No yachting event in the world attracts such huge media coverage, except, of course, the America’s Cup and the Volvo Ocean Race.
Over 100 entries are gearing up to contest the 64th Rolex Sydney Hobart Race on Boxing Day. The second largest fleet in a decade includes entries from Australia, France, Germany, Netherlands, New Caledonia, New Zealand, Switzerland, UK & US. The 628NM yachting classic is also the 10th anniversary of the tragic 1998 race, when 115 yachts started at Sydney Harbour on December 26, in the annual Sydney to Hobart Yacht Race. Fierce storms and violent winds battered the fleet and only 44 boats made it to Hobart. Five boats sank, 66 boats retired from the race, six sailors died, and 55 sailors were taken off their yachts, most by helicopter.
The 30m maxi Wild Oats XI is a favourite to score its record 4th consecutive line honours win. The canting keeled flyer has only recently come out of the workshop to be beefed up with some modifications and sail changes for this year's race.
Another 30m maxi Skandia will challenge Wild Oats XI in their 6th attempt following a number of breakages and disasters in previous attempts. The third maxi entry is ASM Shockwave 5. Another contender, particularly if the conditions are rough is CYCA Commodore.
A very strong IRC fleet that contains a number of threats to take out the race; among them the obvious contenders are canting - keeled Reichel Pugh 66 and Black Jack.
There is a very strong 50-60ft fleet contending for this year's race, Wot Now, Cougar ll and Ragamuffin. Other regular Sydney - Hobart campaigners include Yendy's, Quantum Racing and Phuket and Shogun.
Depending on the weather conditions the smaller “pocket rockets” can always compete for the race honours, amongst these is the boat called Chutzpah that has taken the honours in its class in previous years.
The oldest and smallest entry is Maluka of Kermandie, a 1932 gaff rigged 30 footer. Also breaking records is the oldest skipper John Walker at the age of 86.
The race is scheduled to start at 1pm local time on Boxing Day.
Photo: Rolex/Carlo Borlenghi