The great race is underway. The 2016 Rolex Sydney Hobart Yacht Race, featuring an international fleet of 88 yachts, commenced at 13:00 local time on a perfect Sydney summerís day. The combination of excellent weather conditions, the sight of the competing yachts sailing full force under spinnaker on the passage through Sydney Heads, and shorelines packed with spectators, set the scene for one of the more memorable race starts in recent times.
The fleet comprises four 100-ft Maxis - CQS, Perpetual LOYAL, Scallywag and Wild Oats XI - all harboring the ambition of arriving first in Hobart and claiming line honors as fastest finisher. Their hopes have been boosted by the promise of strong conditions. ďWe are excited by the forecast and that records may be challenged,Ē revealed John Markos, Commodore of organizers the Cruising Yacht Club of Australia (CYCA).
Of the Maxis, Perpetual LOYAL was first to clear Sydney Heads and gain an early psychological advantage over her rivals. In close pursuit was the 80-ft Beau Geste and Seng Huang Leeís 100-ft Hong Kong entry Scallywag.
Fourth to pass the Heads was eight-time line honors winner Wild Oats XI who recovered impressively after an uncharacteristically sluggish start. Given the heavy conditions forecast and need for extra weight on board, Wild Oats XI is carrying a record crew of 22 sailors. "All four Maxis are going to have their moments," - explained Wild Oats XI skipper Mark Richards. "We donít know the history of CQS as she is new with a radical design. The Scallywag team have done a lot of yachting this year, their teamwork is good, and they are a different animal to what we have raced against in the last few editions. Perpetual LOYAL are a great team with more talent onboard this year."
Anthony Bell, owner/skipper of Perpetual LOYAL, was in a confident frame of mind as he prepared for the start. "I think one of the Maxis will break the race record. A lot will come down to what happens when we reach the Tasman coast but a time just inside the current race record is likely."
Ludde Ingvall has twice won Rolex Sydney Hobart line honors, the last time some twelve years ago on the original version of his current yacht. His much revamped CQS has provided great intrigue. Of the Maxis, CQS suffered the most difficult start and she now finds herself playing catch up as the fleet travel down the New South Wales coast of the Tasman Sea.
The current race record stands at the 1 day, 18 hours, 23 minutes and 12 seconds set by Wild Oats XI in 2012.
While the focus during the early hours of the race is on line honors, the contest for the raceís most significant prize, overall victory on race handicap, is the principle target for the competing yachts. Andrew Saies, owner of the 40-ft Two True, won the Rolex Sydney Hobart in 2009 and is returning this year after following the last few editions from the comfort of dry land. "The weather forecast points to a great sail, but perhaps not ideal for our size of boat. To win this race you need a set of particular conditions to come together for your boat to win. Itís extremely hard to win this race."
The fleet is rich and diverse, featuring yachts as small as 30-ft, seasoned campaigners setting personal records and those like the predominantly Swedish-crewed Matador, taking part for the first time. "It has taken a year of preparation and a great challenge getting everything sorted," - revealed owner Jonas Grander. "This is a legendary race and one weíve read about so many times. Itís my dream to take part."
The final number of starters was confirmed as 88 following the late withdrawal of Jason Bondís Beneteau 47.7, Enigma.
Rolex has been Title Sponsor of the Rolex Sydney Hobart Yacht Race since 2002. Video highlights will be available throughout the competition on the Rolex Yachting YouTube channel.
Anthony Bell's PERPETUAL LOYAL was the first of the four 100-ft Maxis to pass Sydney Heads
Dockside preparations shortly ahead of the 2016 Rolex Sydney Hobart Yacht Race start
TRITON and CHINESE WHISPER making good progress shortly after the 2016 Rolex Sydney Hobart race start
The 44-ft Swedish entry MATADOR shortly after the 2016 Rolex Sydney Hobart race start
100-ft Maxi SCALLYWAG making strong progress following the 2016 Rolex Sydney Hobart race start
Jen Kellinghusen's Ker 56 VARUNA is one of twelve overseas entries taking part in the 2016 Rolex Sydney Hobart Yacht Race
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Rolex has always sought to associate with activities that, like itself, were motivated by passion, excellence, precision and team spirit. Naturally, Rolex gravitated toward the elite world of sailing, forming an alliance that dates back to the late 1950s. Today, Rolex is Title Sponsor of some 15 major international events.
From leading offshore races, such as the Rolex Sydney Hobart and the biennial Rolex Fastnet Race, through to the highest-level one-design competition at the Rolex Farr 40 World Championship, spectacular gatherings at the Maxi Yacht Rolex Cup and the Rolex Swan Cup, as well as the brandís support of the International Sailing Federation and its close relationships with the most prestigious yacht clubs around the world, including the New York Yacht Club (US) and the Royal Yacht Squadron (Cowes, UK), Rolex is driven by a passion for excellence and a great appreciation for yachting that furthers the strong ties that bind these two worlds in their shared pursuit of perfection.
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