Matt Allen will resume his quest for an elusive back-to-back overall title with Ichi Ban in the Sydney to Hobart when the great race gets underway on Sunday.
Allen’s consistent TP52 Ichi Ban took overall honours in 2017 and 2019, but it’s been 57 years since any boat achieved the feat in successive races.
Allen will once again face formidable opposition from a high-quality mid-sized fleet which includes a number of other previous handicap winners.
Among the TP52s is Quest, which won the race in 2008 and again in 2015 under the name Balance, and also Gweilo.
Of the bigger boats, 66-foot 2018 winner Alive is back for another crack while the 72-foot URM is also tipped to perform well.
Among the smaller yachts the 34-foot White Bay 6 Azzurro is well regarded.
“The standard of the fleet in that mid-size is really strong, probably it will be the best standard that you see in any race in the world,” Allen told AAP.
“That’s true at the top end as well, obviously the supermaxis, even to have three is incredible.
“There’s an array of other boats in that 60 and 70 (foot range) and then smaller than us.
‘All over the shop’
“There’s boats all over the shop that are a lot more consistently sailed than they were two or three years ago.
‘”The standard has increased significantly and people have been modifying their boats a lot.
“A lot of the stuff we did during the winter, a couple of boats have copied already. Don’t they say copying is a form of flattery?
“There’s a lot of people tweaking their boats a lot more and improving their sail wardrobes and the quality of the crews are up.”
Allen, who has also suffered his share off disappointments across 30 previous Hobart campaigns, said having the best boat and crew was no guarantee of winning the prized overall title.
“We know that this is quite a common occurrence in this race and that’s the beauty of this race,” Allen said.
“That’s what makes this race so hard to win and such a big challenge because you need absolutely everything to make it happen.”