Downwind forecast for Sydney Hobart
Published on December 25th, 2022
The Line Honours race record is there for the taking in this year’s Rolex Sydney Hobart Yacht Race, so long as the forecast of downwind conditions prevail through to the finish.
That is the view of Mark Richards, skipper of the nine-time Line Honours-winning maxi, Hamilton Island Wild Oats.
Richards made the declaration on the day prior to the start after Gabrielle Woodhouse from the NSW Bureau of Meteorology confirmed the forecast of north-easterly winds for the 77th edition.
Woodhouse said the race start in Sydney Harbour at 1pm should see north to north-easterly winds of about 10-15 knots, with an increase to 20 knots as the fleet turns south out of Sydney Heads. The winds should strengthen on day two and three, by which time the big boats should have finished in Hobart.
For the four maxis in the 628 nautical mile race, organised by the Cruising Yacht Club of Australia (CYCA), the forecast sets the scene for a lightning fast run down the coast.
The Line Honours record is 1 day, 9 hours, 15 minutes, 24 seconds, set by LDV Comanche (now Andoo Comanche) in 2017.
Richards believes the record could be beatable, so long as the northerly winds continue at strength and that there is still a breeze down the Derwent River to the finish.
“It’s a race that could definitely rack up a record, especially with Andoo Comanche [in the race],” said Richards.
“It all depends on the actual conditions. But if it’s dead the whole way, I’d say not; but then it only has to change a couple of degrees and all of a sudden, it’s all on. If there’s breeze in the Derwent absolutely.”
Richards is certainly excited about the forecast and Hamilton Island Wild Oats’ suitability for it: “We put all our eggs in one basket this year and prepared the best we could for a downwind race.
“Someone shone down on us and we’ve got a fantastic forecast for exactly that.”
Richards and the Hamilton Island Wild Oats crew are not alone in smiling about the forecast.
Spirits are high on board the three other maxis in the fleet that numbers 109 boats – Andoo Comanche, Black Jack and LawConnect.
Mark Bradford, skipper of the Peter Harburg-owned Black Jack, which won Line Honours last year, predicts a nail-biting race between the maxis right up to the run down the Derwent River.
“The boats … should technically get from A to B – B being Tasman Island – at roughly the same time, but the journey along the way will be very different directions,” Bradford said.
“We’ll see everyone commit to their boats and their modes. Then we’ll get to Tasman Light within eyesight of each other. It’ll be light on the Derwent and we’ll figure it out from there.”
John Winning Jr, skipper of Andoo Comanche, was rubbing his hands over the forecast.
“We are pretty happy,” he said. “I was down in Hobart last weekend, checking out the local area and the Derwent and the forecast was for a good breeze down the Derwent, so that should be good.
“It was windy last weekend. So, it should be windy on Tuesday or Wednesday whenever we’re going to get there … hopefully sometime from Tuesday afternoon and we’ll go from there.”
Chris Lewis, the American navigator on Christian Beck’s LawConnect, is thrilled about the prospect of a high-speed race south.
“It’s just going to be so incredibly exciting to see all the boats – not just us – ripping down the coast. It’s going to be quite a sleigh ride,” said Lewis, for whom this will be a fourth start.
The 628 nm Rolex Sydney Hobart Yacht Race will be the 77th edition in 2022 which will have a fleet of 109 boats for the start on December 26. 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.