Early Sydney-Hobart forecast has Wild Oats crew anticipating “snakes and ladders”

With the early weather outlook for next week’s Rolex Sydney-Hobart Race indicating it will be a sometimes torrid all-round test over the 628 nautical miles, the highly experienced crew of race record holder Wild Oats XI is feeling comfortable but not over-confident.

“It’s too early to be certain about the weather, but today it looks like we’ll have an upwind test into a southerly wind heading away from Sydney, then a bit of everything down the track,” said Wild Oats XI’s skipper, Mark Richards. “If that’s what we get then we’ll be pretty happy because we know we’ve got a good all-round boat. Even so, we know it’s a Hobart race, and our experience reminds us it’s usually a game of snakes and ladders.”

The experience Richards was referring to is his 20-man crew with a total of 225 Sydney to Hobart races in their wake. Included in that number are five crew who have done all previous nine races aboard the 30-metre long supermaxi since she was launched in 2005 – Richards, world champion and Olympic sailor Iain Murray, Steve ‘Mothballs’ Jarvin, John Hildebrand and Rodney Daniel.

Owned by prominent wine maker and philanthropist, Bob Oatley AO, Wild Oats XI is already the most successful yacht in the 70-year history of the Hobart race. This year she will be going for a record-breaking eighth line honours, but unfortunately for the 86-year-old owner, a medical condition will prevent him from being aboard. That won’t stop him, however, from doing the next best thing – he will be following his yacht’s progress from the air, and be waiting at the finish, no matter the result.

Oatley, Richards and the team know that being first into Hobart will not come easily this year as there are four other 30-metre long supermaxis competing, and all have been prepared for one thing – to cross the finish line ahead of the fleet. Of the four, most attention will focus on the radical and untried, black and red-hulled American entry, Comanche, owned by American Jim Clark and his Australian wife, Kristy Hinze-Clark.

Internationally recognised yachting meteorologist, Roger Badham, said today that the computer models he is analysing for the Hobart race forecast currently indicate it will be a downwind spinnaker start for the fleet on Sydney Harbour on Boxing Day, then a rough ride south into a 20-25 knot headwind for the first few hours after the yachts clear the harbour entrance.

Badham also said that the weather pattern for the remainder of the race will not become apparent until late tomorrow, at the earliest. Currently though, it does appear that after crossing Bass Strait the leading yachts will have a fast, cross-wind reaching leg in a westerly wind when sailing down Tasmania’s east coast.

Badham added one other prediction, based on the current weather outlook: Wild Oats XI’s race record time of 1 day 18 hours 23 minutes 12 seconds will not be broken this year.

Wild Oats XI’s final ocean trials will be conducted off Sydney this weekend.

For more information please contact:

Rob Mundle

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