For the first time ever, the Ocean Racing Club of Victoria will start three major Ocean Races at the same time on December 27, 2008.
After the traditional Boxing Day, Cock of the Bay Race from Port Melbourne to Blairgowrie, the ORCV will, as usual, conduct both the Melbourne to Launceston and Melbourne to Hobart ‘West Coaster'. However, following on from the success of last year's centennary celebrations, where the fleet sailed East across Bass Strait to join up with the Sydney-Hobart fleet coming down, a new ‘East Coaster' has been introduced.
This promises to add even more excitement to racing with the leading contenders for both Melbourne-Hobart races now challenging each other to see who can make port first! "It should be fantastic to watch ‘Short Air' and ‘Helsal II' as they sail off in different directions. I know I'll be tracking their respective progresses on the web! It is a rare occurrence within global yacht racing to have challengers pursue different courses - we're delighted to be associated with the ORCV and these races." said Heemskirk Consolidated CEO, Mr Kevin Robinson.
Indeed these two yachts are as different as the routes they have chosen. ‘Short Air' is an ultra-modern TransPac52, while ‘Helsal II' is the venerable Adams 20, whose innaugural race was the 1979 Sydney-Hobart! "It is great to have such a magnificent fleet of around 60 boats partaking this year - it will make for a superb spectacle at the Portsea start line. We have the latest and greatest, true classics and some real pocket rockets, like the 8m ‘Godzilla'. Favourable winds will make it a spinnaker start and the footage will be tremendous. Some of these boats can make 50kmh!" said ORCV Commodore George Shaw.
"Last year's winner, the Geelong based ‘Extasea', will be right up there too - ready to pounce on any mistake made by the bigger boats. ‘Ninety Seven', the 1993 Sydney-Hobart Line Honours Winner, will also be right up there if it is an upwind race. The West Coaster will be very special too for Robin Hewitt and his crew aboard ‘Yoko'. They will be completely their 27th consecutive West Coaster - a truly remarkable achievement that says a lot about the thrills and safety requirements this race is held under." Shaw went on to say.
The whole season really is a true ‘Spirit of Co-operation' event. "The Sovereign Series comprises the Cock of the Bay, the West Coaster and then the King of the Derwent, which we run in conjunction with the Derwent Sailing Squadron in Hobart. This race, on January 2 2009, attracts entrants from our two fleets, as well as the Sydney-Hobart race, often including the Maxis. You have a lot of the best sailors in the world pitted against each other with the need for local knowledge from Tasmanian Skippers as crews master the very flukey conditions. We are delighted that Wrest Point has again chosen to be involved with us for this great local event that sees a fleet of around 60 yachts cover the course in a sea of colour. And the Launceston fleet up North doesn't miss out either. They complete their own in-port race, the TasPorts, to collect points for the Rudder Cup, which is Cock of the Bay, Melbourne-Launceston and TasPorts." said Race Director, Simon Dryden.
"This year, with the East Coaster also being added, we are proud to announce that the three race series for this fleet will be called the Salamanca Series. This is apt not only for the local Hobart market and café precinct, but also as our sponsor, Heemskirk Consolidated, has operations in Salamanca, Spain, close to where the America's Cup is now conducted." added Dryden.
So look for the Hobart fleets and the crews who raced them, on the Southern side of the Elizabeth Street Pier, somewhere between two and four days after the Start! The Launceston fleet will be at the Tamar Yacht Club at Beauty Point, on or around 28 December.