The contingent of maxis in this year’s Sydney to Hobart is a much larger than usual, with a total of 20 scheduled to start on Boxing Day.
The fleet has been given a significant boost by the inclusion of the race as a leg in the clipper round-the-world race. This puts an additional 12 maxis in the race.
1. Adventure of Hornet, Skipper Stephen Walton
2. Brindabella, Skipper Jim Cooney
3. Black Jack, Skipper Mark Bradford
4. Discoverer of Hornet, Skipper Phil Caswell
5. Lupa of London Skipper, Jeremy Pilkington
6. Maserati, Skipper Giovanni Soldini
7. Maxi Ragamuffin, Skipper Keith Batt
8. Rambler, Skipper Andrew Cape
The clipper fleet
1. Clipper Telemed+, Skipper Matthew Mitchell
2. Da Nang – Vietnam, Skipper Wendy Tuck
3. Derry-Londonderry-Doire, Skipper Daniel Smith
4. GREAT Britain, Skipper Peter Thornton
5. Garmin Skipper, Ashley Skett
6. Ichor Coal, Skipper Darren Ladd
7. LMAX Exchange, Skipper Olivier Cardin
8. Mission Performance, Skipper Greg Miller
9. PSP Logistics, Skipper Max Stunell
10. Qingdao, Skipper Robert Beggs
11. UNICEF, Skipper Martin Clough
12. Visit Seattle, Skipper Huw Furnie
Before we look at who may push the Supermaxis in terms of line honours, a quick word about the clipper fleet.
The clipper round-the-world race is a unique event and opportunity for anyone who has an interest in sailing or adventure. The race pits 12 identical yachts, each skippered by a professional sailor, but the crews are all amateur. Anyone can apply to become a crew member.
The clipper race was founded in 1995 by Sir Robin Knox-Johnston and William Ward. While Ward is not racing this year, Sir Robin will be going to Hobart on one of the older clippers, CV10.
Although it would be an unlikely win, before dismissing the clipper fleet, in terms of amateurs racing against some of the most professional sailing teams ever gathered for a Sydney to Hobart, it should be remembered that these crews have gained vast experience since they started in London on August 30.
I would be very surprised to see one of these yachts at the head of the fleet into Hobart, but they will have a thrilling race between themselves.
Of the other contenders in this group, the real challengers will be the Volvo 70s Black Jack, and Maserati, along with my dark horse Rambler.
For the nostalgic, it would be nice to think that the old stager Brindabella could be up there with the best of them. Unfortunately she is now totally outclassed by the newer, more high-tech yachts. Most of the yachts in this group will probably finish ahead of her, but if the weather is on the nose all the way south, she may push for divisional handicap honours.
So to the three yachts that may push the supermaxis. The two Volvo 70s have competed in the Volvo Ocean Race, Black Jack in 2011-12 as Telefonica, and Maserati in 2008-09 as Ericsson 3.
Black Jack performed admirably in this race in previous years, finishing third over the line in 2013, and fifth in 2014. Last year she was only 13 minutes behind third-place getter Ragamuffin 100, and two minutes behind fourth-placed RIO 100. Those results indicate how competitive the Volvo 70s will be. They are built for this kind of race. In ocean racing, the longer a yacht is, the faster it is able to go, so for yachts 30 feet smaller than the supermaxis to be so close at the end shows they are a force to be reckoned with.
Maserati, despite being an older V70, has a gun crew. Her skipper, Giovanni Soldini, is a sailing superstar, having won one single-handed round-the-world race, and finished second in another. Soldini and his crew have smashed records in some of the greatest ocean races around, expect them to give the front-runners a run for their money.
And so to the dark horse, Rambler. At 88 feet, she is some 12 feet shorter than the two leading contenders, and while in sailing size does matter in terms of overall boat speed, she has hung close to the bigger yachts in previous races. To give an idea of how competitive she is, Rambler finished just two minutes behind Comanche in this year’s Fastnet Race to take second place. The Fastnet is over a similar distance to the Sydney to Hobart, just 20 nautical miles shorter (608 as opposed to 628).
With an experienced crew of Americas Cup and Volvo Ocean Race sailors aboard, she will definitely keep Wild Oats XI and Comanche on their toes.