A number of international yacht owners have managed to cast aside the world’s economic woes with 10 international applications for entry so far for this year’s 64th Rolex Sydney Hobart - and all but one are first time nominations for Australia’s premier blue water event.
The largest international applicant is the Russian maxi Trading Network Alye Parusa, which will be not be skippered by Fedor Konyukhov, a four-time round-the-world yachtsman but by WA skipper Mark McRae. Konyukov who was forced to pull into Hobart for repairs during a 2004-2005 single handed circumnavigation and was inspired to one day return to contest a Rolex Sydney Hobart.
The one-off Open 85 was built in France in 2000 and is currently in New Zealand where it is being prepared for the race start on 26 December. It will be the first Russian entry for almost 20 years.
Konyukhov, an avid adventurer who has climbed Mount Everest, reached the North and South Poles on skis and rowed across the Atlantic will not be on the boat, but he will be there in spirit 'It is a great honour to represent Russia in such reputable and well known international race as Rolex Sydney Hobart.
'This race can be very tough and I hope that our boat will perform well. There will be 10 young Russian sailors from different part of Russia from Baltic Sea to Pacific Ocean and I hope they will learn a lot from Australian yachtsmen and will bring back home some Southern Ocean experience,' Konyukhov added. (Sail-World will have an interview with Mark McRae next week)
Mark Richards, skipper of the 30m maxi Wild Oats XI, which is being hauled out of its hanger at Bankstown Airport next week so the crew can begin preparations for a record fourth consecutive line honours win, reckons Alye Parusa could be a weapon.
'We are looking at Skandia, the Russian maxi and Ichi Ban as possible threats. The smallest of things could go wrong and suddenly they’ll be snapping at our heels. We’ll be training as hard as we ever have for this race...probably harder,' Richards added.
A Swiss boat hasn’t made the Rolex Sydney Hobart start line in the race’s 63 year history but this year the Nivelt 50 Pachamama, owned by Dario Schwoerer, plans to contest the tough ocean classic under the Cruising Yacht Club of Switzerland’s burgee.
Pachamama has entered as part of the Top to Top Expedition, the first expedition using only nature’s force to cross the seven seas and reach the summit of the highest mountain on each continent. The boat is demonstrating what’s possible using renewable technologies and is sailing in the Rolex Sydney Hobart 2008 under the patronage of the United Nations Environment Program.
German boat Walross 4 was built in 2007 with a cold moulded mahogany hull and has been specifically designed for long distance racing and cruising. Owned by the Berlin based Academy Sailors Club, an organisation founded in 1886 to encourage young Germans to participate in ocean sailing, Walross 4 will be the first German entry since the 2005 race. In 1994 German boat Raptor took out the Tattersall’s Cup for the overall handicap winner and two years later, Hasso Plattner swept to the finish in record time with his German maxi Morning Glory.
Applications for entry have also been received from owners from Scotland, New Caledonia, the UK, New Zealand and the Netherlands.
International interest is strong this year with the overseas contingent also representing a range of countries rarely or not previously represented in Australia’s premier blue water event.
The organising club, the Cruising Yacht Club of Australia, believes the race’s international appeal is growing steadily due to its reputation as one of the world’s toughest offshore events and the ability for a worldwide audience, including one devout follower from the Vatican City, to become engrossed in the race’s inner workings thanks to the satellite tracking at www.rolexsydneyhobart.com
'Anecdotally we also know that this year’s 10th anniversary of the 1998 Sydney Hobart has drawn sailors from around the world who will join with their Australian comrades to pay their respects to those who have lost their lives in past races, and to try their luck crossing what has proved in the past to be a very tough stretch of ocean,' said CYCA Commodore Matt Allen today.
Seven international entries were amongst the fleet of 82 that set out on Boxing Day in 2007.
Applications for entry for the Rolex Sydney Hobart 2008 close in just under two weeks time, on Monday 3 November 2008 at 1700hrs, with 74 boats currently nominated.
Official race website: www.rolexsydneyhobart.com
Notice of Race web link: http://www.cyca.com.au/sysfile/downloads/RSHYR08_NoR.pdf
Application for Entry web link: http://www.cyca.com.au/sysfile/downloads/RSHYR08_EF.pdf