactical racing; this is sailing at its purest.'
The team, which is a household name at home, has averaged 20,000 nautical miles racing and en-route to races a year. They’re hoping for a stiff breeze that’ll suit their hardy Volvo 60.
The second surprise contender in the Cruising Yacht Club of Australia’s annual race is Japan’s KLC Bengal 7. It’s been 15 years since the island nation’s fielded an entry in the Sydney Hobart.
Skipper Yoshihko Murase said his team doesn’t have much of a profile in Japan.
Speaking through an interpreter at the CYCA, Murase said he hopes to increase Japan’s profile as a sailing nation.
'In Japan we don’t get much attention for sailing, but if we win we will get more,’’ he said.
The team has proven competitive in the lead up to the race, with Bengal 7 claiming line honours and an overall victory in its maiden regatta at Okinawa-Tokai Yacht Race in May 2012.
Representing one of sailing’s super-powers, French entrant Peugeot-Surfrider’s crew will be looking to protect their nation’s reputation.
French sailors currently hold two coveted sailing titles; the Volvo Ocean Race and the Jules Verne, not to mention victory in the last edition of the Vendee Globe. It is this success that Peugeot-Surfrider team leader Sebastien Guyot would like to match.
Guyot has recruited two Australians to assist the otherwise French crew on board the Beneteau First 45, which, he emphasised, was a French design.
'French have done really well this year, obviously everyone wants to do well on board,’’ he said.
'Firstly we want to be safe and arrive in Hobart; but we will do our best to perform well.
Travelling fewer miles than other international crews is the team on board New Zealand entry Akatea, one of two Kiwi contenders.
Crossing the Tasman wasn’t the issue for the team, owner Ross Lewis’ son Wade admits. It was the admission that the team would be stronger with four Aussies on board, including 18 year-old Cameron Johnston, the youngest crew member in the fleet.
'Aussies are actually OK, most New Zealanders don’t realise this,’’ he said, tongue in cheek.
Lewis reckons his team’s Cookson 50 is in with a shot against its divisional competitors.
'Our boat’s the same as Jazz, a proven racer (which finished fourth overall last year and second in 2010), but we don’t have a swing keel’’ he said.
'We’re looking to mix it with the 50s. If the conditions work out in our favour for our division, we should be up there, or thereabouts. Conditions are looking pretty good at the moment.'
Rolex Sydney Hobart Yacht Race 2012
by Danielle McKay
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8:12 AM Sun 23 Dec 2012GMT
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2012 Rolex Sydney Hobart Yacht Race
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