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In for the long haul: A strong fleet will contest one of the toughest short-handed endurance events around, the Sundance Melbourne to Osaka Cup in March.

Held every four years, the epic 5,500 nautical mile passage is Australia's longest ocean race and one of the only south-north long distance races in the world.

The teams span a number of age groups, and the 26 yachts entered range from specialist foiling race versions to comfortable classics.

Among them is Nexba, a Class 40, which Sydney-based John Bacon and David Sampson will be campaigning.

The pair did the 2017 Land Rover Sydney Southport race with four extra as per the race regulations, and are expected to arrive in Melbourne in early February to make final preparations.

Designed by the French foiling guru Guillame Verdier and built in 2013 by FR Nautisme, the Class 40 was lightly raced in America until Bacon made his purchase late 2016 and had the boat shipped from Newport, Rhode Island. After it landed in Sydney it was immediately rebranded in the striking orange of Nexba, the team's major commercial sugar-free drink partner, and spent time at McConaghy Boats having the systems optimised.

The Osaka Race idea first crossed the skipper's mind a decade ago: "It's been on my radar for ten years then when the announcement came out in November 2015 that the race was on again in 2018 I thought maybe I have the time and enough runway to get organised," Bacon said.

When he reached out to Sampson, a friend and core member of Bacon's Dark Star MC38 crew, there was no hesitation: "I always tiy and challenge myself with the sailing I do," Sampson said.

Starting off Portsea Pier, the race has a starting window of 18 March 2018, with the main start on Sunday, 25 March and a third start for the faster boats on 1 April. Entries represent Victoria, Western Australia, SouthAustralia, Queensland, NSW, Tasmania, Hong Kong and Japan. melboumeosaka.com

Caption: DESIGN EDGE Guillaume Verdier-designed Nexba has been optimised to go the distance with a crew of two.

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Title Annotation:RACE & REGATTA PREVIEW
Publication:Offshore Yachting
Geographic Code:8AUST
Date:Feb 1, 2018
Words:322
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