Tony Lyall, who is a member of the Royal Yacht Club of Tasmania, will campaign for the 2011 Rolex Sydney Hobart Yacht Race with his new TP52 Cougar II which is replacing his well-known Elliot 13 Valheru.
The TP52 is one of the world’s top performing grand prix ocean racing yachts and is also Victorian based. The boat will be Lyall’s entry for next month’s 628 nautical mile ocean classic which is set to begin on Boxing Day.
Previously owned by Alan Whiteley and based at Sandringham Yacht Club, Cougar II finished second overall to another TP52, Quest, in the 2008 Rolex Sydney Hobart.
'She is an awesome machine and will lift our sailing up several notches,' Lyall said after he and some of his crew sailed Cougar II on Melbourne’s Port Phillip last weekend.
This coming weekend Lyall and his complete Sydney Hobart race crew will sail Cougar II across Bass Strait to Beauty Point on the Tamar River where the yacht will be berthed until sailed to Sydney in mid-December. 'This will be our qualifying passage for the Rolex Sydney Hobart,' said Lyall, a Beaconsfield-based medico.
Cougar II will join six other Tasmanian yachts in the Rolex Sydney Hobart: Alchemy III (Jarrod Ritchie), Dump Truck (Justin Wells), Martela (Anthony Williams), Natelle Two (Laura Roper), Not Negotiable (John Raynor) and Whistler (David Rees).
Cougar II was designed by Bruce Farr and built in New Zealand by the renowned boat-builders, Cooksons. The 15.85m LOA hull is carbon fibre and she has state-of-the-art standing and running rigging and sail control systems.
Since being bought from the USA by Whiteley, Cougar II has contested three Rolex Sydney Hobart Races, retiring with rigging damage in 2007, placing second in IRC overall in 2008 and 33rd overall in 2009, a race dominated by smaller yachts on handicap. Whiteley did not enter the 2010 race and has sailed the yacht only in local Melbourne bay races since then.
Cougar II will be up against a formidable line-up for TP52s and other grand prix racers of similar size and performance in the Rolex Sydney Hobart, including Syd Fischer’s Ragamuffin, Calm from Victoria, the Hong Kong entry Ffreefire 52 and the former Hong Kong based Strewth, along with the former Spanish-based JV52 Duende, the Cookson 50 Jazz, the Farr 55 Living Doll and another JV52, the Melbourne based Shogun.
This will be Lyall’s 11th Sydney Hobart having skippered Valheru in nine races, including finishing second overall in the PHS division last year. Although he has owned Valheru for 16 years, she missed several races after being hit and holed by a French yacht soon after the start of a Sydney Hobart several years ago.
Valheru, originally designed by New Zealander Greg Elliott, but optimised recently by Hobarat-based naval architect Fred Barrett, began the current racing season in Hobart with two line honours wins in long distance races.
'The crew and I felt we needed a bit more of a challenge, so when Cougar II became available I decided to really go for it, with a grand prix IRC racer,' Lyall said.
Lyall said the crew of 12 would basically be the same as that of Valheru. 'We have added some younger guys this season, including Chris Boon,' he said.
Following the 2011 Rolex Sydney Hobart, Cougar II will be based at the Royal Yacht Club of Tasmania in Hobart, but Lyall is looking towards other campaigns on the Australian East Coast.