Chilly forecast for Sydney Hobart Race

Published on December 24th, 2023

For the 2023 Rolex Sydney Hobart Yacht Race, uncertainty remains for crews over the expected conditions – except that a long, wet, and cold journey is in store.

The NSW Bureau of Meteorology [BOM] updated forecast for the December 26 start predicted variable winds, waves, and weather conditions, with rain, thunderstorms, and low visibility likely.

As David Witt, skipper of the Hong Kong maxi, SHK Scallywag said of the forecast, especially a couple hundred miles down the coast after passing Eden: “Take another set of thermals. It will be cold.”

Gabrielle Woodhouse, the BOM’s senior meteorologist, said conditions for the race start should be sunny with winds likely to be east to south-easterly at a light 5 knots.

Later in the afternoon, the wind could turn to the north-east, increasing to 15 knots, with the featured sunshine of race start in Sydney Harbour possibly giving way to thunderstorms.

However, as the race heads south to and beyond Eden, winds could be east to south-east at 15-25 knots with waves increasing from 1.5 metres to 2 to 3 metres.

From there the fleet can expect to hit a trough and low pressure system. This will make for a tactically challenging race as boats follow either the current, or head out east for the wind.

So believes Witt, whose SHK Scallywag is one of four maxis in the 628 nautical mile race and a favorite for Line Honors with Andoo Comanche, LawConnect and Wild Thing 100.

“I think it’ll probably be decided when someone might fall off the perch in the first three or four hours. That could be a big decision early,” said Witt.

“We’re just pretty happy that we got one Juan Vila with us [one of the navigators]. The best in the world doesn’t come cheap, but we’ve invested in the right areas with this forecast.”

John Winning Jr, skipper of the defending Line Honors champion, Andoo Comanche, agreed the race is poised to become a battle of the brains trusts.

Winning has nothing but praise for his navigator, Justin Shaffer’s ability. “I’ve said in previous years that I think Justin is the most underrated navigator on the planet,” he said.

“For us, it’s around trusting each person’s role on the boat, and we back our boat in any conditions to win the race.

“Obviously we’d like the conditions to get us get there as fast as possible, because as a skiff sailor, I don’t want to spend too much time at sea.

“Even if we’re out there for 48-plus hours, we think our boat is fast in all conditions.”

Tony Mutter, Sailing Master on Christian Beck’s LawConnect was reticent to come to any conclusion about the forecast.

“It’s way too early because the biggest problem I have with the low is that it still hasn’t really formed properly,” he said.

Mutter said he was presently looking at two options. Either to go “down the current or whether we go east to try and sail around the outside and into the pressure.”

Asked his opinion, Carl Crafoord, from Grant Wharington’s new Wild Thing 100, is leaning towards the option of heading offshore.

“Getting offshore away from the coast, and when possible thunderstorms, will be the answer,” he said.


The 628 nm course for the 78th Rolex Sydney Hobart Yacht Race has several key features following the exit from Sydney Harbor on December 26. Most notable is the crossing of the easternmost edge of the exposed Bass Strait, a notorious expanse of water that can serve up punishing and violent waves, and then periods when the sea is calm as the wind fades. The final stretch up the Derwent River into Hobart can be either kind or cruel when deciding the results of the race.

Source: Rupert Guinness | RSHYR

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