Please select your home edition
PredictWind - GO! exec 728x90 TOP

Niksen sets course for the 2023 Rolex Sydney Hobart

by Windcraft Yachts 20 Nov 2023 17:08 PST 26 December 2023
Niksen en route for 2023 Rolex Sydney Hobart © Harri Wren - Doyle Sails

Even before the crew of Niksen hoist their sails on Boxing Day, they will have already overcome one of the biggest challenges in offshore sailing.

Co-skippers Marc Michel and Logan Fraser are bringing their pocket-rocket Dehler 30od (one design) all the way from Auckland, sailing 1,250 nautical miles across the notoriously rough Tasman Sea that has a well-deserved reputation for testing boats and crews to their limits.

At just 9.14 metres or 30 feet Niksen is one of the smallest yachts in this year's Rolex Sydney Hobart fleet of 120 boats. Marc Michel, a former pro sailor with experience in big races all over the world has no illusions about the potential hazards of crossing the "Ditch" as its sometimes referred to.

"It's much more unpredictable and generally tougher [than an Atlantic crossing]", he admits. Niksen's crew dropped the docklines on Sunday 19th November and at this stage the routing says seven days to Sydney Heads with some favourable southerlies, "but it's the Tasman so there's a fair amount of local variation in that," Michel noted wryly just before they left.

The forecast is showing southerlies gusting to over 20 knots as Niksen rounds the top of the North Island of New Zealand which means fast beam reaching, a point of sail Niksen with its powerful sail plan for its size, excels in.

"The boat just lights-up," Michel reveals. "Our rig is probably a metre further back [in the hull] compared to the older 30-footers so when that's combined with the Dehler's form stability, the chine and water ballast it's a big thrill ride. On the last leg of the Round North Island Race we averaged 15 knots for 6 hours, and at times hitting 20 knots as we surfed down waves," he recounts.

Once safely in Sydney Marc and Logan intend to prepare Niksen for the 172 nautical mile Cabbage Tree Island Race on December 1, their first hit-out against some of their competition in the Hobart's Two-Handed Division which has attracted 21 entrants all eager to be the first double-handed boat to win the famous 628 nautical mile ocean classic on handicap.

While Niksen and her co-skippers have established a formidable reputation in New Zealand short-handed racing circles with a string of podium places, Michel acknowledges the Rolex Sydney Hobart represents their toughest racing challenge so far.

"There are two objectives," he states. "First it will be the best looking 30-footer on the Harbour on Boxing Day and second it will be the fastest 30 footer irrespective of rating."

The award-winning Dehler 30od's lines are courtesy of well-known designers Judel/Vrolijk, who have given the 30od a reverse profile bow and heavily chamfered topsides/gunwale that reduce windage and panel weight. She looks like a smaller version of the Fast 40 Ran or one of the later Hugo Boss IMOCA 60s. Weighing just 2,800 kilograms the boat effectively handles like a big skiff, responsive to every tweak and burb.

Niksen also boasts a couple of extra arrows in its offshore armoury, usually only found on big custom racing machines.

The first is water ballast, meaning the boat can carry an extra 200kg on the high side, equivalent to three 67kg crew which translates into another half-a-knot of boat speed; a big deal over 628 nautical miles.

The other is the so-called 'Stealth Drive'. The shaft and prop are on a retractable strut, easily operated by a lever in the cockpit. When lowered, the three-blade prop pushes the boat along at over six knots. When retracted, the strut is hermetically sealed behind a cover. Dehler have managed to do it on a 30-footer, the drag saving equivalent to an estimated 7-8 seconds a mile.

Downstairs on the Dehler 30od Marc and Logan are surprisingly comfortable. There are two generous quarter-berths aft with padding up the sides. A one-burner cooker pumps out the coffee and noodles, while next to the galley is a secure, moulded locker for cold storage. Bunk cushions are strapped up out of the way, and a wooden table folds out. One of Marc's short-handed criteria, he says, is "a boat that looks after its crew."

Of course, the weather will play a big part in deciding the eventual winner of the Two-Handed Division and the Rolex Sydney Hobart itself. Last year the fleet experienced what was described as "a traditional Hobart" with big winds and seas in Bass Strait on the night of the 27th and a stiff southerly for the two-handed entries trying to get to the finish in Hobart.

With its ability to keep pace with much larger boats in the right conditions and her crew hardened during long miles in tough Kiwi waters Niksen could surprise the dockside pundits. Either way it's shaping-up to be a memorable international racing debut for this Kiwi speedster.

Related Articles

Cup Spy: June 13 - Swiss smash rig
The Swiss America's Cup Challenger, Alinghi Red Bull Racing broke is mast on Thursday afternoon The Swiss America's Cup Challenger, Alinghi Red Bull Racing broke is mast on Thursday afternoon, late into a four hour training session in a breeze of 20kts. Posted on 13 Jun
First finishers in Loro Piana Giraglia offshore
The first to cross the finish line was the Dutch maxi Black Jack 100 of Remon Vos An epic regatta! Strong wind and very rough sea for the offshore leg of the Loro Piana Giraglia. Starting yesterday at 12 from the Gulf of Saint-Tropez, the fleet of 129 boats sailed towards Corsica, rounded Giraglia, and returned to Genoa. Posted on 13 Jun
US Sailing announces US WingFoil Nationals
Inaugural championship set to take place at iconic St. Francis Yacht Club this August US Sailing and St. Francis Yacht Club (StFYC) in San Francisco, California, have joined together to announce the first-ever US WingFoil Championship being held August 9-11, 2024, in San Francisco. Posted on 13 Jun
Ensis Engadinwing Formula Wing Europeans day 3
Wind conditions didn't allow for racing today on Lake Silvaplana Unfortunately, there was no racing today due to inconsistent light winds on Lake Silvaplana. Posted on 13 Jun
Jerelyn Biehl honored for leadership
With 2024 BoatUS/NWSA Leadership in Women's Sailing Award The youngest of three children, Jerelyn Biehl was born into a sailing family. She learned sailing from her parents and as a teenager absorbed all things boating at her father's marine store. Posted on 13 Jun
J/24 Range Rover European Championship day 1
Mistral blowing at over 30 knots blocks racing on the first day A strong Mistral wind, which yesterday had prevented the practice race taking place for the J/24s gathered in Porto Cervo for their European Championship, was blowing even harder today. Posted on 13 Jun
Governor proclaims June Adaptive Boating Month
It serves to spotlight the importance and opportunities for people with disabilities June 2024 has proven to be a rewarding month for Chesapeake Region Accessible Boating. It marks the beginning of "Adaptive Boating Month" in Maryland and the 25th Annual Don Backe Memorial Regatta, held in honor of CRAB's founder. Posted on 13 Jun
44Cup Marstrand 2024 preview
The 44Cup returns to its most regularly visited venue next week The 44Cup returns to its most regularly visited venue next week with the 44Cup Marstrand taking place over 19-23 June with support from Artemis Technologies and Marstrands Segelsällskap. Posted on 13 Jun
First entries for Predictwind Moth Worlds
Olympic Gold Medalist and America's Cup sailor enters Predictwind Moth Worlds at Manly SC Olympic Gold and Silver medalist, and America's Cup sailor Iain Jensen, is one of the first entries in the Predictwind Moth Worlds scheduled for 30 December 2024 - 9 January 2025 at Manly Sailing Club. Posted on 13 Jun
XS 52 SUPER SERIES Newport RI Trophy Day 2
Super consistent Quantum Racing extend After winning the second race on Wednesday, Quantum Racing powered by American Magic have now taking three winning guns from four starts at the XS 52 SUPER SERIES Newport Trophy to lead by eight points ahead of the Thai flagged Team Vayu. Posted on 13 Jun
Doyle_SailWorld_728X90px-03 BOTTOMRooster Wetsuit RangePredictWind - Routing 728x90 BOTTOM