Well the shopping centres all have Bing Crosby crooning though the speakers, all the staff are wearing reindeer red hats and there is tinsel everywhere. This can only mean one thing is fast approaching.

The start of the Sydney to Hobart Yacht race. And what a race it will be this year. When I was in grade 9 I had a particularly boring maths teacher. To pass these endless dull periods I entertained myself by drawing pictures of racing yachts. Back in 1974 the ‘big boats’ were the likes of Kiloa 3, Ondine and Apollo. They were around 70 odd feet long with a beam of about 12 feet. They looked massive. But I was clearly ahead of my time as the fantasy boats I liked to draw were about a hundred feet long and had huge ridiculously wide beams with crew everywhere. Well take a look at the big end of this year’s great race. As I said I was clearly ahead of my time with the likes of ‘Perpetual Loyal’ and of course the astonishing US supra maxi ‘Comanche’. She has a beam of 30 feet and it looks like about a 10 minute walk from one steering wheel to the other. When she heels the crew on the windward rail are more likely to suffer from altitude sickness than sea sickness.

When she racks up against Bob Oatley’s ‘Wild Oats’ we will witness one of the most anticipated match ups in the history of offshore racing – ‘Oats’ of course being pencil thin and brisling with appendages. As the skipper Mark Richards commented “with them all poking out she looks like a Swiss army pocket knife”. Comanche and Wild Oats represent the complete opposite ends of the design spectrum but both have shown blistering pace on certain angles.

This is going to be great. When you watch the mainstream TV coverage of the race you may mistakenly think that the Sydney to Hobart is like the America’s Cup with only 2 boats competing. But this year the two favourites may not have it their own way five hundred footers racking up on Boxing Day along with the cream Australia’s offshore fleet. But all eyes will be on the battle for line honours from fatty and skinny. Perpetual Loyal, runner up last year will once again get plenty of air time by carrying a crew of ‘celebrities’ on board such as well-known yachts people like pro-surfer Sally Fitzgibbon and boxer Danny Green. Maybe the owner has been caught up in the yachting press hyperbole, talking of the ‘fight’ for line honours and ‘surfing’ the waves of Bass Strait? Of course Comanche has a bit of star power of their own as the boat is co-owned by supermodel Kristie Hinze – a relative of that great QUEENSLANDER Russ Hinze. He had quite a beam to as I recall. Anyway folks don’t miss it – this will be one of the greatest Hobart races with the biggest fleet in 20 years.

In fact, after this year’s race, yachting will be so popular that here at Southern Cross we will be booked solid with people wanting to take up the sport. The only way you will get a spot is by buying your friends and family a Southern Cross Gift voucher for Christmas! Gift vouchers can bought for any amount or course and are redeemable for 12 months so get on the email now and make yourself the most popular gift giver this Christmas!

I will be enjoying this year’s race start from the safety and comfort of my lounge chair, then heading down the Bay – so if any of you are out there on the Bay, drop by Capriccio and say g’day. From all of us here at Southern Cross thank you for your support this year and have a safe and very Merry Christmas.

Cheers from Mike and Jenny, Di, Ritchie and all the Team.

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