by Ian Grant
Sport loving Queenslanders will have a feast of entertainment to watch after they celebrate the traditional Boxing Day lunch with family and friends.
The colourful spectacle of the Rolex Sydney Hobart blue water classic start will be broadcast live on channel 7 while the Boxing Day test between Australia and India on channel 9 will no doubt provide the ‘arm chair admirals’ with the perfect excuse to leave the noisy lawn mower motionless in the garden shed.
There is an interesting challenge for the aquatic punters to make a choice on the first yacht to finish with the Hamilton Island Yacht Club super maxi Wild Oats X1 rated as the favourite to win the line honours title ahead of Investec Loyal, Wild Thing, Lahana, and Ichi Ban.
However even this possible prediction stands to be challenged by a number of important factors including the prevailing weather which again is expected to be controlled by the savage ‘Southerly Busters’ that roll over the horizon from The Great Southern Ocean.
As expected even the most experienced weather forecasters are not prepared to provide a long range forecast.
But they have retained an interest in the vigorous 992 low pressure system which gain turned the storm tormented Tasman Sea into a no go zone earlier this week.
Hopefully there will not be a repeat of the horrendous conditions of thirteen years ago when the Hobart classic was dramatically turned into a test of survival.
Naturally the media attention will be focused on the big boat battle where the Bob Oatley owned and Mark Richards skippered Wild Oats X1 the current race record holder is favoured to record her sixth line honours from seven races.
Her crew were particularly impressive in winning the Gun Boat of the series during the Audi Hamilton Island Race Week in August.
The Wild Oats Xl crew revelled in the challenge to cleverly master the moderate to fresh and frightening winds claiming a perfect score by winning all short course races with comfortable margins over Investec Loyal and Lahana however the warm water racing around the Whitsunday Islands has little comparison to racing on the cold waters of the Tasman Sea and Bass Strait when they are in a stormy mood.
Almost every minute of the 628 nautical mile blue water classic presents a challenge and while Wild Oats Xl remains as the line honours super star there are a number of equally impressive smaller yachts who have both the crew and the hard core Hobart race experience to win the race outright.
Among the top choices is the new sloop AFR Midnight Rambler co owned by experienced Sydney skipper Ed Psaltis and Mackay navigator Bob Thomas winners of the toughest Hobart in history in 1998.
Local Sunshine Coast skipper Bob Robertson and his talented crew have the potential to rate Lunchtime Legend as a major challenger along with Loki, Ragamuffin, Dump Truck, Victorie and the 2009 champion the Andrew Saies helmed Two True.