This Fab Five will dominate the Sydney to Hobart
THEY are the Fab Five - the most impressive fleet of multimillion-dollar supermaxis to sail in the same ocean race anywhere in the world.
The water between Sydney and Hobart is their sparring ring with fierce rivalries making this potentially the most combative race in history.
Wild Oats XI is the matriarch of the fleet, an eight-time winner and multiple race record holder out to avenge being stripped of her line honours win a year ago following a protest.
Comanche is the two-time champion who outmuscled her rivals en route to her first victory for American owner Jim Clark in 2016 before delivering new owner Jim Cooney success last year.
Less than a fortnight after buying the yacht, Cooney and crew set a new race record of one day, nine hours, 15 minutes and 24 seconds when they took line honours at the end of the 628 nautical mile trek to Hobart.
Comanche originally finished 26 minutes and 34 seconds behind Wild Oats X1 who later her line honours win and race record voided by a one hour time penalty following a close call between the two yachts not long after the start.
Both publicly deny ill feeling in the wake of the controversy but Wild Oats skipper Mark Richards has admitted it has added motivation to his crews campaign in 2018.
"What happens on the water stays in the water," he says. "But we are going out there to win.''
While much attention will be focused on the two antagonists from last year, two others yachts are in pole position to be a major protagonist this year.
Queenslander Peter Harburg and his skipper Mark Bradford have worked overtime to ready both the Queensland yacht Black Jack and her crew for the race.
The boat has a full wardrobe of new sails and a new, deeper keel which will increase righting moment. Already a standout light wind performer, Bradford says much work has been done to make her more of an all-rounder and better across the board in a range of conditions.
Also in with a big chance of stealing the line honours away from Comanche and Wild Oats is the foreign invader Scallywag, representing Hong Kong but crewed by a predominately Australian team of sailors.
This 100-footer is in with a big chance of stealing the honours away from an Australian team this year with her sweet point light wind reaching.
The fourth Australian 100-footer is the former race record holder Perpetual Loyal, bough a year ago by Christian Beck and now racing as InfoTrack.
If the going gets tough this is where this heavier boat will excel with Beck investing in a top crew for the race. But the forecast indicates this may not be their year.