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Windpower and Sydney to Hobart: reaching the limits

By Graham Young - posted Friday, 4 January 2019

Millions of dollars have been poured into the top Sydney to Hobart contenders.

The elite contenders in this race are highly evolved racing machines. No expense has been spared, from the tip of the mainsail to the bottom of its canting keel.

But Witt gives technology no credit for the first three boats home beating the race record by hours.


"To be honest, zero," he said.

"It was 100 per cent wind direction and wind strength.

"We could have had those conditions 10 years ago, we would have done the same thing."

So, despite the technological changes in the last 20 years, little has changed in terms of output, and at what cost?

It's not easy to find out the cost of super maxis, but it seems that the 2011 winner Investec Loyal cost $6,152,355 when originally bought in 2006, but has been substantially modified since, so who knows what the real cost is. Last year's winner, LDV Comanche reputedly cost $15 million with most of her modifications in front of her.

And what do you get for that? A boat which transports a crew of somewhere around 16-29 at an absolute best speed, in the best year of 18.88 knots, but more likely to be in the realm of 11 to 12 knots.


That's a capital cost of around $500,000 per passenger, and about $40,000 per passenger per knot.

By comparison a cruise ship gets 21 to 24 knots, for $260 million you can purchase one that moves 500 people, a capital cost of $520,000, but for twice the speed, so $24, 762 per passenger per knot. At the largest end the capital cost is $262,000 per passenger and $12,476 per passenger per knot.

So to be anywhere as efficient as the diesel electric craft the super-maxis would need a 400% improvement in return on cost, and that is discounting that in a cruise ship you get a reasonable berth, dining facilities, bars, night clubs, pools, and need I go on?

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About the Author

Graham Young is chief editor and the publisher of On Line Opinion. He is executive director of the Australian Institute for Progress, an Australian think tank based in Brisbane, and the publisher of On Line Opinion.

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