Outside the heads during any Sydney to Hobart start, the waves produced by the mix of spectator craft and race fleet rebound off South Head in the most benign conditions can be a washing machine..
Wild Thing in the Whitsunday Passage
Tomorrow after a solid period of northerly wind and then easterly, there could very well be a 20-25 knot southerly offshore by start time, wind against current and a confused sea, the washing machine will be something to behold.
Anything could happen in this race and that means that the races within the fleet could throw up some surprises.
The betting for the line honours battle has Bob Oatley's Wild Oats XI as a short priced favourite, while others are considered unlikely winners.
Grant Wharington and Sean Langman, two of the larger than life figures on the Australian sailing scene will be sailing south together this year on Wharington's Hart 100 Wild Thing, considered a line honour outsider by the pundits.
We caught up with Wharro on Christmas Eve.
'Looking forward to racing to Hobart with Sean hugely. Matt Allen commented that he is surprised it has taken us so long to get together on the same boat because of the similarities between the two of us and what we have done over the years but I must say I have definitely enjoyed sailing with Sean the few times I have had so far and I am sure the Hobart race will be no different.
'The very first time Sean came sailing on Wild Thing, he actually fell off the boat. It was a man overboard experience in the middle of Sydney Harbour.
'We were trying out a new rudder and Sean planted himself on the back of the boat on a harness and slid over the edge. He said hey I can see exactly what we need. We have got to put a couple of these interceptors on and I know exactly what have got to do and just a minute..... and then splash.
'Over the back of the boat, gone, there he was out the back. I said that’s a bit unnecessary Sean, you have gone a bit overboard to try and check out the ventilation in the rudder. Anyway I tacked around, gybed and came and picked him up. Fortunately he tied the knot himself so he has no one to blame. We all, including Sean laughed a lot...
'We are going south with 20 crew this year so I would call that a big team. All our safety gear we have always had for 20 but the last few years we have been down as low as 13 and up as much as 23. We ended up possibly with a couple more than we otherwise might have had but the boat sails better for it.
'We have gone a little bit heavier this year. We have shortened the keel back to six meters and put a heavier bulb on but everyone seems to have got heavier this year. Wild Oats XI is substantially heavier. I think they are over two tonnes heavier than us even though we went up one and a half tonnes.
'Then of course Ragamuffin, they must be six tonnes heavier than us and Loyal I think is nine. We are still by far the lightest boat around but having said that we do have less sail area consequently that’s why we rank so much lower than that. From an overall perspective we think we are positioned quite well in terms of where we rate relative to the rest of the fleet.
'If it is a big boat race we do fancy our handicap chances. As it turns the weather out, it seems that the big boats might just be able to sneak to the corner before the front comes. If that actually ends up being the case it could become a big boat race and it could be very good for us. I actually think we are still the lowest displacement weight ratio boat in the fleet by quite a bit.
‘When it gets to Line Honours it’s hard to go past 'Wild Oats XI. But she looks more vulnerable to technical issues than she has for a while and sunfish too. But they are an awesome team, so she is definitely the line honours boat to beat.
‘Syd Fischer´s Ragamuffin 100 will be good of course. She is certainly a narrow waterline, low wetted surface boat and they have got truckloads of sail area and obviously with the water ballast and everything they have put in the thing is going to go upwind like a steam train. That’s obviously added a fair bit of weight to the boat because they are about three tonnes heavier than they used to be. Nothing comes for nothing. Everything is a trade-off. I just think that will be a very fast boat for this race and going forwards.
‘Anthony Bell’s new Perpetual Loyal, the former Rambler 100, to be honest I am not really convinced about that boat. I had a long chat with Juan K. about it and it is really a boat that is designed for breaking records. It is a boat that is designed to sail at 90 true wind angle in 20 knots of wind.
‘It’s going to have its day where it is going to be powered up and it is going to disappear over the horizon and everyone is going to wonder what happened but having said that when they are VMG running or sailing in less than 12 knots I think the thing is going to be back behind the Volvo 70s. It is going to have its day and it is going to have its shockers. All that will unfold. I guess we are going to see a few of those conditions and we shall no doubt see its strengths and weaknesses.
'The new Beau Geste looks a very impressive boat to me, she looks like a Volvo 70 scaled up so really you would basically say it is a Volvo 80. It’s a pretty exciting boat. There is no doubt about that.
'Who knows what will happen at the start, but obviously this sort of lighter conditions that are being shown by most of the weather models in the middle of the race, are going to make it challenging for the Volvo 70s and Beau Geste and Loyal and all those bigger beam sort of boats. Having said that everyone has got those big sails that they use to be able to keep them going in that sort of conditions.
'We have the big reaching sails. We have got all new Quantum sails on the boat. We are really happy with where we are at in terms of our preparation.
'The forecast suggests that it's going to be quite a race in terms of decision making. We have a very strong afterguard now with Dave Turton, our navigator. Carl Crafoord our trim co-ordinator and Greg Torpy and Sean and I, We have all done plenty of it.'
‘This will be a race where seamanship really counts and we have a very strong team.'Bring it on!'