The forecast for the Rolex Sydney Hobart Yacht Race 2012 looks encouraging for the skippers of the 77 competing yachts as strong southerly breeze is set to sweep through Sydney Harbour, leading up to what would be one of the most action-packed starts in the history of the Boxing Day race spectacle.
SAILING - Rolex Sydney to Hobart 2012 - 21/12/2012
Rolex Sydney Hobart super maxi navigators are reveling in a dream forecast that’s promising record-breaking conditions, but an unpredictable westerly looming over Tasmania is leaving the race for the coveted IRC trophy – the Tattersall’s Cup - wide open.
The prediction is that the fleet of 77 yachts in the Cruising Yacht Club of Australia’s annual race will start under spinnaker in a southerly wind on Boxing Day; a spectacle that hasn’t been seen on Sydney Harbor since a brave few popped their kites in a south-easterly during the 2006 start.
Wild Oats XI navigator Adrienne Cahalan said the 15 to 20 knot winds from the south would make for an ideal start when the cannon fires from Aussie Legend at 1300 AEDT.
'Every Hobart sailor dreams of a southerly on Christmas Day,’’ said Cahalan, who is competing in her 21st Rolex Sydney Hobart Yacht Race, a record for women.
Bureau of Meteorology senior duty forecaster, Michael Logan, said the southerly would clock to the north-east and lighten on day two.
'This year we’ll start with a headwind and there will be a lot of work to do once you get in to day two,’’ he said. 'The winds will make for much faster downwind sailing.'
The north/north-easterly winds are set to create powerful sailing as the leading teams charge across Bass Strait towards the Tasmanian coast.
It’s here where the big boats are likely to exceed the 14-plus knot average that they must maintain to break the race record.
But, a possible westerly change on December 28, two days into the race, is set to cause plenty of havoc as the lead yachts approach the final miles.
Just when the westerly change will set-in is anyone’s guess, with five days remaining before the race start.
One thing is for certain; the super maxis, including Wild Oats XI, Wild Thing and Lahana, are hoping they will cross the finish line at Hobart’s Castray Esplanade before the westerly arrives.
If their dream scenario unfolds, they will be on track to break the race record of one day, 18 hours, 40 minutes and 10 seconds, set by the then 98 foot super maxi, Wild Oats XI, in 2005.
They will also be in good stead to claim the elusive dual line honors and IRC title win, which Bob Oatley’s Wild Oats XI captured in 2005, along with the record.
However, if the westerly arrives early on December 28, the race will be wide open.
'The computer forecasts say we have a chance of record pace,' Cahalan said.
'But, we have to deal with the transition on the first night and the Derwent River when the front comes through on the 28th.'
Lahana skipper Carl Crafoord will be keeping one eye on the boats around the 60-foot mark and the other on his pursuit of the IRC trophy.
'If we can get in before the westerly change, that gives us a good chance on IRC,' Crafoord, a veteran of 26 Hobart races said.
'There are only four boats in our rating band: Loki, Black Jack and Ichi Ban. That’s not many boats in our window.'
It will be a much tougher race for the smaller boats in the fleet. Few will endure more than Sean Langman and his crew on board the 30ft Huon pine, gaff-rigged Maluka of Kermandie.
Langman’s crew finished last on line in the 2011 Rolex Sydney Hobart, sneaking in on the afternoon of New Year’s Eve. Langman admits that just finishing is the ultimate aim.
'It’s not looking too flash for the smaller boats,’’ he said. 'We will contend with more upwind conditions,' he said of the southerly he and others such as Simon Kurts’ Love & War will enjoy on Boxing Day.
'Certainly it will be a big boat race. It’s exciting for the big boats. We’ll be listening and just hoping we’ll get there in time for the New Year’s Eve fireworks,' said Langman, who just two years ago was steering the super maxi Investec Loyal across the finish line.