Johnno Fullerton takes a look at the runners and riders in the annual classic that starts n Boxing Day

Over 100 entries are gearing up to contest the 64th Rolex Sydney Hobart Race on Boxing Day. The second largest fleet in a decade includes entries from all seven Australian states and territories and 11 international entries from eight countries including, France, Germany, Netherlands, New Caledonia, New Zealand, Switzerland, UK & US. The 628nm blue water classic is also the 10th anniversary of the tragic 1998 race.

At the sharp end Bob Oatley’s 30m maxi Wild Oats XI is favourite to score its record 4th consecutive line honours win. The canting keeled flyer has only recently come out of the shed to be beefed up with some modifications and sail changes for this year’s race. An experienced crew including skipper Mark Richards, Americas Cup & Star Olympian, Iain Murray, Michael Coxon, Iain Smith and navigator Adrienne Cahalan are aiming to beat their own race record of 1 day, 18hrs, 40m & 20secs.

Grant Wharington’s 30m maxi Skandia from Victoria will challenge Wild Oats XI in their 6th attempt following a number of breakages and disasters in previous attempts. The third maxi entry is ASM Shockwave 5, an 80ft Reichel Pugh skippered by local Sydney yachtsman Andrew Short with a strong local crew. The Russian Open 85 has sadly had to withdraw with structural keel problems in Auckland.

Another contender, particularly if the conditions are rough is CYCA Commodore; Matt Allen’s modified Volvo 70 Ichi Ban, who has placed on the podium at previous Sydney-Hobart races.

Australia has a very strong IRC fleet that contains a number of threats to take out the Tattersall’s Cup for the overall handicap winner. Queensland based canting – keeled Reichel Pugh 66, Black Jack owned by Peter Hamburg placed well at this year’s Hamilton Island Race Week and boasts Olympic Finn sailor Anthony Nossiter and Etchells champion, Mark Bradford amongst the crew.

Two brand new Reichel Pugh designs, Loki, Stephen Ainsworth’s 63ft replacement for the ill-fated yacht of the same name that was abandoned on the rocks at last year’s Rolex Middle Sea Race and sister ship Limit a RP62 owned by Alan Brierty are both just out of the box and out training. Living Doll (Michael Hiatt) a new Farr 55 pace setter suffered structural mast damage racing in Melbourne and is battling to make the start line.

There is a very strong 50-60ft fleet contending this year’s race. The TP52’s and modified versions include Quest owned by Rob Steel, Wot Now (Graeme Woods), Cougar ll (Alan Whiteley) fresh from a successful regatta win in Melbourne and veteran campaigner Syd Fisher’s Ragamuffin with the new Kiwi match racing star, Adam Minoprio as driver. Syd is 81 years old and competing in his 40th Hobart race.

Other regular Sydney Hobart campaigners include the RP55, Yendy’s owned by George Ross and two very successful Cookson 50’s in Quantum Racing (Ray Roberts) class winner at the recent Kings Cup in Phuket and Shogun (Rob Hanna).

Depending on the weather conditions the smaller pocket rockets can always compete for handicap honours, amongst these Chutzpah (Bruce Taylor) a RP40 from Victoria will be racing their 28th Sydney Hobart race having won their division several times.

The oldest and smallest entry is Maluka of Kermandie, a 1932 gaff rigged 30 footer skippered by Sean Langman. Also breaking records will be Tony Cable racing in his 45th race onboard a Volvo 60 and the oldest skipper John Walker at 86 years.

The race is scheduled to start at 1pm on Boxing Day

Johnno will posting daily reports from Sydney once the race gets under way.