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SOLAS Big Boat Challenge
When it comes time for the biggest racing yachts in Australia to flex their collective muscle on the world's most beautiful harbour, it's hard to escape the fact that the serious countdown to the start of the Rolex Sydney Hobart Yacht Race has begun.

The CYCA's SOLAS Big Boat Challenge, one of Sydney's most spectacular sporting and harbour fixtures, has for 15 consecutive years marked the start of the Rolex Sydney Hobart lead-up events and this year it will again fall in between the Rolex Trophy One Design Series and the Rating Series.

The CYCA has this year decided to dedicate the event to raise awareness and funds for its SOLAS Trusts, which were established following the stormy 1998 Sydney Hobart Yacht Race when six lives were lost.

Matt Allen, CYCA Commodore, SOLAS Trusts chairman and skipper of the Jones 70 Ichi Ban, which will be a starter on the 15th, is proud to announce that the 2009 event will be known as the SOLAS Big Boat Challenge, and that the CYCA will use eBay to auction places aboard competing boats with the proceeds raised going to the SOLAS Trusts. The opportunity to fire the 19th century replica cannon to start the race will also be auctioned on eBay at the end of November.

The 2009 SOLAS Big Boat Challenge will start off Steele Point, Vaucluse, at 12.30pm on Tuesday 15 December and will take the impressive fleet twice around Sydney Harbour, passing many of Sydney's famous landmarks including Fort Denison, Mrs Macquarie's Chair and the Opera House, the finish point.

Follow the race at the Cruising Yacht Club of Australia:

From Maxi Yachts to Little Boats
Photo by Andrea Francolini, Click on image to enlarge.

Model Boat Racing This morning representatives from seven of the eight maxis lining up for this year's Rolex Sydney Hobart became mini boat skippers, racing two feet long model boats in the inaugural Little Boat Challenge.

The event, held in the Cruising Yacht Club of Australia marina, was a preview to tomorrow's SOLAS Big Boat Challenge and the highly anticipated Rolex Sydney Hobart line honours contest which will play out for real in a week and a half.

Neville Crichton's Alfa Romeo, represented by helmsman Erle Williams, won the best of three series with two wins while Wild Oats XI's skipper Mark Richards picked up one victory.

Following the model boat race the seven skippers and boat reps faced the press with the first question directed at Neville Crichton, whose spare mast may end up being cut in half and transported from Europe to Sydney as the replacement mast for Grant Wharington's Etihad Stadium (Wild Thing).

Crichton acknowledged that Wharington is a fighter but admitted his gut feeling is that Wharington is going to need "a hell of a lot of luck".

Speaking on the impending battle for line honours in Australia's premier yacht race, Crichton added: "I don't think there's been a race like this, ever."

Mark Richards gave Wild Oats XI a 30 percent chance of repeating their remarkable success over the past four races adding, "It's an honour to be racing against these guys".

He said he really enjoyed today's model boat races because he had the opportunity to "elbow the other guys out of the way", unlike the approaching ocean classic when it will be take no prisoners - each skipper hands at the wheel of their 90 to 100 footers as they power down the coast following the 1pm start on Boxing Day, 26 December.

Ludde Ingvall's 90 footer Tokolosh was renamed today, the boat now called YuuZoo. -- Lisa Ratcliff

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ICAP Leopard Set for Last Leg of Prestigious Yacht Racing Treble
Click on image to enlarge.

ICAP Leopard ICAP Leopard, the 100ft super-maxi racing yacht owned by Helical Bar PLC chief executive Mike Slade, is about to land in Australia to begin preparations for the fearsome Rolex Sydney-Hobart race. Having already taken line-honours in the Rolex Fastnet and Middle Sea races earlier this year, the heavyweight British challenger is set to take on the best the southern hemisphere has to offer in a bid to win the most prestigious treble in offshore yacht racing.

Slade and his crew will still be eyeing the forecasts and praying for a stiff breeze. Light-airs optimisation has already allowed the super-maxi to claim victories in the Rolex Fastnet and Middle Sea races, but the final leg of this particular treble will be a different proposition altogether.

On the 26 December Mike Slade and crew will join the elite of southern hemisphere yacht racing on the Sydney Harbour start line. Ranged against ICAP Leopard will be the relatively lightweight Antipodean sisterships Alfa Romeo, from New Zealand, and local favourite Wild Oats XI. 'Oats is hunting an unprecedented fifth victory in a row and, should the wind stay light, the Brits will have their work cut out to end her streak.

ICAP Leopard's crew will consist of the same team of ocean racing experts that have formed such a successful unit so far this year. Volvo Ocean Race stars Justin Slattery, Rob Greenhalgh, the Salter brothers and Brad Jackson will once again be teamed with the America's Cup luminary Ray Davies as Slade aims to lead the charge towards Tasmania.

ICAP Leopard Crew List: Rolex Sydney Hobart 2009

Bow 1 - Zane Gills
Bow 2 - Justin Slattery
Bow 3 - Rob Waddell
Bow / Trim Co -Ordinator - Nipper Salter
Mast - Josh Clark
Mast - Dylan Clarke
Mast - Volkan Dikmen
Pit - Kelvin Rawlings
Pit - Tim Sellars
Pit - Jim Turner
Trimmer - Jez Elliot
Trimmer / Crew Coord - Jason Carrington
Trimmer - Bob Wylie
Trimmer - Tim Burnell
Watch Captain / Mainsheet - Mark Thomas
Helm / Tactics - Ray Davies
Skipper / Helm - Mike Slade
Watch Captain / Runner - Brad Jackson
Runner / Nav - Jules Salter
Boat Captain / Buttons / Helm - Chris Sherlock
Runner / Nav - Hugh Agnew
Watch Captain - Rob Greenhalgh
Traveller - Hugo Slade

BT On Her Way Back Home
Upon arriving back in the UK this Sunday, the BT IMOCA 60 yacht will be lifted out of the water in Cowes and go straight in to short but intensive refit to bring her back to full racing condition for the 2010 IMOCA season, albeit no longer as 'BT'.

BT, skippered by Seb Josse, whose chances of winning the Transat Jacques Vabre were shattered by a giant breaking wave which crushed her coachroof less than three weeks ago, is now on her way back towards England, after having left Praia da Vitoria (Terceira Island, Azores) on Monday, November the 30th. Aboard the "Beautriton" cargo ship, the IMOCA 60 will arrive in Southampton next Sunday, before being towed across the Solent, back to Medina Yard in Cowes on the Isle of Wight - the yard where she was built in 2007.

Considering the beating she took in the Atlantic after having suffered the blow that forced her crew to abandon her, the boat is in very good shape and has not suffered structurally, as the surveyor who assessed the damage in the Azores was able to confirm. As a result, the repairs and refit should prove to be straightforward, and everything is already in place in Cowes to welcome the yacht.

14 Top Singapore Youth Sailors Experience Life At The Extreme
Photo by Thierry Martinez, Click on image for photo gallery.

Extreme 40 Singapore Fourteen of Singapore's young sailors got the ride of their life this morning as they stepped onboard two Extreme 40s with some of the world's best sailors at the Marina Reservoir. The local sailors spent the morning onboard Masirah and China Team picking up tips from Olympians Leigh McMillan, Mark Bulkeley and Hugh Styles as well as Thierry Barot and Singapore's very own Tan Wearn Haw.

This was the first experience of its kind for the local sailors, sailing alongside their more experienced peers. Griselda Khng, 2006 Optimist Female World Champion and 2009 ISAF Youth Worlds Championship bronze medallist, said, "This is a totally different boat to what I'm used to and it was so amazing and inspiring to sail with the sailors. The boat is so much faster and more exciting than I ever thought. There is an adrenaline rush especially when the crew is counting on you to steer the boat. I hope I'll get an opportunity to race onboard the Extreme 40s if and when they return to Singapore."

Racing began at 2pm and The Wave, Muscat put on the performance of the day, rising from fifth overall to lie second behind their stablemates Oman Sail Masirah after six races.

Race five of the day was a short, sharp speed trial with all six Extreme 40s selecting when they could cross the start line in a six minute window, picking their moment for the best wind to get them around the 1.1km course in the quickest time. It was Red Bull Extreme Sailing Team, the fourth team over the start line, that completed the course in the quickest time of 3.01, with Oman Sail's Masirah hot on their heels just two seconds behind.

At the end of the day at the top of the leaderboard it was a Sultanate of Oman one-two with Masirah continuing their dominance, but with The Wave, Muscat jumping from fifth to second place.

The pressure will remain on The Wave, Muscat tomorrow as Red Bull Extreme Sailing Team is hot on their tail, trailing by just 1 point and China Team by a further two.

Racing continues at 2pm in Marina Reservoir for the final day of the Extreme Sailing Series Asia, Singapore.

Results after Day 4 of the Extreme Sailing Series Asia, Singapore:

Oman Sail Masirah: 96
The Wave, Muscat: 83
Red Bull Extreme Sailing Team: 82
China Team: 80
BT: 68
Rumbo Almeria: 54

Seahorse January 2009
What's in the Latest Edition Of Seahorse Magazine

Advance notice... in the second part of our detailed look at the science of foiling Dave Hollom addresses the very different challenges facing designers trying to bring the benefits of airborne sailing to multihull craft

Closing the circle... composites’ engineer Dan Primrose is finally re-entering the marine industry after a lengthy sojourn working with several of the world’s best racecar teams as well as undertaking composite structural engineering for other advanced automotive vehicles. A fascinating journey and one that has barely begun...

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18ft Skiffs Syd Barnett Jr. Memorial Trophy
Click on image for photo gallery.

Syd Barnett Jr. Memorial Trophy Sydney Harbour: Newly crowned NSW champions Michael Coxon, Aaron Links and Trent Barnabas continued their excellent form when they brought Thurlow Fisher-City home a comfortable winner of the Syd Barnett Jr. Memorial Trophy race on Sydney Harbour today.

The trio gave a near perfect performance in the 18-20 knot southerly wind to defeat Yandoo, guest skippered by Trevor Barnabas, and crewed by Andrew Hay and Gary Phillips.

While the pair staged an exciting duel throughout the race, the Thurlow Fisher-City team finished too strongly to take victory by 1m27s.

Third home was Thurlow Fisher-Bankstown, Bruce Savage, which finished a further 1m4s behind Yandoo.

The strong wind took a toll on the fleet with leading contenders Gotta Love It 7 (Seve Jarvin) and Rag & Famish Hotel (John Harris) both forced out with gear damage.

There will now be a break over the Christmas-New Year period before racing resumes with Race 1 of the Australian Championship on Sunday, 10 January. -- Frank Quealey

On The Trail Of Ernest Shackleton
Click on image to enlarge.

Ernest Shackleton Welcome to Stromness Harbour. This is the abandoned whaling station where Shackleton and two of his men arrived after an arduous climb over the mountains and glaciers of South Georgia- hoping to find rescue for their remaining men at Peggoty Cove and Elephant Island. Exhausted and fearing they might be lost, they waited to hear the 7:00AM station whistle, knowing then they had succeeded. The white house was the station manager's house where Shackleton, emaciated, dirty, and wearing tattered clothing, knocked on the door and asked," Do you know me... I am Shackleton." It is said the station manager turned away and cried. It would take another four months and many frustrated attempts to finally rescue his men. In the end, all that had sailed on the ill-fated Endurance survived.

From a lovely blog we've stumbled across, documenting a trip to the Antarctic aboard a National Geographic icebreaker. Some great history and amazing photographs, see

Clipper Cape Town To Western Australia
Having been stuck in light winds for the past three days, the wind has finally begun to fill in for the boats competing in the Clipper 09-10 Race. Team Finland's skipper, Eero Lehtinen likens the feeling to being released from jail, as the current race leader tries desperately to hold on to his team's position at the front of the fleet.

"Finally we have seen 10 knots of boat speed and we are MOVING!" he exclaims. "The light patch was a lot longer and stickier than I ever thought it would be. Hindsight now tells me that regardless of the additional miles any other route to the finish would probably have been the answer."

Life isn't proving easy at the front for the skipper of the Finnish team and the pressure of being constantly chased by the rest of the fleet is starting to take its toll on crew morale.

"The tiredness and certain level of frustration from the recent slow motion is increasing the friction on board. I need to find ways to make the crew pull together and to tolerate each other for a couple more days," says Eero.

Spirit of Australia's crew aren't faring much better, as the desire to overtake the Finnish entry keeps them all on tenterhooks.

Joff Bailey, Clipper Race Director, says, "Looking at the latest forecast and the recent progress of the fleet we are currently expecting the first boats to arrive late Wednesday evening or early Thursday morning."

Positions at 0600 UTC, Monday 14 December

Team Finland, 472nm to leg finish
Spirit of Australia, 4nm to leader
Cape Breton Island, 22nm
Jamaica Lightning Bolt, 26nm
Edinburgh Inspiring Capital, 31nm
Uniquely Singapore, 42nm
Qingdao, 52nm
California, 78nm
Cork, 642nm
Hull & Humber, 1627nm

New Irish Speed Sailing Record*
Ireland's number one speedsailor John Kenny has just smashed the Irish speed sailing record hitting speed's of over 45 knots or 84 kmh on his Stardboard isonic speed special W49 and Severne Code Red 5.9 .

Kenny or JK as he's known to his friends was not happy with winning his second National Speedsailing Championships but then in the big winds that hit last weekend a handful of windsurfers went out sailing at Burrow beach near Howth, where JK not only broke his old record once but ten times finally finishing with a speed of 42.52 knots over 500 meters which puts him up in the top 20 of the 500 meters for this year on the site.

So as this year comes to an end JK is already making plans for next year and the search for new speed sailing spots in Ireland to allow him to push his kit to its limits and push for his 3rd Irish National Speed Sailing Championship title.

John Kenny (IR 1916):

Irish Record Holder 40.44 Knots (WSSRC Approved)
Irish National Speedsailing Champion 2008 - 2009
Irish 500M GPS speedsurfing Champion 42.52 Knots
39th ISWC overall men 2008

* We presume this has not yet been ratified by the World Sailing Speed Record Council

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The Last Word
The problem with the world is that everyone is a few drinks behind. -- Humphrey Bogart

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