ABN AMRO One and
Super Maxis to Go Head to Head at Rolex Sydney - Hobart Yacht Race
In boat-for-boat yacht
racing, size generally means everything hence why, among the 83 boats
entered in this year's Rolex Sydney Hobart Race, the three 100 footers
competing are unquestionable favorites to win the prestigious battle for
line honors. Of these, Bob Oatley's 30 meter long Reichel Pugh maxi, Wild
Oats XI, is certainly the bookie's choice having last year been only the
second boat ever to earn the race 'triple' - winning line honors, handicap
honors and setting a new race record. While she will be up against Grant
Wharington's Skandia and New Zealanders Charles St Clair Brown and Bill
Buckley's Maximus, Wild Oats has a slightly clearer field this year without
competition from her sister ship, Neville Crichton's Alfa Romeo. However, if
conditions are right, Oatley's maxi could face stiff competition from a much
Earlier this year skipper Mike
Sanderson's Volvo 70, ABN AMRO One not only won, but annihilated the
competition in the Volvo Ocean Race, claiming her victory after just seven
legs of the nine leg around the world race. Sanderson will be on the start
line of the Rolex Sydney Hobart race with a mix of seasoned crew from his
two-boat Volvo campaign, along with Australian three-time 49er World
Champion Chris Nicholson.
ABN AMRO One is not only built to
be raced around the world but is tried and tested in the extreme conditions
that statistically the lead boats could well encounter. Sanderson is playing
down his prospects of line honors. "Prospects - we've got two 100-footers
which are going to beat us to Hobart unless something fairly radical
happens. I guess if it got really nasty we could be in with a shot, probably
from any point of sail. We certainly know the boat well and know what it can
take, while they [the other maxis] may be a bit more ramped up for the Med."
Sanderson says he is more
interested in gunning for handicap honors. Having raced at Skandia Cowes
Week, the Maxi Yacht Rolex Cup and in the Rolex Middle Sea Race since the
Volvo Ocean Race, they have had a chance to alter the sails to optimize the
boat for the IRC handicap the Rolex Sydney Hobart Race is raced under. ABN
AMRO One's designer Juan Kouyoumdjian is more bullish about their prospects,
believing 'Black Betty' (as the boat is nicknamed) has a fighting chance of
taking on the super maxis if conditions exceed 15 knots.
Another boat being shipped
halfway around the world from Europe to compete in this year's Boxing Day
flight south to Tasmania is British skipper Chris Bull and his J/145 Jazz.
For Bull the race represents unfinished business. He was highly successful
in local races in the UK during the 1990s before deciding to up his game and
tackle some of the classic offshore races on the international circuit in
2000. That year he chartered Quest, the famous Nelson Marek 46 which would
subsequently win the 2002 Sydney Hobart race.
Of the 2000 race, Bull says "It
was a very heavy upwind race practically the whole way, freezing cold, there
was snow during the race and quite a few boats dropped out due to breakages.
It wasn't one of the very toughest races but it was tough for longer than
anyone could remember."
In that race Bull drove Quest to
second place on handicap. "We would have won but for the fact that we ripped
the mainsail," continues Bull, who has a flat in Sydney and has spent every
summer in Australia since the 2000 race. "We had to do one third of the race
with the storm trysail and we lost the race by two hours. I calculated the
storm trysail cost us about five hours, so that was quite annoying because
if we hadn't ripped the main we would have won."
This time Bull has shipped his
own boat to Sydney from Europe and has already been warming up by competing
in the Blue Water Point Score series, a series of offshore races that
includes the Rolex Sydney Hobart Race. At present Jazz is lying second
overall in this series after three races.
For the Rolex Sydney Hobart Race
Bull says he would like plenty of reaching. "With the bowsprit we carry a
bigger spinnaker than boats of our size. So we are very fast reaching, and
we are pretty good downwind either when it is fairly light or fairly heavy.
When it is fairly heavy we fly the kite in more wind than most people. If it
is heavy upwind all the way we do alright in those conditions, but they are
Among Bull's crew on board Jazz
is three-time Olympic medallist Rodney Pattisson, Volvo Ocean Race sailor
Nigel King and leading British navigator Mike Broughton.
Full list of nominated yachts
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