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Rolex Sydney to Hobart - Long range weather forecast favours big boats

by Jim Gale RSHYR media on 20 Dec 2013
The Long Range Weather Forecast panel: Andrew Treloar, Bureau of Meterology; Tom Addis - Wild Oats XI; Stan Honey - Perpetual LOYAL; Michael Bellingham - Southern Excellence II; Adrienne Cahalan - Wedgetail and Brett Young - Shining Sea - Rolex Sydney to Hobart 2013 Andrea Francolini
The Rolex Sydney Hobart Yacht Race 2013 long range weather forecast is very promising for the biggest, fastest boats in the fleet, even dangling the possibility of a race record, but what comes as good news on the V70s and 100 foot super-maxis is disappointing for the mid-sized and particularly smaller yachts.

The Bureau of Meteorology’s Andrew Treloar has told navigators at the Cruising Yacht Club of Australia that the fleet is likely to start the race in a 10 to 15 knot nor-easterly, promising a quick spinnaker run down the New South Wales coast on the first afternoon.

‘The breeze will freshen the further south you go, and go more northerly, maybe reaching 30 knots around Gabo Island on Friday,' Treloar said.

Treloar expects a cold front will move through Bass Strait early Saturday morning, bringing westerlies in Bass Strait, giving the boats out there a fast reach, but those westerlies will bend north up the New South Wales coast.

'The boats along the coast will see this as a south westerly or even a southerly buster,' He said.

As the winds move to the west in Bass Strait, the Tasmanian coast will present a challenge for navigators. Tasmania will project a large wind shadow, so it could get very messy, particularly for yachts that venture too close inshore.

So the biggest, fastest yachts are likely to reach Hobart without encountering a southerly, but the smaller boats will have to battle at least one off NSW, even before they get to Bass Strait and whatever Tasmania holds for them.

In the race for line honours, this forecast would definitely seem to favour the long, narrow race favourite Wild Oats XI over her wider, more powerful main rival Perpetual LOYAL.

'There is a little bit of courses for horses this year,' says Perpetual LOYAL navigator Stan Honey.

'Our two boats are quite a bit different, and it looks like the course right now suits Wild Oats XI a little bit better than it does us. We are looking for conditions that are more demanding of stability, which we have lots of, so we’ll be pulling what strings we have to pull to get that change to come through more quickly and more vigorously.'

Wider and heavier than Wild Oats XI, Perpetual LOYAL’s edge is in heavy weather beating and close reaching, and there is not a lot of that in this forecast.

'Wild Oats XI and Perpetual LOYAL may both be 100 feet, but we’re at opposite ends of the design box,' says Wild Oats XI navigator Tom Addis.

'If we were more similar, it would be more of a match race, but because of the differences we will be sailing our own race. We have to make hay while the conditions suit us, and hang on when conditions suit them.'

In fact, while everyone has been anticipating the showdown between Wild Oats XI and Perpetual LOYAL, this forecast throws the lighter weight 100 footers, Ragamuffin 100 and Wild Thing well and truly in the mix, as well as the V70s Black Jack and Giacomo and the 80 foot Beau Geste.


'Beau Geste might be quite special downwind. They’ve only just launched her, so we don’t really know. It used to be that a 100 footer was always faster than a 70 footer, but these days, with the latest designs and technology, on some angles they will be sailing faster than us,' Addis predicts.

So Addis is keeping his fingers crossed that the forecast holds good as we get closer to race start day, and most everyone else is counting on the weather moving through faster and a little rougher than BOM expects.

Certainly in the race for handicap that is what the mid-range boats are hoping for. Fast races favour big boats, slower races the 50 to 60 foot division, and a long, slow slog to windward is lovely for the 40 footers and the older racer/cruisers.

'There is still a bit of uncertainty, particularly at the end there,' says Adrienne Cahalan, who this year is navigating the Queensland Reichel/Pugh 55 Wedgetail instead of her usual Wild Oats XI ride.

'One of the tricky things for the smaller boats is if we are on the Tassie coast when the westerly comes through; it can get very messy. If the big boats are already in Hobart it will be very difficult for us,' she says.

'The tricky part of the race is where you set yourself up in relation to the Tasmanian shore, and I’ll have a longer time to think about it this year,' said the mother of two.

'You have to weigh up what the competition is doing, and if it is different from you, how confident you are in your own decisions.'

'This is not our preferred forecast,' Brett Young, off the South Australian Beneteau First 45 Shining Sea concedes, 'but it’s still a long way out and things can chop and change. When a small boat wins, it’s usually because something has come out of the blue.

'It could be that the breeze is lighter at the start, which would slow the race down. That’s when the smaller boats come into Event website

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