Geneva, 29 November 2016 – Each and every edition of the Rolex Sydney Hobart Yacht Race is unique, characterized by its own distinct narrative and celebrated achievements. This year marks the 72nd edition of the offshore classic with just under one hundred confirmed entrants, comprising living legends, past winners, intrepid first timers and competitors from across the globe, all determined to spearhead a new chapter in the race’s proud and fascinating history.
First held in 1945, the Rolex Sydney Hobart is organized by the Cruising Yacht Club of Australia (CYCA) with the cooperation of the Royal Yacht Club of Tasmania, and has run every year since that inaugural race which saw nine yachts set sail from Sydney on 26 December. Rolex has been title sponsor of the 628-nautical-mile race since 2002. Together with the Rolex Fastnet Race, Rolex Middle Sea Race, Rolex China Sea Race and RORC Caribbean 600, this iconic sporting challenge is one of five major offshore races to feature in the portfolio of yachting partnerships held by the leading brand of the Swiss watchmaking industry. “Rolex’s involvement in yachting stretches back over fifty years. It is a sport with which we hold a close affinity and relationship,” explains Arnaud Boetsch, Director of Communication & Image at Rolex. “The Rolex Sydney Hobart is one of the world’s most renowned yacht races and a treasured part of our yachting portfolio. It is one of the toughest examinations of seamanship and a genuine test of human endeavour. It embodies what we value – rich traditions, pioneering feats and the courageous spirit of adventure among those who participate.”
A line-up rich in quality
The 93-strong fleet currently registered comprises four 100-ft Maxis, nine former race winners and a host of Corinthian entrants, including the smallest and also the oldest yacht in the fleet, Sean Langman’s 30-ft, 1935 build Maluka of Kermandie.
Of the Maxis, the ever-evolving Wild Oats XI has not missed a Rolex Sydney Hobart since her launch in 2005. Her participation has been more than impressive, claiming line honours on eight occasions -- itself a record -- and the triple crown (line honours, race record and overall victory on handicap) on two separate occasions. Last year’s race proved to be her least fortunate, due to a torn mainsail that forced her to abandon the competition during the first night at sea. The 2016 edition represents a chance to re-exert her dominance, made poignant seeing as it is the first race since the passing of Bob Oatley, the yacht’s inspirational original owner.
Last year’s line honours were claimed by the American yacht Comanche, who will not feature this time. And, while Wild Oats XI is favourite to arrive first in the port city of Hobart, competition for this honour remains fierce
Anthony Bell’s Perpetual LOYAL won line honours in 2011 and has frequently featured among the frontrunners ever since. Finnish sailor Ludde Ingvall, who won line honours in 2000 and 2004 with yachts named Nicorette, owns the recently launched CQS -- a radical transformation of the 2004 Nicorette. Extended from 90 to 100 feet, the yacht reportedly pushes the boundaries of design technology. Among the most noticeable features are the reverse (or Dreadnought) bow, an outsized bowsprit, ‘wings’ that spread the shroud base and a wider cockpit area.
CQS also features the technically sophisticated Dynamic Stability System (DSS). DSS is a patent system that utilizes retractable foils to reduce heel angle and provide progressive dynamic lift, increasing power and reducing drag.
Completing the line-up of 100-footers is the Hong Kong entrant Scallywag, the former Ragamuffin. If conditions prove favourable, the frontrunners will be keen to break the existing race record of 1 day, 18 hours, 23 minutes and 12 seconds set by Wild Oats XI in 2012.
The nine former winners of the event, including Wild Oats XI, will all be striving to reclaim the event’s most coveted prize, the Tattersall’s Cup and a specially engraved Rolex Oyster Perpetual Yacht-Master 40 timepiece awarded for outright victory on corrected time.
Yet the race is notoriously hard to predict. The skill and performance of the competition, as well as the prevailing weather will have a significant effect on the outcome, inevitably favouring different yacht sizes at different points. The strength and direction of the wind and the resultant state of the ocean play critical roles. How crews approach these elements and manage their resources throughout the days and nights at sea will be decisive.
In 2004 while a huge southerly buster saw many competitors seek more sheltered waters close to the NSW shore, the crew of the 55-ft British yacht Aera headed offshore in search of the perfect windshift that would drive them to the finish. This daring move would win them the overall prize and prove conclusively that courage in one’s convictions, even under extreme pressure, is a fundamental quality required to succeed in this race.
The defending champion is the 52-foot Balance, owned by Paul Clitheroe. Having triumphed under the guise of Quest in 2008, Balance is in fact a two-time race winner. Repeating last year’s triumph will be a tall order.
Claiming back-to-back victories has proved impossible for any crew in recent years, proof of the race’s unpredictability and unforgiving nature. The last boat to do so was Freya in 1965. While they may not have triumphed over consecutive years, a prestigious list of returning winners will take part. Their names include Victoire (2013), Primitive Cool (as Secret Mens Business in 2010), Two True (2009), The Banshee (as Terra Firma in 1995) and China Easyway (as She’s Apples II in 1991). And, the legendary Love & War, a three-time winner across two different eras (1974, 1978 and 2006).
The event, throughout its proud history, has attracted international entrants and sailors of note. Its first overall winner was the 30-ft British yacht Rani, skippered by Captain John Illingworth, one of the race’s co-founders. Line honours winners have included famous names from yesteryear including Eric Tabarly’s Pen Duick III from France in 1967; Sir Max Aitken’s Crusade from the United Kingdom in 1969; dominant offshore yachts from the United States such as Jim Kilroy’s Kialoas in 1971, ‘75 and ’77; and Ted Turner’s American Eagle, 1972.
The last overseas winner of the race was American Roger Sturgeon’s Rosebud in 2007. Karl Kwok, owner of the 80-ft Hong Kong entry Beau Geste, is a past winner of the race, back in 1997. Others hoping to challenge that statistic include entries from China, Germany, Japan, New Zealand, Sweden, the United Kingdom and the United States. For the first time, the race welcomes an entry from Korea in the shape of the TP52 Sonic.
The race is revered throughout the world. Its legend, heritage and distinctive slot in the international sporting calendar have helped it transcend the realm of yachting and captivate the attention of a much larger public. Whether characterized by fierce storms, a quest for breeze, photo finishes or dominant performances, one constant remains. Merely finishing the Rolex Sydney Hobart Yacht Race is a remarkable achievement, requiring indomitable spirit, persistence, courage and determination. All qualities appreciated and embodied by longstanding Title Sponsor Rolex.
The 72nd edition starts on Monday 26 December at 13:00 (AEDT).
ROLEX AND YACHTING
Rolex has always sought to associate with activities that, like itself, were motivated by passion, excellence, precision and team spirit. Naturally, Rolex gravitated toward the elite world of sailing, forming an alliance that dates back to the late 1950s. Today, Rolex is Title Sponsor of some 15 major international events.
From leading offshore races, such as the Rolex Sydney Hobart and the biennial Rolex Fastnet Race, through to the highest-level one-design competition at the Rolex Farr 40 World Championship, spectacular gatherings at the Maxi Yacht Rolex Cup and the Rolex Swan Cup, as well as the brand’s support of World Sailing, the international governing body of the sport, and its close relationships with the most prestigious yacht clubs around the world, including the New York Yacht Club (US) and the Royal Yacht Squadron (Cowes, UK), Rolex is driven by a passion for excellence and a great appreciation for yachting that furthers the strong ties that bind these two worlds in their shared pursuit of perfection.
Leading brand of the Swiss watch industry, Rolex, headquartered in Geneva, enjoys an unrivalled reputation for quality and expertise the world over. Its Oyster watches, all certified as chronometers for their precision, are symbols of excellence, performance and prestige. Pioneer in the development of the wristwatch as early as 1905, the brand is at the origin of numerous major watchmaking innovations, such as the Oyster, the first waterproof wristwatch, launched in 1926, and the Perpetual rotor self-winding mechanism, introduced in 1931. Rolex has registered over 400 patents in the course of its history. A truly integrated and independent manufacturing company, Rolex designs, develops and produces in-house all the essential components of its watches, from the casting of the gold alloys to the machining, crafting, assembly and finishing of the movement, case, dial and bracelet. Rolex is also actively involved in supporting the arts, sports, exploration, the spirit of enterprise, and the environment through a broad palette of sponsoring activities, as well as philanthropic programmes.
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