|SYDNEY, AUSTRALIA-(29-11-2005) Australia’s newest 98 foot super maxis, Neville Crichton’s Alfa Romeo and Bob Oatley’s Wild Oats XI, which is due to be launched at Rozelle in Sydney later this week, will go head to head for the first time in this year’s Big Boat Challenge on Tuesday 13 December.
While it is largely regarded as a fun race, this annual Sydney Harbour spectacle does offer a sneak preview to the looming Rolex Sydney Hobart Yacht Race line honours contest.
It also provides a rare opportunity for Australia’s largest ocean racing yachts to flex their muscles without the limitations of having to maneuver around the tight Harbour course amongst a large fleet that usually includes smaller and slower boats.
For the crew of Wild Oats XI, the latest canting keel design from the Reichel/Pugh camp and one of the world’s most sophisticated super maxis, it will mark the boat’s debut race before they go on to contest the Rolex Trophy Rating Series to be sailed offshore from 15-18 December 2005.
“Once the boat is launched we will be conducting sea trials before our full crew switches to race mode for the Big Boat Challenge,” says Wild Oats’ skipper Mark Richards.
“With a brand new boat, we will be keeping it very simple. Our focus is the Rolex Sydney Hobart Race so for the Big Boat Challenge we plan to just to get around the race track and stay out of trouble.
“Having said that, I think the competition between us and Alfa Romeo is going to be sensational, probably the best racing this country has ever seen,” Richards added.
Heading into their first encounter, Alfa Romeo, which also boasts the latest Reichel/Pugh design features and on board technology, has the advantage over Wild Oats XI of at least four months of on water testing.
In its impressive debut at Hamilton Island Race Week in August, the 98 footer collected line honours in all but one race and in the Savills Short Ocean Racing Championship sailed over the weekend, she scored two line honours and IRC wins on Saturday before electing not to race within the Harbour in yesterday’s near galeforce conditions.
Crichton, the owner/skipper of Alfa Romeo, is being equally low key about the approaching contest, “Our main aim continues to be training for the Rolex Sydney Hobart Yacht Race”, but adds, “We always enter every event with the aim of winning.
“The Big Boat Challenge will provide us with an opportunity to refine our skills at close quarters maneuvering. I think many people will be surprised just how agile Alfa Romeo can be under these conditions, with the second rudder enabling us to change direction quickly and in a manner that other yachts find impossible.
”The Big Boat race is one of my favorite events in the run-up to the Rolex Sydney Hobart and I would be very proud to add it to Alfa Romeo’s list of victories!” Crichton says.
For the first time in the event’s 11 year history, the race committee will on the day select from two courses, one a 14 mile course and the other a 12 mile course around Sydney Harbour, ensuring a windward start.
“In the past few years we’ve had a spinnaker start and with three 98 footers and many other big boats expected on the start line this year, we’ve had to consider the potential for collisions amongst those boats which are going on to compete in the Rolex Trophy two days later, and the Rolex Sydney Hobart Race less than two weeks later,” said CYCA sailing manager Justine Kirkjian.
The Big Boat Challenge, one of Sydney’s most spectacular sporting and harbour fixtures, will start off Steele Point, Vaucluse, at 12.30pm on Tuesday 13 December and will take the multi million dollar fleet twice around Sydney Harbour, passing many of Sydney’s famous landmarks including Fort Denison, Mrs Macquarie’s Chair and the Opera House, the finish point.
So far entries for this invitation only event have been lodged by the Cruising Yacht Club of Australia’s immediate past Commodore Martin James for his Farr 65 Infinity III, and the Volvo 60 ABN AMRO ASM, skippered by Andrew Short.