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Rolex Sydney Hobart Yacht Race - 111 yachts entered from 10 countries
Rambler 88 (USA) heading down under for the 2015 Rolex Sydney Hobart race© Rolex / Carlo Borlenghi

Rolex Sydney Hobart Yacht Race

The 2015 Rolex Sydney Hobart Yacht Race entries have officially closed and the Cruising Yacht Club of Australia is pleased to announce 111 yachts have entered the testing 628 nautical mile classic, comprising of 83 boats covering every state of Australia and 28 international entries representing 10 countries.

Total entries for this 71st edition of the race are just six short of last year’s special 70th edition. Otherwise, numbers exceed every Sydney Hobart this century, apart from the 60th race in 2004, when 116 boats faced the starter’s orders.

“We are witnessing a resurgence of the best sport in the world which is verified by the statistics of 111 entries, including 28 from around the globe and six women skippers,” CYCA Commodore John Cameron said, commenting on the large and eclectic fleet.

“The strength of the field is phenomenal. Four super-maxis, Rambler88 and the Volvo 70’s at the pointy end and strong contenders for the Tattersall’s Cup, with last year’s winner, Wild Rose, there to keep the fleet honest. And the 12-strong Clipper fleet will bring the same colourful spectacle to the race as it did in 2013.

“We are all looking forward to a very exciting event, with adrenaline pumping from the start on Boxing Day, to the last yacht finishing in the Derwent River,” the Commodore ended.

International entries have gone beyond expectation. Britain and the UK can boast the largest numbers with 17, while Mainland China comes to the race for the first time with two full Chinese crews; one whose base is Sanya, the other from Shenzhen. Other entries represent Italy, Switzerland, Japan, Netherlands, Germany, Russia, Belgium and the USA.

The USA is sending two of the most sophisticated yachts in the world. Comanche’s owners, Jim Clark and his Australian wife Kristy Hinze Clark, announced their intentions earlier in the year, while George David left us wondering to the end if his vaunted Juan Kouyoumdjian designed canting Rambler 88 would be on the start line.

Rolex Sydney Hobart Yacht Race - 111 yachts entered from 10 countries

Rolex Sydney Hobart Yacht Race

Since launching in December 2014, Rambler 88 has flexed her carbon hull at major events. Crewed by some of the world’s finest offshore and America’s Cup sailors, this year alone the yacht has won Les Voiles de St-Barths, claimed line honours in the RORC Caribbean 600 (just four hours behind the 2011 record set by David with his Rambler 100) in decent enough time to place third overall.

In May she was second on line and five hours behind the victor, Comanche, in the Transatlantic Race, and in stop-start conditions in the Rolex Fastnet Race in August, kept the pressure on Comanche, finishing four minutes behind her 100ft rival. Rambler poses a serious threat to all-comers in her and George David’s first Rolex Sydney Hobart.

Also headed our way is one of the world’s most famous single-handed sailors, Giovani Soldini. The Italian was decorated with the legion d’honneur by then French President, Jacques Chirac, after famously rescuing Isabelle Autissier when her boat capsized around 1900 miles west of Cape Horn during a race. He was later appointed Officer of the Order of Merit of the Italian Republic.

Having sailed over 100,000 miles, generally in single-handed classes, Soldini and a crew have sailed Maserati into the record books, cutting 10 days off the New York to San Francisco record, and setting a new record in the Cape2Rio race. In May they set a new Pacific Ocean record for the route between San Francisco and Shanghai and kept sailing, all the way to Australia. Boat and crew come to the race in blistering form.

The radically modified hull of record-holding Wild Oats XI returns to the race an unknown quantity, and among her company on the front start line will be those mentioned above, along with Syd Fischer’s year-old Ragamuffin 100, Anthony Bell’s Perpetual Loyal and Peter Harburg’s Black Jack.

With such a large fleet, including the dozen Clipper yachts, three separate start lines will be put in place, as they were last year. All 111 yachts will start at the same time, creating a visual impact, but the super maxis and other larger yachts will lead off the front line.

Among those on the second and third lines will be the 2014 Rolex Sydney Hobart winner, Wild Rose, a Farr 43 owned by Roger Hickman, who recently sailed his yacht to victory in the 200 nautical mile Newcastle Bass Island Race.

Joining the 30 year-old Wild Rose is the 2015 Rolex Fastnet Race winner, Courrier du Leon, Frenchman Gery Trentesaux’s year-old 35 footer, along with Shane Kearns’ 2015 Land Rover Sydney Gold Coast winner, Quikpoint Azzurro, a 34 year-old S&S 34.

On those two start lines too will be the six female skippers in the fleet, including boat owners Stephanie Kerin (Dekadence), having her first crack at the race, and Sibby Ilzhofer (Dare Devil), last year’s winner of the Jane Tate Memorial Trophy, awarded to the first female skipper to finish the race each year.

The Rolex Sydney Hobart Yacht Race starts on Boxing Day, December 26, at 1pm AEDT and will be broadcast live on the Seven Network throughout Australia, webcast live to a global audience on Yahoo!7 and live streamed via mobile.

by Di Pearson

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