One of the most cosmopolitan and international fleets in the history of the Sydney to Hobart will soon discover the dubious delights of sailing in the Australian summer.
With 22 of the fleet of 94 attached to foreign yacht clubs, its the largest percentage of overseas registered boats in the race’s 69-year history.
While boats from the United Kingdom and New Zealand are no strangers to the race, the 100-foot Zefiro is the event’s first ever entrant from Cyprus.
The foreign legion has been swelled by the 12 boats from the Clipper Round the World Race, which for the first time is including the Sydney to Hobart as part of its 40,000 nautical mile, 11-month odyssey.
Representing six continents, the Clipper boats have drawn sailors from a staggering 42 nations.
Their colourful 70-foot boats have stood out at the Cruising Yacht Club of Australia and contributed a number of firsts to the Sydney Hobart. Among their crews is the first black African to contest the race and the first Chinese female.
While the Clipper boats aren’t expected to be major challengers for race honours, Hong Kong’s Beau Geste is the boat that has all the pundits guessing.
Only just launched, the 80-foot yacht is an unknown quantity, but seems to be almost everyone’s dark horse for either line or handicap honours.
Owner Karl Kwok is looking to maintain his perfect record in the race, having achieved overall honours with a 49-foot Beau Geste back in 1997.
Australian boats are favoured to collect the main prizes, with Wild Oats XI strongly fancied to score a record-equalling seventh line honours title, with fellow supermaxi and race debutante Perpetual LOYAL considered her main challenger.
As usual there are numerous contenders for the overall prize, with Ichi Ban, Patrice, Wild Rose and Wild Thing among those getting the most frequent mentions.