Midnight Rambler, the Hick 34 that survived the horrendous gale in the Tasman Sea to win the 1998 Sydney Hobart Yacht Race, is making a comeback to ocean racing.
New owner James Cameron and his crew from Drummoyne Sailing Club, better known as a 16-foot skiff club on Sydney’s upper harbour, will return Midnight Rambler to ocean racing in this month's 414 nautical mile, Hempel 38th Gosford to Lord Howe Island Race.
This will be Cameron’s first long ocean race as a skipper, although he has raced to Hobart and to Lord Howe Island previously as a crew member. 'We are not at the top of the ocean racing fraternity, but we have a well-found and proven ocean racing yacht,' he said.
'When I bought the boat in Melbourne less than 12 months ago she was run down, but we sailed her back to Sydney and have worked hard to bring her back to her former status.'
The category 1 race will start from Broken Bay, north of Sydney, at 1pm on Saturday week, 29 October. NSW Police Minister Mike Gallagher will officially start the 38th race from aboard the Water Police launch Nemesis on a line between Barrenjoey headland and Lion Island.
The late withdrawal of two-times line honours winner Ocean Affinity has reduced the fleet for the Hempel 38th Gosford to Lord Howe Island Yacht Race 2011 to just eight boats – the smallest fleet in many years.
The size of the fleet has always been limited to less than 25 boats because of restrictions on the number of yachts that can moor inside the pristine lagoon of the World Heritage listed island.
The limit this year was 15 boats in total, with less than half that number being able to moor inside the lagoon, where there is also a limit also on the draft of the yachts.
Race director Rob Swan believes a number of factors have reduced the fleet this year: the deeper draft of so many modern racing yachts, the heavy weather conditions encountered in last year’s race which also impacted on moorings in the lagoon, and the increasing costs of taking competing in this event.
'Nevertheless, we have a quality fleet of proven ocean racing yachts including two past Sydney Hobart winners in Wild Rose (IOR winner in 1993) and Midnight Rambler (overall winner in 1998),' Swan added.
Wild Rose, Roger Hickman’s Farr 43, and Copernicus, Greg Zyner’s Radford 12, are two boats in the Lord Howe Island Race fleet that have already been entered for this year’s Rolex Sydney Hobart and James Cameron may also enter Midnight Rambler. 'We will make a decision after the race to Lord Howe Island,' Cameron added.