Sydney Hobart: Fleet set for downwind

Published on December 20th, 2022

The maxi yachts should get off to a flying start in the 2022 Rolex Sydney Hobart Yacht Race, based on the NSW Bureau of Meteorology [BOM]’s long range weather forecast. Northerly winds are expected for the start on December 26, according to the forecast presented today at the Cruising Yacht Club of Australia, organizers of the 628 nautical mile race.

Gabrielle Woodhouse, forecaster at the NSW Bureau of Meteorology, said the light east-to-north-easterly winds forecast for the 1pm local time start should freshen later that afternoon.

Those winds are expected to continue into the second day of racing, with a trough forecast later in the week, and winds shifting to south-south easterly and light rain showers developing.

“For those boats that will take a little bit longer, it’s still unclear as to the timing of another trough that could come through during the second half of next week,” Woodhouse said, “But for the most part, we are looking at northerly winds and having those northerly winds increase through the first half of the race with the trough coming through on Wednesday.”

Sail GP

The forecast augurs well for the big boats in the 111-strong fleet, especially the four maxi yachts – Andoo Comanche, Black Jack, Hamilton Island Wild Oats and LawConnect. It could see the maxis sail to Hobart in one assisting weather pattern, while the rest of the fleet, from the mid-to-small sized boats, will have to battle through two or more patterns.

“The forecast is generally good for us as we like going downwind,” said Andoo Comanche navigator, Justin Shaffer, who is sailing in his second Rolex Sydney Hobart. “We’ll be a good chance of being ahead [after the start]… by how much we’ll see,” Shaffer said.

Stan Honey has navigated on all four maxis and this year, his eighth, will be on Hamilton Island Wild Oats. He agrees the long-range forecast is made for a big boat start. “At this point it looks like it could be a big boat race,” Honey said, “and it looks like the big boats will get through most of the race in the north-easterly.”

For the mid-sized boats, like the TP52 Patrice, the forecast indicates they will have to sail through at least two weather patterns before reaching the finish in Hobart. Patrice navigator, Michael Bellingham, who has sailed in 29 Sydney Hobart races, concurred with Honey, saying, “The big boats will probably do this in one weather pattern. How this changes and pans out on Wednesday will affect how the fleet do in this race. It will be interesting to see what sort of wind strengths and sea conditions we get across Bass Strait.”

Bryan Northcote, navigator on the XP44 ToyBox 2 and with 17 Sydney Hobart races to his name, is open-minded about which boats will eventually be favored by the forecast. “I think it’s too early to call at this stage,” he said.

“The weather’s changing daily, as it always does, moving into Hobart. This far out… Sure, the big boats look favored. But I think the race conditions are going to change. As always, if you read every newspaper from Hobart, they’re going to break the race record. When it comes to Boxing Day, I think that might change.”

Duncan McCrae, navigator on the S&S 34 White Bay 6 Azzurro and a veteran of 18 editions of the Sydney Hobart, says the crew members are once again bracing themselves for myriad conditions. “We’re probably going through three weather patterns,” he said. “It will depend how that trough pans out on the second day. We’ll still be in Bass Strait at that point.”

Race detailsNotice of RaceFacebook


The 628 nm Rolex Sydney Hobart Yacht Race will be the 77th edition in 2022 with a fleet of 120 boats. One hundred fifty seven teams set off in 2019, but since then the 2020 race was cancelled due to the pandemic with 88 entries in 2021.

From the start in Sydney Harbour, the fleet sails out into the Tasman Sea, down the south-east coast of mainland Australia, across Bass Strait (which divides the mainland from the island State of Tasmania), then down the east coast of Tasmania. At Tasman Island the fleet turns right into Storm Bay for the final sail up the Derwent River to the historic port city of Hobart.

Source: RSHYR

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