Rolex Sydney Hobart - 89 Yachts poised for the great journey south
For one of the 89 crews primed to embark on this most illustrious of offshore sailing challenges, the dream of lifting the historic Tattersallís Cup and receiving a coveted Rolex timepiece, will shortly become reality.
The 2016 Rolex Sydney Hobart Yacht Race, organized by the Cruising Yacht Club of Australia (CYCA), with the support of the Royal Yacht Club of Tasmania (RYCT), starts at 13:00 AEDT on Monday 26 December. The race is 628-nautical miles of challenge and endeavor, steeped in nautical heritage and defined by great feats that lie ahead.
Identifying who from the 89-strong international fleet will prevail is no small undertaking. The democratic nature of offshore racing, its handicapping system, and multitude of meteorological permutations, ensure victory is a valid target for any yacht in the fleet. This is part of what makes offshore racing so compelling. Success is within the grasp of any crew capable of displaying tactical, courageous teamwork and conviction in their decision-making. These fundamental qualities are wholeheartedly embraced by title sponsor Rolex and are underlined throughout the history of the Rolex Sydney Hobart Yacht Race.
The current weather forecast suggests this will be a fast race, not excluding the possibility of a record breaking line honors time.
A national treasure For the 72nd consecutive year, the festive season in Australia plays host to the great race. At 13:00 on 26 December, a nation comes to a standstill for the start. The shorelines and vantage points of Sydney are packed with onlookers and Sydney Harbour is a hotbed of activity with the international fleet jostling for the best starting position. It is a special moment, the one time that the entire fleet, from 100-ft state-of-the-art Maxis through to 30-ft yachts share the same expanse of water, and, notably in front of one of the worldís most recognizable backdrops. "Itís an iconic race, every race is different, every race has got its challenges," explains Matt Allen, owner of the TP52 Ichi Ban and 26-time race veteran. "There are a lot of races but this is the one race which captures the imagination of all sailors around the world and the public in Australia."
Sydney Harbour: Festive season 26 December 2016, 72nd consecutive year
As the starting signal is sounded, the Maxis will lead the charge for Sydney Heads trying to gain an early tactical, and more significantly, psychological advantage over their rivals. Their quest is to arrive in the port city of Hobart, Tasmania first and as fast as possible. For the rest of the fleet, the race is a greater test on resources and energy. They play a longer game, engaging in Ďcompetitions within the competitioní, and try to gain the incremental advantages which may lead them to handicap victory.
The racecourse dispatches the fleet south along the New South Wales coast of the Tasman Sea. There follows a passage across the eastern edge of the infamous Bass Strait towards the east coast of Tasmania ahead of the final leg up the Derwent River to Hobart.
The frontrunners Eager to extend her record of Rolex Sydney Hobart line honors successes is Wild Oats XI. Fastest to Hobart in eight of the last 11 races, her status as one of the raceís great names has long been guaranteed. Twice she has claimed the triple crown of line honors, overall victory and race record. She holds the current fastest time set in 2012 of 1 day, 18 hours, 23 minutes and 12 seconds. Each and every year she faces new boats, pretenders, challenges. Last year, ill-fortune in the form of a torn sail ended her race within the first 24 hours. American rival Comanche eventually sailed to victory. Once again, the yacht whose very raison díetre is competing in, and winning, this great race, has undergone modifications making her, livery aside, almost unrecognizable from the yacht first launched in 2005.
There is a significant lineage in overseas yachts winning line honors at the Rolex Sydney Hobart. Comancheís success last year was far from an isolated experience. In the 72 editions of the race, 27 line honors crowns have been taken by non-Australian yachts.
One of the owners chasing line honours glory in 2016 is CQSís Ludde Ingvall. Ingvall is originally from Finland. A long-time Sydney resident his recently revamped 100-ft yacht, CQS, is the great unknown in the race and represents significant intrigue. Ingvall first won line honors with Nicorette in 2000, and later in 2004, on the original version of his current yacht. If he triumphs at the 2016 race, the 13-year period between line honors victories would represent the eventís largest ever gap between successes for an owner. The CQS crew includes 2013 Rolex World Sailor of the Year Jo Aleh.
Other challengers for line honors are Perpetual LOYAL, owned by Anthony Bell and co-skippered by local favorite Tom Slingsby, winner of a close-fought line honors contest with Wild Oats XI in 2011. The Hong Kong 100-ft Scallywag, a revised version of race legend Syd Fischerís one-time Ragamuffin completes the line up of 100-ft challengers.
Favored by the forecast
Paul Clitheroeís TP52 Balance is the defending champion. It is over fifty years since a yacht claimed back to back victories and Clitheroe remains cautious about overturning this trend despite an optimistic forecast for his boat. "The weather pattern looks like favoring a middle size boat. The big challenge is can we come home first among the TP52s? Of the nine TP52s, I think the leading one has a great chance of winning the race." A significant portion of the 2016 fleet are yachts, like Balance, in the 50-ft range. They include the eventís first ever entry from Korea in Sonic - one of 12 overseas yachts from ten different countries to take part - and Ragamuffin whose crew includes legendary navigator Adrienne Cahalan who will become the first female sailor to compete in 25 Rolex Sydney Hobart races. "Iím very excited, very proud," - explained Cahalan. "Just like there are milestones in your life there are many milestones in yachting, and this definitely has to be one of the biggest ones. A lot of things have to come together to get to 25, so itís a very special time."
The Rolex Sydney Hobart is not simply about winning or breaking records. Each and every crew wins their own race in reaching Hobart. Each edition of the race throws up unique challenges and meteorological conditions. A measure of the raceís difficulty is provided by the statistic that nearly 20% of the 5,828 yachts to have started the race since 1945 have failed to make it to Hobart. The perils are constant - overconfidence, poor management of resources, fatigue, the misfortune of structural or mechanical failure and occasionally, very simply, the punishing conditions. These challenges make the rewards for victory even sweeter.
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.
Leading brand of the Swiss watch industry, Rolex, headquartered in Geneva, enjoys an unrivalled reputation for quality and expertise the world over. Its Oyster watches, all certified as chronometers for their precision, are symbols of excellence, performance and prestige. Pioneer in the development of the wristwatch as early as 1905, the brand is at the origin of numerous major watchmaking innovations, such as the Oyster, the first waterproof wristwatch, launched in 1926, and the Perpetual rotor self-winding mechanism, introduced in 1931. Rolex has registered over 400 patents in the course of its history. A truly integrated and independent manufacturing company, Rolex designs, develops and produces in-house all the essential components of its watches, from the casting of the gold alloys to the machining, crafting, assembly and finishing of the movement, case, dial and bracelet. Rolex is also actively involved in supporting the arts, sports, exploration, the spirit of enterprise, and the environment through a broad palette of sponsoring activities, as well as philanthropic programmes.