|SYDNEY, AUSTRALIA-(12-10-2006) In a hard run to Hobart, the conditions which blessed the big end of town in last year’s Rolex Sydney Hobart, a Volvo 70 could beat the 30m maxis Wild Oats XI and Skandia to the finish line according to Australia’s only Volvo 70 owner, Matt Allen.
Even if it’s an uphill ride with the wind blowing from the south, Allen believes the boat would still be a reasonable chance.
“Theoretically Skandia and Wild Oats XI should be faster upwind, but a Volvo 70 can push a lot harder,” Allen believes.
“Either way, we need very heavy air because if it’s light, they will be significantly faster and we will be way back.”
In the 2005-06 Volvo Ocean Race (VOR), ABN Amro Two set a new World Sailing Speed Council record of 562.96 nautical miles in 24 hours, giving them an average speed of 23.45 knots. Allen says in the right conditions, these boats are capable of reaching speeds in excess of 30 knots or 55 kilometres per hour.
Allen has already applied to enter the bluewater classic and the organising Club, the Cruising Yacht Club of Australia, has received confirmation that a second Volvo 70 is preparing to apply to enter.
New Zealand based round the world and America’s Cup sailor Mike Sanderson skippered ABN Amro One, representing the Netherlands, to victory in six of nine offshore legs in the 2006-06 VOR and was crowned overall winner of the gruelling round the world race.
Sanderson has expressed his intention to enter ABN Amro One in this year’s Rolex Sydney Hobart, the first appearance of not one but two Volvo 70s on the start line.
Ichi Ban, which was designed by Victorian Don Jones and built at Mornington by Mal Hart, raced in the last VOR as Brunel. Allen funded the building of this first Australian challenger and chartered it to Grant Wharington’s syndicate.
Following the VOR, the boat was returned to Victoria where it underwent extensive modifications before being re-launched in Melbourne last week. It was delivered to Sydney last Friday, arriving just hours out from the start of its debut Australian race, the CYCA’s Bird Island Race in which Ichi Ban rightly claimed its first line honours scalp.
“The boat has undergone a complete service and some modifications, including a heavier bulb, but retaining much the same displacement,” said Allen, who also has a Rolex Sydney Hobart overall win in his sights.
“We have cut off the coach house to make it easier to handle the big spinnakers, repainted the hull, installed new, faster winches and the rig came out for a complete service. The boat looks completely different and if you didn’t know its history, you probably wouldn’t recognise it as the same boat that contested the VOR.”
Unlike his larger rivals which have been campaigned extensively for more than a year, three years in Skandia’s case, with just 11 weeks to the 26 December start of Australia’s pre-eminent yacht race, Allen doesn’t have the luxury of time for any major tweaking of Ichi Ban. So he’s pulling out the big guns instead.
Rolex Sydney Hobart overall and line honours winning skipper and 29 time Rolex Sydney Hobart veteran Michael Spies is working with Allen as project manager. Spies co-skippered Nokia, one of the previous class of Volvo round the world yachts, into the history books in the 1999 Sydney Hobart when it set a new race record. This record for open yachts stood for six years until Bob Oatley’s Wild Oats XI completed the 628 nautical mile course an hour quicker, finishing in 1 day 18 hours 40 minutes 10 seconds in last year’s race.
Michael Coxon, who is regarded worldwide as one of Australia’s best tacticians, will join international sailor Gordon Maguire, who was aboard Allen’s Farr 40 Ichi Ban when they placed second at the Rolex Farr 40 World Championship last month. It is hoped that Australian 49er champion and round the world yachtsman Chris Nicholson will also add his extensive experience to the high octane mix.
“We are putting together a very experienced crew including some of the guys who sailed in the Volvo Ocean Race. With no America’s Cup or Volvo racing, there should be plenty of good guys available for Hobart,” Allen added.
Matt Allen himself is an experienced skipper with 17 Rolex Sydney Hobarts under his belt. Named the CYCA’s Ocean Racer of the Year for the past two seasons, Allen has had a long and successful career in sailing including crewing at the Kenwood Cup in Hawaii and the Admiral’s Cup in England. As the owner of the Farr 52 Ichi Ban, he achieved a string of wins and is currently Australia’s highest ranked Farr 40 skipper.
The CYCA has now received 27 applications for entry for this year’s Rolex Sydney Hobart Yacht Race.
Applications for entry are expected from Grant Wharington’s 2003 line honours winner Skandia, Bob Oatley’s race record holder Wild Oats XI and rumours persist that Neville Crichton may enter his 90 foot Alfa Romeo, the 2002 Rolex Sydney Hobart line honours winner, but at this stage Crichton’s camp is staying tight lipped.