The CYCA marina is always busy before the start of the RSHYR
The CYCA marina is always busy before the start of the RSHYR

The weather forecast for the Rolex Sydney Hobart Yacht Race has laid the platform for a terrific battle for line honours and overall victory in the 75th edition that starts at 1pm today.

The Bureau of Meteorology’s Gabrielle Woodhouse confirmed the race start on Sydney Harbour should be in a north to nor-easterly 10-15 knot wind, and that a mild southerly is due later this evening. She also confirmed that smoke haze from bushfires is unlikely.

The Cruising Yacht Club of Australia event will this year see varying wind shifts throughout the 628-nautical-mile race, but for front-runners such as the five super maxis and other larger boats, the forecast indicates their passage south will be in relatively calm conditions.

However, for the back end of the 157-strong fleet that will start the race from four lines, conditions may toughen, with increasing winds and thunderstorms expected early next week.

The crew of defending line-honours champion, Wild Oats XI, are understandably optimistic about their chances of recording a record 10th line-honours triumph, notwithstanding the challenge they have faced to have the 100-footer repaired after sustaining mast and deck damage in the Cabbage Tree Island race last month, and then tested in a 24-hour qualifying sail last week.

“She’s 100-per-cent ready to go,” said Wild Oats XI tactician, Iain Murray, at the CYCA this morning.

Asked if the Wild Oats XI crew has had enough preparation, Murray said: “We’ve been preparing for 15 years; same boat. It’s one of those things … Comanche is one extreme, and we are the other extreme.

“The skinny little boat likes some light breeze going downwind, and the bigger boats like to reach. So, it’s going to be a test of where we go, and how much of each one you get. I’m sure there’s going to be a bit of cat and mouse in all this.”

Mark Bradford, skipper of Peter Harburg’s Black Jack, which was runner-up to Wild Oats XI on line honours last year, tips a line honours-winning time of “one day 20 hours, something like that”.

He also believes that Black Jack will be in the fray, saying: “We’ll be a candidate for sure. We’ve put a huge effort in this year so hopefully we’ll reap the rewards.”

Harburg welcomed the forecast. ”There’s something for everyone, he said. “There’s some light, some strong, some reaching, so, there’s something for everyone. We’d like more light, but we’ve got to take what we get.” 

Christian Beck, the owner of super maxi InfoTrack, fourth on line honours last year, commented: “In these conditions, we probably need a ‘Bradbury moment’ to win, but we could be right there is someone has a problem.”

Matt Allen, the owner/skipper of the TP52, Ichi Ban, winner of the race in 2017, says: “The front of the pack is going to be amazing. You’ve never see these sorts of boats, hundred footers, around together anywhere else,” Allen said.

“But the race is on at the mid-part of the fleet.”

On Ichi Ban, Allen said: “The boat is ready to go. We just need to wriggle out of that trough tonight, and cross our fingers and get through it, then it looks good for the bigger boats.

“The forecast looks great for us. I think most of the boats around 50 foot, 60 foot look really good with this weather forecast. But there are a lot of competitive yachts, so, you’ve got to beat everyone around your size, and then hopefully the weather Gods are shining on you.”