David Witt warns crews to brace for a wet and cold ride in Rolex Sydney Hobart
With the Rolex Sydney Hobart Yacht Race start tomorrow, uncertainty remains for crews over the expected conditions – except that a long, wet and cold journey is in store.
The NSW Bureau of Meteorology [BOM] updated forecast on Sunday predicted variable winds, waves and weather conditions, with rain, thunderstorms and low visibility likely.
The BOM update was presented at a compulsory race briefing for all crews at the Cruising Yacht Club of Australia, organisers of the 628 nautical mile event.
As David Witt, skipper of the Hong Kong maxi, SHK Scallywag said of the forecast, especially after passing Eden: “Take another set of thermals. It will be cold.”
Gabrielle Woodhouse, the BOM’s senior meteorologist, said conditions for the 1pm race start on Tuesday should be sunny with winds likely to be east to south-easterly at a light 5 knots.
Later in the afternoon, the wind could turn to the north-east, increasing to 15 knots, with the featured sunshine of race start in Sydney Harbour possibly giving way to thunderstorms.
However, as the race heads south to and beyond Eden, winds could be east to south-east at 15-25 knots with waves increasing from 1.5 metres to 2 to 3 metres.
From there the fleet can expect to hit a trough and low pressure system. This will make for a tactically challenging race as boats follow either the current, or head out east for the wind.
So believes Witt, whose SHK Scallywag is one of four maxis in the 628 nautical mile race and a favourite for Line Honours with Andoo Comanche, LawConnect and Wild Thing 100.
“I think it’ll probably be decided when someone might fall off the perch in the first three or four hours. That could be a big decision early,” said Witt.
“We’re just pretty happy that we got one Juan Vila with us [one of the navigators]. The best in the world doesn’t come cheap, but we’ve invested in the right areas with this forecast.”
John Winning Jr, skipper of the defending Line Honours champion, Andoo Comanche, agreed the race is poised to become a battle of the brains trusts.
Winning has nothing but praise for his navigator, Justin Shaffer’s ability. “I’ve said in previous years that I think Justin is the most underrated navigator on the planet,” he said.
“For us, it’s around trusting each person’s role on the boat, and we back our boat in any conditions to win the race.
“Obviously we’d like the conditions to get us get there as fast as possible, because as a skiff sailor, I don’t want to spend too much time at sea.
“Even if we’re out there for 48-plus hours, we think our boat is fast in all conditions.”
Tony Mutter, Sailing Master on Christian Beck’s LawConnect was reticent to come to any conclusion about the forecast.
“It’s way too early because the biggest problem I have with the low is that it still hasn’t really formed properly,” he said.
Mutter said he was presently looking at two options. Either to go “down the current or whether we go east to try and sail around the outside and into the pressure.”
Asked his opinion, Carl Crafoord, from Grant Wharington’s new Wild Thing 100, is leaning towards the option of heading offshore.
“Getting offshore away from the coast, and when possible thunderstorms, will be the answer,” he said.
Written by Rupert Guinness | RSHYR Media
Internationally, the race will be available through YouTube on CYCATV or on Facebook Rolex Sydney Hobart page.
For the full list of entries and more information about the race, visit rolexsydneyhobart.com.