Nicholas Lykiardopulo and Jez Fanstone are returning to Australia with the latest Aera, for the 60th Rolex Sydney Hobart Yacht Race this December

London-based yacht owner Nicholas Lykiardopulo and English international skipper Jez Fanstone are returning to Australia with the latest Aera, a well-performed 55-footer, for the 60th Rolex Sydney Hobart Yacht Race this December.

Lykiardopulo, Fanstone and most of the same crew hope to repeat their success with the previous Aera in winning the IRC handicap division (then called Channel Handicap) of the storm-battered 1998 Sydney Hobart Race.

Since then Fanstone has skippered NewsCorp in the 2001-2002 Volvo Ocean Race, which included the Sydney Hobart Race, and has sailed the new Aera in major ocean races and regattas in England and the Americas.

The Cruising Yacht Club of Australia received an Application to Enter the new Aera, a Ker 55, as nominations continued to stream into the Sailing Office for the 628 nautical mile ocean classic.

Most of the early Applications to Enter are from yachts that have not competed in the previous two Sydney Hobarts, buoying the CYCA’s hopes of a fleet of at least 120 boats on the starting on 26 December 2004.

Designed by Jason Ker and built by Acheson Rossa in 2003, the carbon fibre Aera is on the register of the Royal Yacht Squadron but carries a Greek sail number, GRE 55.

Since her launching, the powerful 55-footer has won the 2003 IRC nationals and the 2003 Cowes Week in the UK, and sailed in the Spanish team at the 2003 Admiral’s Cup in which she was second highest scoring boat. This year she has competed in Key West Race Week, Antigua Sailing Week and the Newport to Bermuda Race.

Another UK yacht, the Grand Soleil 46.3, Fui Sailing, is cruising to Australia for the Rolex Sydney Hobart Race in which she will compete as Getaway Sailing, skippered by Chris Townsend with an international crew from the UK, Germany and Australia.

British woman sailor Jakki Moore will head a UK crew in sailing the chartered Sydney 38, Yandoo, while another Sydney 38s nominated is Obsession, skippered by Martin Johnson and crewed by a team from the UK, also organised through Getaway Sailing.

Chris Lewin and his crew of students from Trinity College at Melbourne University have also lodged an application to enter with the Sydney 38, Another Challenge. The average age of the crew is 21, with Stuart Kennedy nominated as skipper.