Mark Richards, the skipper of line honours contender, Wild Oats XI, in the Rolex Sydney to Hobart Yacht Race, which starts tomorrow, is expecting this year’s race to be as much a tough test of tactics as boat speed.
The light to moderate following winds that are forecast for much of the 628 nautical mile course could deliver massive gains and losses for the 85 yachts in the fleet as they battle for both line and handicap honours.
“It looks like it’s going to be an even trickier race tactically than it did a few days ago,” Richards said. “We will have to do our best to be in the right place at the right time if we are to maximise our gains from all the anticipated changes in wind strength and direction.
“Right now the outlook is telling us once we clear Sydney Heads after the start we will have to sail a course that takes us well offshore if we want to gain the maximum advantage from the prevailing conditions.
“Even so, the race could also be a bit of the lottery, one where big gains or losses could come as a result of unexpected changes in wind strength and direction.”
Yachting meteorologist, Roger Badham, predicted today that, because of the anticipated light winds, the first yacht to finish in this year’s race could take between nine and 13 hours more to reach Hobart than the time recorded for last year’s record-breaking run.
He added that on Thursday – when the majority of the fleet will be either in Bass Strait or sailing off Tasmania’s east coast – would be the most critical period of the race.
“Thursday will be a challenging day,” Badham said. “All the weather models are differing in the fine detail and will continue to vary. It will be a difficult situation to get totally correct when it comes to tactics.”
Should the forecast light to medium winds prevail for the race, Wild Oats XI is likely to benefit from two huge new sails that have been added to her inventory. One is a masthead spinnaker and the other a large headsail designed for sailing upwind in light conditions.
– Rob Mundle