The Sydney to Hobart race will go ahead as planned this year but without a naming rights sponsor. Race organisers at the Cruising Yacht Club of Australia decided to underwrite the event after a mystery sponsor with long-term intentions emerged with a promise to come on board for 2002.
Until then the future of the 630-mile classic was under threat, despite more than 80 nominations being received for the December 26 start. At one stage, it was being suggested among some would-be starters that if the race didnt proceed they would revert to the format of the first race in 1945 and “cruise in company” to Hobart.
The fact that this years race might be declared a “no-go” was embarrassing for both the club and the state government as it was also a part of the Volvo Ocean Race. With no sponsor on the horizon the club went to the New South Wales government and asked that it became the underwriter for the event to the tune of $AUD350, 000. Not surprisingly, the government, which had already spent big dollars getting the VOR stopover for Sydney, refused the request.
Earlier this month a number of companies, including two European banks, expressed interest in taking naming rights. The club opted for a deal where it would carry the cost of this years race so that it could take up the long-term sponsorship offer starting next year.
Apart from the eight VOR racers, the CYCA had received race nominations from Sweden, New New Zealand, Poland, and the USA. The VOR yachts will have a three-hour pit stop in Hobart before continuing on to Auckland.
Two of the more colorful veterans of the Hobart race, Syd Fischer, and Peter Kurts, will be back this year. Both are in their 70s and are previous winners. Fischer will be racing his latest Ragamuffin while Kurts will be aboard his two-time winner, Love and War. The latter is a classic Sparkman & Stephens design built in 1973. It represented Australia in the 1975 Admirals Cup.
Last years line honours winner, Ludde Ingvalls water ballasted maxi Nicorette, representing Sweden, will be the boat to beat this year. Three local maxis and the VO60s will make things interesting after undergoing significant modifications. Sean Langman has extended his Open 60 Grundig and fitted a smaller keel; George Snow has extended his war horse Brindabella to 80ft in a quest for more speed and Grant Wharington will fit a new keel to Wild Thing after sailing back to Australia from the Americas Cup Jubilee in Cowes.