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Honour bound.

A HIGH-QUALITY, DIVERSE FLEET HAS ASSEMBLED FOR THIS EDITION OF THE ROLEX SYDNEY HOBART RACE, INCLUDING A RADICAL SUPERMAXI, WHICH THREATENS TO SHAKEUP THE CONTEST FOR LINE HONOURS. BRUCE MONTGOMERY DETAILS THE KEY MATCH-UPS AND GIVES AN INSIGHT INTO WHY THE BIG CONTINGENT OF INTERNATIONAL BOATS HAVE MADE THE LONG JOURNEY TO STAKE THEIR CLAIM IN THE RACE'S PROUD HISTORY.

Highlighted by what might be termed "the shrouds of secrecy" on Ludde Ingvall's revamped supermaxi CQS, significant design changes to the four titans at the front of this year's Rolex Sydney Hobart Yacht Race fleet promise a spirited battle for line honours.

There has been tweaking on eight-times line honours winner Wild Oats XI and her regular rivals, Perpetual Loyal and Scallywag (the former Ragamuffin 100) but it is Ingvall, the Scandinavian champion big boat sailor who has called Australia home for many years now, who has gone for the most radical surgery. And he has gone to New Zealand to have it done.

Ingvall has the backing of one of the world's richest men, the London-based CQS hedge fund founder Sir Michael Hintze. Educated in Australia, he is Ingvall's cousin. His is a rags-to-riches success story that now sees him a papal knight and on the board of the Vatican Bank.

With Hintze's backing, Ingvall has transformed his 2004 line honours winner Nicorette into a longer forward hull with huge wings, shroud bases on either side, a reverse curve bow, a radical keel and an extended bowsprit that brings her length out to 33.70 metres. The nominated hull beam remains at 4.7 metres but the wings extend the boat's width at the deck level to 7-36 metres.

In her original shape, Nicorette had followed up the 2004 win with a fifth across the line in 2005 sailing as AAPT skippered by Sean Langman, seventh in 2009 as YuuZoo and retired in 2010.

Meanwhile, Wild OatsXI has decided to dump its lateral hydrofoil for this race. It was fitted three years ago to lift the bow as well as provide additional leeward counterbalancing. CQS has opted for the combination of a full canting keel and dynamic stability system, which is an underwater wing that augments the righting forces of the keel.

The CQS surgery was designed by Brett Bakewell-White to modify the boat's original Alex Simonis plan. It was performed at the Concept Yachts yard in Tauranga after the supermaxi had been laid up for several years.

The rig is distinctive, with a fore-triangle of about 46 per cent of the boat's length. The CQS team explains:

"This gives scope for massive headsails. When the reaching headsails are deployed from the end of the bowsprit, the effect will be even more dramatic.

"... below the waterline the team have gone for the DSS and canting keel combination in unequivocal style. They are pushing what is being done already by the IMOCA teams to new proportions."

The CQS team says the end result makes use of the original narrow waterline, while having the advantages of a wider boat, due to a platform across the cockpit.

A short section of the original bow was removed and a new bow section grafted on, complete with that long bowsprit.

The same grafting method was used to add girth to the stern. The team says that, forward of the mast, the hull has chamfered gunwales, making the flat part of the foredeck very narrow. But it is the wings on CQS that will be the talking point before the race start.

"A slot was cut into the hull and topsides; then a carbon-fibre bulkhead was dropped in like a slice of bread into a toaster. This bulkhead increased the shroud base of the boat by some 3.3 metres, and the extensions beyond the normal topsides have been encased in aerofoil cowlings," it says.

"The stern addition to the width of the boat has a massive impact on the reaching performance and the running performance by having more separation between the leech of the gennaker and the mainsail, enables you to cany more staysails and large staysails. Essentially the stern has allowed us to pile a heap more horsepower on it, and horsepower is speed."

With the boat due in Sydney less than four weeks before the race, Ingvall realises that CQS is going to be short of time to tune up and for the crew to train on a boat that will have been made more complex to sail.

"So the boat's full potential may not be realised in this first major competition," he said. On his horizon are the Rolex Fastnet, the Gotland Runt (Round Gotland Race) in Sweden and other major international events.

Wild Oats XI will be chasing a record ninth line honours win after its disappointing retirement in the 2015 race. That race had promised to be the ultimate showdown with Ken Read's Comanche, which she had beaten in 2014 and which had returned to the fray the next year better prepared.

Last year Wild Oats XI ventured into the northern hemisphere for the first time and recorded the fastest elapsed time in the 2225 nm Transpac Race from Los Angeles to Hawaii.

Back in Australia, Bob Oatley decided to top and tail her to make her leaner, lighter and faster. However, during the dramatic first night at sea Wild Oats XI withdrew with atom mainsail. Comanche suffered a broken rudder but stayed in the race and Anthony Bell's Perpetual Loyal retired with a broken rudder.

After Bob Oatley's death this year, son Sandy and skipper Mark Richards decided to remove the hydrofoil, saying recently that the new, 11 metre long forward section of the hull "has proved to be so efficient that it has negated the need for the horizontal hydrofoil wing". That had been fitted to stop the maxi nosediving under spinnaker.

"The new bow shape has made a dramatic difference to the yacht's speed both upwind and down and when racing downwind offshore we can now sail the yacht at more than 3 o knots without any fear of nose-diving," Richards says. "It's like excess baggage so we're going to remove it."

It will also make Wild Oats XI 300 kg lighter. In hindsight, the changes were made too close to the race start, too little time for testing after the Transpac.

Scallywag, which is the former Syd Fischer Ragamuffin 100, was bought by Hong Kong- based businessman Seng Huang Lee, who retained David Witt as sailing master. In September in one of her first forays, Scallywag broke the Groupama Around New Caledonia Race monohull record and finished second overall to Karl Kwok's Botin 80 Beau Geste, which returns to this year's Hobart race as another frontrunner.

At the time of writing there is a fleet of 97, and it again includes two Ichi Ban entries by Yachting Australia president and RSHYR perennial Matt Allen.

Allen has a TP52 Ichi Ban, which is the original Shogun V, and a Carkeek 60. He has the same dilemma as last year when he opted for the Carkeek. Asked which was more likely to start this time, Allen said "hopefully both" with one being chartered or even both being chartered, implying anything was possible if the price was right. Barring a charter, he would make a decision close to the race start, based on expected conditions. He said he had strengthened the mast of the 52-footer and she was "ready for the track". On the other hand, the 60-footer would be more comfortable.

Allen said he had copped a deal of criticism for initially entering two Ichi Bans in the 2015 race, though that flak had abated in the last six months. "Much of it came from people who hadn't entered anything," he said.

Joining the Australian fleet are the overseas boats: from Germany the Ker 56 Varuna VI; from China the TP52 Ark 32); from Hong Kong the Botin 80 Beau Geste and Seng Huang Lee's Scallywag; from the UK the Beneteau 47.7 Samskara; from Sweden the Elliott 44 Matador; from Korea the TP52 Sonic; from Japan the Humphreys 54 KLC Bengal 7; from New Zealand the Volvo 70 Giacomo; and from the New York Yacht Club the Frers-designed 13.4 metre Swan Triple Lindy.

German yachtsman Jens Kellinghusen had great success in 2013 with his Ker 51 Varuna, which won IRC division 1 and finished fourth overall behind Darryl Hodgkinson's Victoire. He is back with a 2015 his Ker 56, Varuna VI, built in Kiel, with a canting keel, double rudders and daggerboards. It was built for an Atlantic anniversary regatta from Bermuda to the Lizard in 2018 and a series of regattas building up to it.

"The Hobart is the ideal race to get boat and crew in shape for these events," says Vasco Ollero, who campaigns with Kellinghusen. With the new boat they have already done the Rolex Middle Sea Race. Les Voiles Saint Tropez, Caribbean 600, Les Voiles Saint Barth and the Pacific Cup from San Francisco to Hawaii.

"Apart from that, the Hobart itself is a huge event for us, because it has been Jens' dream to do it again following our first try in 2013. With that result in mind there comes some pressure to finish in a similar position this time. But we know that the boat is relatively new and we need the right weather for the boat to be successful under IRC rating. All in all, we are looking forward to sail the boat in a strong IRC fleet and battle our way to Hobart," Ollero says.

US physician Joe Mele explains Triple Lindy's entry. He has owned it since 5004.

"After several years of North American and Caribbean-based ocean racing my crew and I decided that we and the boat were ready for a year and half bucket list adventure."

That list comprises the Newport Bermuda and Rolex Sydney Hobart races this year and the Rolex Fastnet Middle Sea races next year.

For the admirers of well-found, comfortable, ocean-going yachts the CYCA's Ervin Vidor brings his 2015 CNB76 Charlotte to the race.

It is beautifully crafted vessel, built in Bordeaux by Construction Naval Bordeaux and handed over in May 2015.

"We sailed with five crew from Bordeaux to Kefalonia in Greece to pick up my wife and four friends then proceeded to cruise in Greece and Turkey before Charlotte was shipped to Sydney, arriving in January 2016," Ervin explained.

Unless it's a downwind drag race. history suggests that the race should be won on corrected time, by a 50--footer or 40--footer, sailing a day behind the supermaxis.

That brings the TP52 fleet into focus and their frontrunners: Paul Clitheroe's overall winner from last year Balance, Sam Haynes' Celestial, Matt Allen's Ichi Ban, Peter Wrigley and Andrew Kearnan's Koa, which is a past winner of the Rolex Middle Sea Race but retired early in last year's Hobart race with steering damage, the West Australian TP52 M3, which is the former Calm and which also retired last year, with a broken forestay and Brenton Fischer's highly successful Ragamuffin (his grandfather and Race stalwart, Syd, has pulled the pin).

And the 2013 winner the Cookson 50 Victoire is back under charter to WA's Brian McMaster. Another strong contender is Phillip Turner's Alive, the Reichel Pugh 66 that was sixth across the line in 2014.

For the record books, navigator Adrienne Cahalan will become the first woman to compete in 25 Hobarts when she plots the course for Ragamuffin; Bruce and Drew Taylor from Victoria (Chutzpah) become the first father and son to sail 25 together.

The Boxing Day start of the Rolex Sydney Hobart Yacht Race will be broadcast live on the Seven Network throughout Australia.

Caption: CHESS BOARD

Wild Oats XI and Comanche work the shifts to exit the harbour cleanly.

Caption: SPEED WORK

Top: Boat-on-boat match-racing to the line. Above: Wild Oats XI taking the quickest route south.

Caption: WEATHER LOTTERY

Above: Typical race start in a north-easterly. Below: Grinding through a southerly further down the coast.

Caption: TIGHT COVER

Ragamuffin 700 and Rambler 88 duel it out in light breeze on the Derwent.
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Title Annotation:72nd ROLEX SYDNEY HOBART YACHT RACE PREVIEW
Author:Montgomery, Bruce
Publication:Offshore Yachting
Geographic Code:8AUST
Date:Dec 1, 2016
Words:2026
Previous Article:Official program.
Next Article:Yachts to watch.
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