Will Sydney Hobart be Record Breaking?
Published on December 26th, 2017
Sydney, Australia (December 26, 2017) – Down at the Cruising Yacht Club of Australia, it is Boxing Day business as usual this morning, and the skippers and navigators have had their final Rolex Sydney Hobart weather briefing.
The marina is packed with crew loading last minute supplies and sails, jostling along the narrow jetty arms through hundreds of milling Sydneysiders taking a gander at these truly impressive racing machines.
There is one thing missing though. The adrenalin and butterflies are still swirling around, but this year there is a distinct lack of dread. This is not going to be a typical Rolex Sydney Hobart.
There will be no violent southerly fronts sweeping through the fleet, no wet, cold nights perched on the rail fighting steep, boat breaking waves thrown up by a 40 knot southerly sweeping over a fast current from the north. Instead, a moderate 15 knots east-south/easterly breeze for the first few hours, then the sheets will be eased as the wind backs around to the north-east, and the fun will begin.
“We are on top of the world today – a beautiful forecast,” Wild Oats XI’s relaxed tactician Iain Murray said after the briefing. “This will be a lovely race for us – the boat will revel in this stuff. In my 24 Hobarts it has never been this good. It is very rare that you get continual off the wind, across the wind from start to finish. It is something we all dream about really.”
Murray concedes that LDV Comanche is the rightful favourite for line honours. “She’ll jump out at the start, and leave us all a little bit behind,” he says. But in recent years, Wild Oats XI has undergone a lot of modifications to improve her speed in tough running, exactly what the super maxis will experience when the wind builds to around 30 knots as they approach Tasmania.
“We’re looking forward to some terrific sailing,” says LDV Comanche’s navigator, Stan Honey. “The dicey part happens after Tasman Island.” The super maxis will get to Storm Bay late tomorrow afternoon, and into the Derwent that night, and it looks as though the breeze is going to be very light in the Derwent River by then.
If Comanche has not been able to open up a big lead offshore, the lighter, leaner Wild Oats XI and Black Jack could overhaul her in over the last 40 miles. “We get to the Derwent at the worst time,” Honey sighs.
What the breeze does on Storm Bay and the Derwent may well decide who wins line honours, and whether the race record is broken yet again.
Black Jack’s owner, Peter Harburg, thinks the fluky river will stymie a record time, as well as validating his decision to set Black Jack up as the fastest of the four 100 footers in light air.
But Iain Murray is much more optimistic. He expects Wild Oats XI to reach Tasman Island around sunset tomorrow, well inside record time. “The record is easily achievable. The supers can easily average 20 knots. The current record averages 17 point something. Getting around the corners will be the hard part.”
The forecast continues to favour the 45 to 55 foot planning boats, as well as the Oatley family’s smaller entry, Wild Oats X, in the race for the Tattersall Cup. They will be in the river during the day, when the breeze is fresher.
It is unlikely that the outright winner will come from the back half of the fleet this year, but of course, these are typically the boats that get smashed when the big boats are already safe in Hobart. Not this year, though.
The race starts on Boxing Day at 1300hrs AEDT and will be broadcast live on the Seven Network throughout Australia.
Source: Jim Gale, RSHYR media