When the starting gun fires on Thursday for the 1163km Rolex Sydney to Hobart yacht race, a new boat will be challenging the favourite, Wild Oats XI, for line honours.
The supermaxi Perpetual Loyal, owned by Sydney accountant and fourth-time Hobart racer Anthony Bell, is rumoured to be the fastest boat in the 94-boat fleet.
His 24-member crew includes Olympic gold medallist Tom Slingsby, along with chef Guillaume Brahimi, former Wallaby Phil Waugh, Sydney Swan Jude Bolton, Jessica Watson, the youngest person to sail around the world, and television personalities Karl Stefanovic and Larry Emdur.
The crew is relatively inexperienced but Sailing Master Michael Coxon is competing in his 30th Hobart and navigator Stan Honey, director of technology for the recent 34th America’s Cup, knows all about speed, having been named the 2010 Yachtsman of the Year helping set a new record for nonstop circumnavigation of the world, as well as sailing on Perpetual Loyal when she was first built.
While Wild Oats XI has won line honours six times and last year, broke her own race record, which is 1 day, 18 hours, 23 minutes & 12 seconds to win the race overall, Mr Bell took line honours from his rival in 2011, by 3 minutes, with Investec Loyal (now called Ragamuffin 100).
The rivalry returns this year, with Wild Oats XI adding a retractable, hydrofoil-like wing fitted to make her faster downwind.
Bell has also made extensive modifications to Perpetual Loyal, including lengthening and most importantly, strengthening her – for good reason. Two years ago, as Rambler 100, the Auckland-built boat capsized after losing its keel in the Fastnet race off England.
Bell uses the race to raise funds for the Loyal Foundation, which his company, Bell Partners, established in 2009 to support charities such as the Humpty Dumpty Foundation, which provides children’s medical equipment to Australian hospitals. The Foundation has raised more than $3 million since than and hopes to raise more than $1 million from this race.
Have a look inside the supermaxi and Line Honours contender Perpetual Loyal.
At 30m, Perpetual Loyal is the largest yacht allowed in the Rolex Sydney to Hobart. It was built in Auckland in 2008, designed by Argentinian Juan Kouyoumdjian, and originally named Speedboat.
The boat has two rudders, angled on each side of the boat so the rudder is perpendicular to increase steering ability as the boat heels.
At around 7.5m, Perpetual Loyal is a much wider boat than Wild Oats XI. Her hull is relatively flat, sitting on the water much like a giant surfboard. The boat's top speed is around 40 knots - 75kmh.
Sir Richard Branson was an owner and attempted to break the trans-Atlantic sailing record in 2008, but broke the mainsail instead.
Two side fins, sitting just in front of the canting keel, are used when the boat is sailing into the wind to help it point (steer) higher upwind. The leeward side (lower) fin is hydraulically lowered, but they are raised when the boat heads downwind.
These indicators on the mast tell everyone about wind speed and direction, as well as boat speed and other data to help ensure the sails are trimmed to the optimum position.
Perpetual Loyal has two steering wheels, each with its own set of instruments to provide feedback on wind and boat speed and directions.
There are around a dozen halyards for raising and lowering sails. The ropes come in different colours to help with ID, but you also get a little more advice on the cleats where they lock off. A 240hp engine helps hoist sails.
There are two life rafts for the 24 crew. The bulb above is the satellite, used to assist with navigation, communication and tracking.
Attached to the lifejackets, which crew wear permanently on deck, along with a life harness that attaches to the boat, is a small shortwave radio. The signal can be picked up by other boats and shipping to assist with rescue.
Wet weather gear hangs just inside the entrance. Each crew member is assigned a number, so you know which one is yours.
The beds are rudimentary: webbing on aluminium-frames, with pulleys to adjust the angle to the lean of the boat.
While Perpetual Loyal's space age-designed hull weighs as much as six African elephants, the front half won't be used during the race. This photo looks back past the two side fins to the hatch that will be sealed at the start of the race, making it watertight.
The keel weighs 15 tonnes, with a lead bulb at the bottom, sits on this pin and swings across a 30-degree arc, which helps keep the boat upright.
Hydraulics move the 15-tonne keel, which acts as a counterweight to keep the boat upright against the pressure of the wind.
Navigator Stan Honey (right) is one of the best in the business and has sailed the world, but not seen much of it, since he spends the entire race at his 'office' below decks, checking satellite information, the movements of rival boats, weather data and boat performance, giving constant feedback to the tactician and skipper.
The view from the helm, down through the hatch, to the navigator.
This 240hp engine runs constantly, driving everything from the electronics used for computers and the winches that trim the sails to the hydraulics.
This insulated space, under the cockpit, sits just in front of the navigator and is seriously high tech. If the engine fails, the boat is essentially crippled.
While the crew sits on the windward rail to help keep the boat upright, it also has water ballast which can be pumped from one side of the boat to the other. These are the pumps and seacocks controlling the ballast system at the boat's stern.
During the race, sailors will work in shifts, spending 6 hours on, 6 off during the day, and 4 hours on, 4 off, at night. But if the boat needs to tack or change sails, it's all hands on deck, and key members of the crew will barely get any sleep during the two days at sea.
Big sails need big winches. While there's a handle slot for manual cranking, these winches for trimming sails are operated electronically.
One of the most remarkable advances in technology in recent years is in rope strength for the 'sheets' used on sailing boats. Now, a rope just 6mm thick can hold up to 6.5 tonnes. This is the main sheet, a 110mm thick single line, operating the mainsail, which generates several tonnes in pressure. Its tensile strength is about 15 tonnes.
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