by Rob Mundle
Rolex Sydney Hobart Yacht Race 2012 line honours contender Wild Oats XI is very much in position of shattering the record she set in 2005 with strong north easterly winds expected to blow throughout 628 nautical mile ocean race six days from now.
XI, WILD OATS XI, Sail No: 10001, Owner: Mark Richards, Design: Reichel/Pugh 30 Mtr, LOA (m): 30.5, State: NSW
Considering the preliminary forecast for the Boxing Day race, there is an excellent chance that the 30-metre long supermaxi, which is owned by Bob Oatley and skippered by Mark Richards, can better the record time she set in 2005.
Wild Oats XI averaged 14.9 knots that year to establish the mark of 1 day, 18 hours, 40 minutes and 10 seconds.
Skipper Richards says that given the current forecast for strong and favourable north easterly winds for much of the course this year, his charge could achieve a new record time below 1 day, 13 hours.
‘It’s an exciting forecast when it comes to a race record, and it could get even better for us over the next few days,’ said Richards. ‘We need to average only 18 knots to get there in 35 hours, and I think that is very achievable. Beyond that, it won’t take much more breeze for us to see an average speed above 20 knots – possibly as high as 25 knots. An average of 22 knots would see us in Hobart in 28 hours.’
Richards is, however, tempering this excitement with a realistic approach to the race.
‘It’s a Hobart race – a long race – and as has been seen all too often, plenty of things can go wrong. My biggest concern is that we hit something at high speed and damage the yacht. At the same time, crew safety will be paramount, so we won’t be pushing the boat beyond the limits.
'We must also recognise that there are three other big boats in this race, and any one of them has the ability to be first to Hobart. Wild Oats XI might be the favourite for line honours, but we are far from a certainty. Just look at what happened to us last year.’
Yachting meteorologist Roger Badham, who is providing a special race forecast service for Wild Oats XI and many other competing yachts, says the current outlook suggests that a race record time is distinctly possible, but he won’t be confident of that until after he completes his race forecast based on tomorrow’s weather models.
The current outlook is for a spinnaker start in a south easterly breeze on Sydney Harbor at 1pm on Boxing Day. Once clear of the Heads the fleet will encounter a weakening southerly wind for the first few hours. It will turn easterly then north easterly later in the day. That north easterly could blow at between 25 and 30 knots throughout the next day, making for an exceptionally fast downwind course into Bass Strait and on to the coast of Tasmania.
Rolex Sydney Hobart Yacht Race 2012