Rolex Sydney Hobart Yacht Race Countdown on – 100 days to start
It is 100 days out from the 1pm Boxing Day start of the Cruising Yacht Club of Australia's (CYCA) 2018 Rolex Sydney Hobart Yacht Race and already a fleet of 48 includes last year's winner, three super maxis, nine internationals and some never-before-seen boats that are serious challengers for the main event – the Tattersall Cup.
Matt Allen's defending champion, Ichi Ban (NSW), starts as a favourite. Launched last October, the Botin designed TP52 won the 628 nautical mile race in which she also beat the fastest time for a conventionally ballasted boat (held since 1999) and smashed the fastest time for yachts 18.5 metres and under (held since 2008).
In January, Allen conclusively claimed Division 1 of the Australian Yachting Championship in Melbourne, winning all eight races, and in August, the versatile boat won the IRC Passage Series from Marcus Blackmore's Hooligan at Airlie Beach Race Week.
Come the 74th running of the Sydney Hobart in December, Ichi Ban will have her work cut out though, as she faces a strong field in the hunt for the Tattersall Cup, awarded to the overall winner.
Allen, who is looking down the barrel of his 29th Sydney Hobart, has won it twice; once as crew and last year as a boat owner. Does the Australian Sailing President have a target on his back – and who does he see as his main adversaries at this early stage?
"Like last year, it will be one of the most competitive IRC fleets seen anywhere in the world – every racing super maxi in the world, a competitive TP52 fleet and all the other 50 footers. Then there's the Chutzpahs of the fleet and a smattering of 60-plus-foot boats – it's going to be a very competitive fleet," Allen admits.
"Like every Rolex Sydney Hobart, you have to be able to beat those of your own size – and then the rest," he says. "I spent a couple of weeks at Airlie Beach and Hamilton Island (Race Weeks) which was useful preparation. We've made sure we're on the right track."
Sean Langman, a veteran 27 Sydney Hobarts, will be one of Allen's rivals, with a Reichel/Pugh 65, named Naval Group.
"It's the former Money Penny, the last RP65 built by McConaghy's in Australia," Langman confirms of the successful boat launched in 2008 for American Jim Swartz.
"It arrives in a couple of weeks from Newport (Rhode Island), and we'll do a refit at Noakes. We plan on doing the Cabbage Tree Island and other lead-up races."
The Noakes Managing Director has come to the start line with super maxis, pocket maxis and the oldest and smallest boat in the fleet in the past and Naval Group is a departure from those.
Internationally, there are entries from Russia, USA, Germany, Poland, China and Hong Kong. Of these, two US entries, Privateer and Prospector, are the tried and tested racing machines, rated strong contenders to win the race.
Scott Innes-Jones' Privateer placed second overall to Rambler in the 2018 RORC Caribbean and has won or placed in a multitude of events. The canting Cookson 50 is the same model and launched the same year as the 2013 Rolex Sydney Hobart winner, Victoire, now sailing as Oskana.
Prospector, a Mills 68 owned by Shelter Island Transatlantic Partners, took more than two hours off the 363 nautical mile Marblehead to Halifax race record, among her other achievements. A larger boat, weather patterns will be a major factor in her end result.
The super maxis entered thus far are the Noakes Sydney Gold Coast Yacht Race line honours victor, Black Jack (Peter Harburg, Qld), Hong Kong's Scallywag (Seng Huang Lee) and Christian Beck's InfoTrack (NSW), the 2016 Sydney Hobart record breaker and line honours victor as Perpetual Loyal.
The Boxing Day start of the Rolex Sydney Hobart Yacht Race will be broadcast live on the Seven Network throughout Australia.
Online entry and Notice of Race in English and Mandarin are available online at: http://rolexsydneyhobart.com/competitors/notice-of-race-entry/
By Di Pearson, RSHYR media