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Celebrating American boats and teams in the 2017 Sydney Hobart Yacht Race

by David Schmidt 25 Dec 2017 08:00 PST 26 December 2017
Comanche (USA) passing the Organ Pipes - 2015 Rolex Sydney Hobart Yacht Race © Rolex/ Kurt Arrigo http://www.regattanews.com

One of the strange-but-reassuring things about my time studying abroad in rural Queensland, Australia, during my junior year of college was the fact that I could walk into almost any bar, of which there were plenty to choose from, and the vast majority of the staff and locals knew about the annual Sydney Hobart Yacht Race. Mind you, these locals-wonderful people, the whole lot-weren't exactly up on their America's Cup history or their knowledge of the Whitbred Round the World Race (this was 1998), but they all knew about the famous Boxing Day Bash and its powerful televised imagery of choreographed teams doing racecourse battle amongst themselves and with Mother Nature. To say that this race commands a special gravity throughout Australia is akin to saying that the Super Bowl commands a passing interest amongst Americans.

This same gravitas affects spectators and sailors the world over, of course, and, given that this 630-nautica-mile race's reputation for thoroughly testing crews and boats alike en route to Tasmania, it's not surprising that world-class teams flying international flags travel DownUnder each year to measure-up against this epic endeavor.

North American offshore sailing interests are well represented this year, with five well-sailed and well-prepared American-flagged boats and their crews set to be on the December 26 starting line, including boats from both coasts and from two different eras.

Of these, Matt Brooks and Pam Rorke Levy's Dorade (16), which was built in 1929-1930 to a design by Olin Stephens (of Sparkman & Stephens fame), is the most famous and most decorated, however all of these teams are known nationally.

In addition to Dorade, this strong list includes Andrew and Linda Weiss's Sydney 43, Christopher Dragon (USA 4304); Joe Mele's Cookson 50, Triple Lindy (USA 61333); Christopher Sheehan's Xp 44 Warrior Won (USA 60564), and David and Peter Askew's Volvo Open 70 Wizard (USA 7000; nee Groupama 4).

While each of these teams has won more than their share of racecourse hardware from other regattas, all racers know that each course holds its own secrets that are sometimes only revealed with hard-won experience. To this end, Joe Mele and company are the only American-flagged team to have previously sailed the Sydney Hobart together, having competed in 2016 aboard Mele's Swan 44 MKII of the same name, not his current (and considerably quicker) Cookson 50.

And while LDV Comanche (nee Comanche) is no longer an American-owned boat, she will benefit from Stan Honey's (USA) masterful work at the nav station, which has allowed the boat to set the course record in both the Newport Bermuda and Transpac races, in addition to earning line honours in the 2015 Sydney Hobart Race.

Sail-World.com wishes all teams competing in the 2017 Rolex Sydney Hobart Yacht Race safe and speedy passage to the Hobart finishing line, while the Seattle-based satellite office in particular wishes the American-flagged contenders great luck and success on their journeys south.

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