Nicole Scott shares a look at one of the most enduring Sydney to Hobart competitors

As people around the world celebrate Christmas, many are still enjoying the build up and excitement of Christmas Eve. For the sailors in Sydney, Australia, festivities are almost over as the anticipation sets in for the start of the 2011 Rolex Sydney to Hobart Yacht Race commencing 1pm Boxing Day.

For months skippers and crews have been training, preparing boats for the long 628 nautical mile journey across the treacherous seas of the Bass Straight.

For the owners of the new Ker 40 AFR Midnight Rambler, Ed Psaltis’, Bob Thomas and Michael Bencsik, it has been an endearing journey as the trio spent some 18 months researching suitable ocean racers to replace the previous modified Farr 40 of the same name. Their goal is to achieve another overall win in the Rolex Sydney Hobart Yacht Race and given the right conditions AFR Midnight Rambler who was built by McConaghy’s, could very well be the boat to watch in this year’s race.

The three owners have sailed in a combination of 67 Hobart races no less than 15 Hobart’s together on different boats, including their overall handicap victory in the 1998 Hobart race creating history when they embarked upon the severity of the cyclone that hit the fleet to be named overall winner of the Sydney Hobart Race with their tiny Hick 35 AFR Midnight Rambler.

Despite the tragic circumstances, the crew on AFR Midnight Rambler that year will ever forget the brutality of the storm, and how the crew worked together in overcoming incredible and vast difficulties.

Psaltis and Thomas have previously owned four AFR Midnight Ramblers, the name taken from an old Rolling Stones blues song written in the late 1960s and its relevance due to the fact the crew believe they push harder at night when others back off.

Yesterday, reporter Nicole Scott joined the crew onboard AFR Midnight Rambler for their last practice sail on Sydney Harbour before the big day. Scott captured Michael “Mix” Bencsik taking time out reflecting on the upcoming race.

Bencsik who recently returned to Australia after a stint in the UK where he and Bob Thomas competed in the Rolex Fastnet Race this year told the crew, “I am very proud of all the crew for the work you have all put in since September to get the boat ready, it’s a deserving tribute to each and every one of you”.  Joined by their regular crew, Ed Psaltis’, Bob Thomas and Michael Bencsik and their team are ready for the Hobart Race and another chance at winning The Tattersall’s Cup.