by Jim Gale
Things are looking up for the Rolex Sydney Hobart Yacht Race 2012 as the final weather briefing from the Bureau of Meteorology suggested a spinnaker start for the participating fleet in the annual Boxing Day race classic.
Dockside ambiance in Sydney
Skippers and navigators of the 77 yachts competing in the Rolex Sydney Hobart received their final weather briefing from the Bureau of Meteorology at the Cruising Yacht Club of Australia this morning prior to heading out onto the Harbour.
Smaller yachts beware; the forecast continues to favour the largest boats and punishes the rest.
The fleet will start in a southerly that will move to the south-east, so spectators around the Sydney Harbour foreshore can expect a spectacular spinnaker start.
A 20-knot wind will hold for the rest of the day, giving the fleet a beat down the NSW coast until the wind swings around to the north-east overnight, light at first, but strengthening for a day of fast running.
Winds will again shift overnight, to the west this time, with shifty, variable conditions along the Tasmanian east coast as a result; and there will be a series of west/south west fronts through Bass Strait for the remainder of the race, the Bureau of Meteorology’s Michael Logan warning that the smaller boats may be inflicted with gale-force westerlies on Sunday.
The forecast appears to favour the biggest boats in the fleet, with expectations that the overall winner will come from the group of 60 foot plus boats which will open a big gap on the smaller boats during day two, and will be tied up in Hobart while the others contend with the west/south west fronts.
It is possible that this year, for the first time since Wild Oats XI took the triple, winning line and handicap honours and breaking the record in 2005 into the bargain, the line honours winner could also win the race overall.
Whether the record will be broken this year is still up in the air. The forecast looks promising, but all will depend on when those wind changes swing in, and how long the transition from south to north takes, and how long that northerly hangs in on day two.
There is no sign of any northerly late in the race to boost the tail-enders back into contention this year. Indeed, the Gods are being particularly unkind to the smallest and slowest boats.
Maluka of Kermandie, the 80 year old timber gaffer crewed by Sean Langman, his daughter Nicole and son Pete, among others, will struggle to make Hobart in time for the New Year fireworks.
'We’re prepared for the worst,’’ Langman wryly remarked after the briefing. 'In terms of bonding with the kids, it’s probably a good thing we’ll be out there longer - although they may never speak to me again - but, at least when we finish, they’ll be able to say they did a real Hobart.'
The reaction was opposite for Athens 2004 49er silver medallist Rodion Luka from the Ukraine, who will helm and trim on Ichi Ban, the 70 footer belonging to Matt Allen, who said: 'We’re very excited, the weather is good for us. I am also excited, as this is my first Hobart, although I did other big ocean races. I think we will do very well on handicap – that is our aim.'
Rolex Sydney Hobart Yacht Race 2012