The sailing team rosters of the five 100-footer super-maxis set to battle it out in for line honours at the Rolex Sydney Hobart Race in under 48 hours’ time are packed with the great and the good of professional yacht racing.
Which one of the five will make it to Hobart first is anyone’s guess at this stage but with a favourable forecast in place it’s quite possible we could see the current race record eclipsed.
That record of one day, nine hours, 15 minutes and 24 seconds was set by Jim Cooney’s Comanche in last year’s race, but only after the Oatley family’s Wild Oates XI was relegated to second for a port/starboard incident with Comanche minutes after the start.
Those two boats are favourites again to be scrapping it out for the line honours cannon in Hobart with Comanche expected to have the advantage in stronger breezes but likely to struggle if the wind turns light.
Wild Oates XI has an impressive crew line up headed by long-time skipper Mark Richards and featuring Spain’s Juan Vila – ex-Mapfre in the last Volvo Ocean Race – as navigator, as well as: Matthew Mason (10)*, Matthew Shillington (23), Nathan Ellis (13), Paul Magee (11), Robbie Naismith (23), Rodney Daniel (17), Sam Newton (6), Steve Jarvin (30), Steve Quigley (6), Tim Wiseman (13), Chris Links (25), Carlo Huisman (2), Cameron Baillie (6), Daniel Oatley (1), Glenn Bourke, Graeme Taylor (22), Iain Murray (24), Josh Whittaker (16). * = number of previous Sydney Hobart Races
Meanwhile Comanche will be skippered by owner Cooney – racing his eighth Sydney Hobart Race – who has recruited Britain’s Simon Fisher as navigator. However the team will race without Australian double America’s Cup winner Jimmy Spithill who has been forced out with an elbow injury.
The Comanche crew includes four past-Volvo Ocean Race winners in the form of Justin Slattery, Louis Sinclair, Daryl Wislang, and Brad Jackson, as well as America’s Cup winners Dirk De Ridder and Kyle Langford, as well as: Kelvin Harrap, Julia Cooney (3), James Cooney (2), Pablo Arrate, Tom Johnson, Andrew Henderson (21), Nick Burridge, Ryan Godfrey, John Hildebrand (12), Sven Runow, Tony Rae.
2016 line honours winner Infotrack (back then called Perpetual Loyal) finished fourth across line last time and owner/skipper Christian Beck has assembled a crack crew to try to improve on that result this time around.
Skippered by Joe Akacich (18) and with Brunel Volvo Ocean Race navigator Andrew Cape (17) at the computers, the Infotrack line-up includes Volvo Ocean Race competitors Bouwe Bekking (2), Stu Bannatyne (12), Guillermo Alterdill (1), Nicholas Dana (1), Tony Mutter (4), and Lucas Chapman (5), as well as: Bradshaw Kellett (26), Dylan Clarke (4), Ty Oxley (14), Alexander Gough (3), Darren Beck, , Mitchell White (17), David Wills, Antonio Mons (1), Holly Taylor, Mal Parker (7), John Ahern, and Rosalin Kuiper.
Blackjack – the ex-Alfa Romeo – was line honours winner back in 2009 and finished third last year. Owner Mark Bradford has reportedly splashed out on some speed enhancing underwater modifications and has hired some big names – including Australian Volvo Ocean Race sailor Anthony Nossiter and Kiwi America’s Cup winner Brad Butterworth.
Four-time Sydney Hobart line honours winner Tom Addis returns as navigator for his second consecutive race aboard Blackjack and will be hoping to reprise his 2009 victory when the Alfa Romeo crew set a new race record.
Blackjack line-up: Peter Harburg (7) – skipper, Mark Bradford (11) – sailing master, Tom Addis (12) – navigator, John Flannery (15), Liam Woulfe (4), Peter Merrington, Scott Beavis (12), Shane Dunne (4), Simon Daubney (5), Vaughan Prentice (10), Will McCarthy (13), Alex Nolan (12), Anthony Nossiter (18), Brad Butterworth (5), Brian Hillier (8), Bruce Clark (26), Chris Anderson (5), Darren Hutchison (12), Dean Phipps (5).
Travelling the furthest to compete in this year’s Sydney to Hobart Race is the recently refitted ex-Ragamuffin 100-footer Scallywag from Hong Kong. Owned by Malaysian businessman Seng Huang Lee and led by Volvo Ocean Race skipper David Witt (taking on his 24th Sydney to Hobart!).
As navigator Witt has chosen British sailor Miles Seddon – a serial ocean racing record-setter over the last few years aboard the MOD 70 Phaedo – along with Volvo Ocean Race 2014-15 winners Phil Harmer (11) and Luke Parkinson (4), Volvo Ocean Race competitors Ben Piggott (4), Trystan Seal, Pete Cumming, Annemieke Bes (2), Tom Clout (4), Marcus Ashley-Jones (14), and Jack Macartney (7), along with Meitatsu Fukumoto, Kenta Inaba, Nick Meyer, Scott Salter (1), Ferdinand Galleta (3), Nick Crones (1), Jack Chen, and Matt Pearce (20).
The start of the 2018 Rolex Sydney Hobart Race is scheduled for 1300 local time in Sydney, Australia on December 26 (0200 UTC / 0300 CEST) on December 25.