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Saranno più di cento gli equipaggi che, a partire dalle ore 13.00 del 26 dicembre, si daranno battaglia nel Mar di Tasmania inseguendo il...

[singlepic=1120,250,170,,left]Rolex Sydney Hobart – Sydney – Saranno più di cento gli equipaggi che, a partire dalle ore 13.00 del 26 dicembre, si daranno battaglia nel Mar di Tasmania inseguendo il sogno di vincere la Rolex Sydney Hobart. Tra questi anche il maxi Wild Oats XI, già vincitore delle ultime tre edizioni e favorito della vigilia per la conquista dei line honours, e il maxi Skandia di Grant Wharington.

Al termine della conferenza stampa di presentazione dell’evento, nel corso della quale sono state annunciate previsioni meteo pessime, Bob Oatley e Mark Richards, armatore e skipper di Wild Oats XI, hanno spiegato che il loro obiettivo è quello di migliorare il record di 1g 18h 40m 10s: “Abbiamo messo il turbo per riuscire nell’impresa. Ci siamo allenati a lungo, in condizioni impegnative, proprio per essere pronti a fronteggiare il meteo tipico della regata”.

Molto atteso è il debutto di Loki, il nuovissimo Reichel-Pugh 63 fatto costruire da Stephen Ainsworth, che alla Middle Sea Race dello scorso anno fu costretto ad abbandonare il vecchio Loki nel mare in burrasca: “Siamo contenti di esserci: in meno di un anno abbiamo commissionato e realizzato una barca nuovissima con la quale speriamo di poter far nostro il successo in tempo compensato. Sappiamo che non sarà facile, ma siamo qui per provarci”.

In regata ci sarà anche Ed Psaltis che, a bordo dell’Hick 35 AFR Midnight Rambler, si aggiudicò la vittoria in tempo compensato dell’edizione del 1998, durante la quale persero la vita sei velisti. Ricordando i tristi accadimenti di quella regata, Psaltis, in regata quest’anno a bordo di un Farr 40 modificato, ha raccontanto: “Furono dieci ore tremende. Il vento soffiava a ottanta nodi e il mare era spaventoso. Il rischio di finire capovolti era costante. A un certo punto, un onda mi trascinò fuori bordo. Riuscii a tenermi allo specchio di poppa e, aiutato dalla life line, mi trascinai in barca prima che arrivasse il frangente successive. Non fu affatto facile venirne fuori”.

Per consultare la entry list clicca qui.

Per visitre il sito dell’evento clicca qui.

[singlepic=1121,250,170,,left][Rolex Sydney Hobart Press Release] The 2008 Rolex Sydney Hobart Yacht Race sailed onto the harbour-side doorstep of the Sydney Central Business District today with a group of prominent skippers and sailors engaged in press a conference preview amid lunchtime strollers outside the historic Customs House at Circular Quay.

Sean Langman, skipper of Maluka of Kermandie, which at 9.1m overall length (30ft) is the smallest yacht entered in the 100-plus fleet lining up for the start of the 64th race on Friday, 26 December, had trailed his yacht into town and parked it in the street outside the Customs House. Despite her small size, she is a fine sight. Maluka, built 76 years ago, is also the oldest boat in the race. Langman, who owns yacht maintenance and repair yards in Sydney, Newcastle and Port Huon, Tasmania, recently restored the derelict Huon pine hull and sailed the gaff-rigged raised-decker to place eighth overall in the 2006 Rolex Sydney Hobart.

In previous years, Langman has been a contender for line honours with his maxi AAPT and, most recently, he has built a contender for the world sailing speed record over a 500-metre course. Today, though, he described the expected leisurely sail to Hobart in a little boat with a crew of six that will take five or six days to get there, compared to two expected for the 30-metre Line Honours favourite Wild Oats XI. “When you are sailing a maxi boat, you’re actually battling the environment, battling the conditions and you dread coming across a sunfish and if there’s an albatross out there it’s in the way,” he explains. “When you sail something like Maluka of Kermandie it’s really embracing the environment. When you come across sea life you actually have a chat to it, so it’s a lot different to just the crash and bash and adrenalin rush of sailing a maxi.”

Langman did not discount the possibility of winning the race’s major trophy, the Tattersall’s Cup for the overall winner on IRC handicap: “The wonderful thing about the Rolex Sydney Hobart is we all have a chance. We have re-rated the boat; we have a fair rating this time, she rated a little high last time. And we are going for the major prize for sure, but the major prize I think for all of us is to actually get there.”

At the other end of the fleet, Mark Richards, who skippers Bob Oatley’s Reichel-Pugh canting-keeled Wild Oats XI, does not expect the boat to win on handicap as she did in 2005, when she also set the current race record at one day, eighteen hours, forty minutes and ten seconds for the 628 nautical mile course. “Our goal this year is get to Hobart first and we have turbo charged the boat to do that,” he said. “It’s put our [handicap] rating through the roof.” If Oatley and Richard’s and crew achieve their stated aim, it will be an unprecedented fourth line honours in a row. Richards said the crew had prepared thoroughly, training offshore over the past two weeks every time a strong southerly change came through, “just preparing the boat for the worst possible conditions in the Hobart.”

Stephen Ainsworth launched his new Reichel-Pugh 63 Loki, built in Sydney by McConaghy Boats, six days ago in a tight program that went smoothly enough for Loki to win the IRC handicap prize for the short-course SOLAS Big Boat Challenge promotional race around Sydney Harbour yesterday. Ainsworth commissioned the new boat, after his previous Loki was wrecked in the 2007 Rolex Middle Sea Race. He said today: “Within a week of seeing the [old] boat a write-off, I was talking to Reichel-Pugh about building a new boat because I was having a lot of fun at the time and I thought, ‘I’m not going to stop doing this!’ So it’s been a fast-tracked project to get a boat designed and built within a year and we’ve done it.”

Another skipper present at the press conference was Ed Psaltis, overall winner of the storm-swept 1998 Hobart race in which six sailors lost their lives. Reflecting on the tragic events of ten years ago, Psaltis recalled the worst 10 hours of that race in the little Hick 35 AFR Midnight Rambler, “we had twenty-four bad hours with ten hours particularly bad, in 80 knots of wind and huge seas as we entered Bass Strait, [when] we were very much surviving.” Psaltis went on to describe how AFR Midnight Rambler had kept sailing south through the storm, feeling it was safer to take the waves head on rather than risk being rolled over by running back 40 miles to the nearest sheltering port. Despite this, Midnight Rambler was laid flat at one point and Psaltis went overboard, washed off by a wave while he was steering. “I was hanging off the back of the boat at the end of my lifeline. Luckily it didn’t break so I crawled back into the boat, hung onto the tiller and kept it going before the next wave came through.”

Remarkably, in spite of that experience, Psaltis has not missed a Hobart race since and has entered this year with his latest AFR Midnight Rambler, a modified Farr 40, in which he shares ownership with Bob Thomas. “It’s one of those things that is very hard to get out of your blood. I’ve got salt in my veins I suppose. I just can’t help myself. The main reason I keep going back is the challenge of taking on the elements and trying to beat your opponents with a close bunch of mates.” And therein lies much of the spirit of this great race.

A fleet of 105 yachts will compete in this year’s race, which starts at 13.00 AEDT, 26 December 2008. The Rolex Sydney Hobart fleet will have crews representing the USA, UK, New Zealand, France, Germany, the Netherlands, Switzerland, Russia and New Caledonia as well as every Australian state.

To read the entry list click here.

To visit event website click here.

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