And so it begins, the countdown to the 2015 Rolex Sydney to Hobart Yacht Race.
At 12.30pm today the gun will fire for the start of the annual SOLAS Big Boat Challenge, an invitation only race on Sydney Harbour. The course itself is fairly spectacular.
It consists of two laps of the harbour starting from near Shark Island off Vaucluse, around Fort Denison, out to Middle Head, before a spectacular finish in Farm Cove, between the Opera House and Mrs MacQuarie’s Chair.
Designed to showcase the main contenders for line honours in the main event on Boxing Day at close quarters, it provides quite a spectacle for the Sydney lunchtime crowd.
Already the race is being touted as an Australia vs America shoot out. In the Boxing Kangaroo’s corner are perennial contender Wild Oats XI, Ragamuffin 100, and Perpetual Loyal, whilst the Stars and Stripes are represented by the all conquering Comanche and possibly the most radical yacht in the entire Hobart fleet, Rambler.
While most of the attention will rightly be focused on the big two of Wild Oats XI and Comanche, it’s a certainty that Rambler will not be out of contention.
Apart from her defeat by Wild Oats XI in last year’s Sydney to Hobart, Comanche has swept all before her in the major ocean races this year, including the famous Fastnet Race and the Transatlantic Race.
Perhaps that is why Robert Oatley and his team have opted for radical surgery on Wild Oats, putting more length forward of the mast, allowing her to carry bigger headsails, in an to attempt to make her even more competitive than she already is.
Picking the result of this race is a difficult proposition, we haven’t seen Wild Oats XI at full speed in her new configuration, light winds are forecast which doesn’t assist Comanche, so if I have to pick a winner, I’m backing Rambler.
Although she is smaller than the big two, she is a hi-tech carbon fibre flyer. Oh, and she also finished second to Comanche in both of those major victories earlier this year, and by relatively small margins.
Results and full description of the race will follow at the completion of the race.