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Maxis and race record may go with the wind

by Lisa Ratcliff on 21 Dec 2007
Wild Oats XI could set another record © Andrea Francolini Photography http://www.afrancolini.com/
With talk of a race record in the air, the Rolex Sydney Hobart big boat skippers have smiles on their faces while, for the smaller boats, it’s likely to be a case of watching the leaders of the pack disappearing over the horizon.

Matt Allen, skipper of the Jones 70 Ichi Ban, has calculated an ETA using weather routing based on the current US model and believes that, while optimistic, arriving into Hobart in 1 day, 13 hours is a possibility. And his boat is almost thirty feet shorter than the three 30m maxis vying for line honours.

The race record set by Wild Oats XI in 2005 stands at 1 day 18 hours 40 minutes 10 seconds.

Five days out from the Boxing Day start, the Bureau of Meteorology has given a general outlook of the sort of conditions this year’s fleet of 82 can expect.

For the start on 26 December, a high east of Sydney is expected to bring north to northeast winds that should freshen during the afternoon.

'The fresh nor’easter will get the race off to a flying start,' said Bureau of Meteorology regional director Barry Hanstrum today.

After flicking left, fresh northwest winds are forecast to continue until later on Thursday, 27 December, when the passage of a front through eastern Bass Strait may result in a moderate southerly change moving up the NSW south coast.

'On present indications this change should weaken rapidly overnight Thursday with winds returning to the north and freshening on Friday,' Hanstrum forecasted.

Wearing his CYCA Commodore’s hat, Matt Allen is delighted there are no early indications the fleet is going to face a major storm. Wearing his skipper’s hat, more breeze would be better.

'It’s a terrific forecast for the large boats,' admitted Allen today.

Lindsay May, a 34 time race veteran and navigator on Swan Song, as well as the winning navigator on Love & War in the 2006 race, is keeping an eye on one eddy off Jervis Bay but isn’t expecting the conveyer belt ride south that carried them to an overall win last year. He also warns that first night of hard running is when a few could 'come unstuck'.

Will Oxley, navigator on the Reichel/Pugh 55 Yendys, an overall contender for the Tattersall’s Cup (overall handicap winner), agrees the race is shaping up to be very interesting from a navigator’s point of view.

'With a number of fronts coming through after midday on the 27th, the race could be turned on its ear. There is potential for the big boats to ‘park up’ .…the race could start again off the Tasmanian coast,' said Oxley today.

'The first half of the race is going to be about boat handling, the right trim and good helmsmen. The second half will be about tactics and positioning,' Oxley says.

Skandia’s navigator Graeme Taylor is realistic about their chances of catching the newer Wild Oats XI and the brand new City Index Leopard from the UK.

'We are hoping for a Steven Bradbury type arrangement,' laughed Taylor, the navigator of the four year old Skandia which will be looking for an opportunity to skirt around the top dogs should they break or park.

Apart from the short lived southerly change late on Thursday, the Bureau is forecasting winds will be mostly out of the north and fresh at times.
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