a break for the bigs

For once, the now-traditional supermaxi shoot-out that tends to grab all the attention in offshore racing Down Under will not be happening. A review of the official entry list reveals that not one of the familiar 100-footers will be on the starting line when the fleet heads North on July 27 in the annual 384nm Sydney-Gold Coast race.

Previous multiple winner Wild Oats XI is snugly packed away in the shed, wrapped in protective plastic with the rig out and keel removed. Infotrack (formerly Loyal and Speedboat) is lying alongside at Woolwich Dock and not truly race ready. Scallywag is too far away, having just finished the Transatlantic race. Black Jack (formerly Europa and Alfa Romeo) is apparently still in pieces at the McConaghy factory getting her new nose job.  And Comanche is in Cali, getting ready for Transpac. The behemoths are taking a break. 

This leaves the most likely line-honours battle to be between Sean Langman’s 69-foot Naval Group and Wild Oats X, the 66-foot “little sister” of WOXI. The extra dimension in that contest is commercial. Langman’s company, the Noakes Group, are the race sponsors, while Wild Oats is campaigned by the Oatley family, owners of Hamilton Island, the final destination of many in the race who will continue heading up the Australian east coast for the Hamilton Island Regatta in August. Langman and the Oatleys were once in business together, but that’s another story…

The most interesting aspect of this year’s Sydney-Gold Coast fleet is the high number of TP52 entrants. Of the 76 listed starters, 10 are TPs (including the highly optimized Botin 52-footer Ichi Ban). They could almost race as a class were it not for the major variations allowable within their governing box rule. The waterfront pundits are tipping the Judel/Vrolik Gweilo to win this ‘race within a race’. The yacht is prepared by Sam Hunt, an America’s Cup and current SailGP crewman.

– Anarchist David