Some of the best known Australian yachts will be on display from tomorrow, as they compete for the Cruising Yacht Club of Australia’s Rolex Trophy Rating Series in the lead-up to the Rolex Sydney Hobart Yacht Race.
Brand new boats will blend in with tried and tested grand-prix champions in what is the very last chance to test boat, equipment and crew ahead of the big 628 nautical mile race starting Boxing Day.
Windward/leeward races on offshore courses will start the series off on Thursday and Friday, with two races scheduled per day. On Saturday and Sunday more yachts, including big boats Wild Oats XI (Bob Oatley), Lahana (Peter Millard/John Honan) and Ichi Ban (Matt Allen) will join in for the Passage Series, when race officials will test the fleet with some longer offshore races.
Odds-on favourites are the 2010 Rolex Trophy runner-up, Loki, Stephen Ainsworth’s RP63 designed winner of the 2010-2011 Blue Water Pointscore Series (BWPS) champion and the reigning champion, Hooligan, owned by Marcus Blackmore. Hooligan’s many successes since include victory in the Brisbane Gladstone Yacht Race and being named Class A winner of the Audi IRC Australian Championship in August.
Although Hooligan is not headed to Hobart, it is highly regarded as the ‘TP52 to beat’. Always armed with a world-beating crew the Northern Beaches yachtsman won the CYCA’s SOLAS Big Boat Challenge on Sydney Harbour yesterday. This weekend's crew includes British navigator Adrian Stead.
Apart from the rest of a highly competitive fleet, Blackmore will sail against fellow TP52’s; Ragamuffin (Syd Fischer) and Calm (Jason Van Der Slot/John Williams) and Shogun V (Rob Hanna), both from Victoria. Hanna finished third overall in the Rolex Trophy last year, but this year, he has updated his Shogun for a newer TP52 and has made no bones that his object is to be the top TP52 here.
The former near-new Audi Azzurra successfully competed on the European circuit at the MedCup for original owner, Alberto Roemmers from Italy. Designed by Rolf Vrolijk, Shogun V makes her first competitive appearance on Australian waters in the Rolex Trophy. Hanna prudently pulled out of the SOLAS Boat Challenge in the early stages yesterday when a crew member was injured, but fortunately did not require hospital care.
Australian, Paul Westlake, a prominent sailmaker who trimmed the mainsail for Roemmers, has been smartly recruited by Hanna to continue on in the job. The showdown between the four TP52’s should be a treat. Calm’s owners have has had excellent competition from a strong Victorian grand prix fleet and have drafted 24-Hobart veteran, Barney Walker, to navigate. Syd Fischer recently added Steve McConaghy to the back of Ragamuffin and is second overall in the BWPS going into the last race of the series, the Rolex Sydney Hobart.
Robbo Robertson is making a return to serious ocean racing with a brand new Beneteau First 40, Lunchtime Legend. The Queenslander left offshore racing behind a few years back, but a delayed mid-life crises in his late 60’s has brought ‘Sir Robbo’ back to the sport he has always loved with a well-named yacht.
The current BWS leader, Darryl Hodgkinson’s much hyped Beneteau 45 Victoire, also joins the weekend’s passage racing. She will be joined by Victorian entries, Bruce Taylor’s Caprice 40 Chutzpah, Rob Date’s RP52 Scarlet Runner, and Nicholas Bartels’ Cookson 50, Terra Firma, among others.
The Rolex Trophy, which will have book makers running to calculate their odds for the Rolex Sydney Hobart, will be held from 15-18 December.
Racing is schedule to start at 11.00am each day – weather permitting. Passage races will be between 17 and 27 nautical miles and will start near Shark Island, with all finishes in Watsons Bay, making for good spectator viewing.
Rolex Trophy Rating Series list of entries here