Wind holes and something for everyone – first forecast for Rolex Sydney Hobart

In an early forecast prediction, the Bureau of Meteorology’s Simon Louis told a selection of navigators at a Rolex Sydney Hobart Yacht Race press conference at the Cruising Yacht Club of Australia today to expect a little of everything in the early stages of the 628 nautical mile race.

Louis said: “The long-range weather models show relatively light winds as the yachts leave Sydney Harbour, but with a 15-20 knot (and gusts to 35 knots) north to north-easterly winds which should continue during Boxing Day night and into the next day, with the breeze expected to go around to the west later.” This scenario will leave some dead spots in between.

The model is also showing a weak trough over the far NSW coast throughout this period, with lighter and more variable winds off the far south coast and into Bass Strait, causingPrimitive Cool’s David Sudano to quip: “Looks like we’ll need plenty of change for the parking lots.”

Sudano said the Victorian Reichel/Pugh 51, owned and skippered by John Newbold would make the best of the weather, which is favouring those in the 50- to 55-foot range – and the super maxis – apart from the sections where the parking lots lay in wait.

Andrew Cape, a veteran of 18 Hobarts and many Volvo Ocean Races, is navigating Christian Beck’s Infotrack. He says: “It’ll be good when we get the big southerly change – it’s always a relief in a Hobart race. And if all goes to plan – although it’s still very early to say – the record could go in one day eight hours.”

A veteran of 26 Sydney Hobarts with a win on Loki in 2011, Patrice’s long-time navigator, Michael Bellingham says, “Patrice is more prepared than she’s ever been. We’re very comfortable with the current modelling.

“I think on Boxing Day, at the moment, it will be interesting to see if we’ve got any breeze at the start – and if the north/easter has filled in,” he said. “One day eight hours (Cape’s suggested record break time) – I was just trying to digest that… I think we’ll be looking at two days 12 hours for Patrice and I think the TP52's about five to six hours quicker than that – but we’re not allowed to talk about them (including last year’s winner Ichi Ban) on Patrice.  It’s certainly sub-two days for the bigger boats I think,” he ended.

Lindsay May, looking down the barrel of his 46th straight Sydney Hobart, this time on the oldest, heaviest boat in the fleet, Kialoa II, which took line honours with her original owner in 1971, has accepted that the going will be tough in the light weather for the S&S yawl now owned by Patrick and Keith Broughton.

“We’re about 45 tonnes, so the light air is of course going not be favourable for us – but you live with what you get.”

Asked who he favoured to win the race overall, May, who has won the race three times overall, the latest as skipper of Simon Kurt’s Love & War in 2006 – and taken line honours on Brindabella in 1997, said: It’s one of the best fleets I’ve ever seen – it’s almost impossible to say. I guess if I’m pushed, Bush Paul Group (Mathew Short) is my pick. They have a very good crew – including the navigator Hedge (Glenn Cooper).”

Steve Kidson, who recently navigated CYCA Vice Commodore Noel Cornish’s St Jude to overall victory in the Club’s 180 nautical mile Cabbage Tree Island Race, wasn’t impressed with what is to be dished up: “We really need a lot of upwind. St Jude is not a boat for downwind conditions.

“We won the Cabbage Tree Island Race in mainly upwind conditions – so no – the current forecast does not suit us – we’d like more southerly and little north-easterly,” he said with a wry smile.

Still, as the BOM’s Simon Louis pointed out, “We’re still six days out – it can change…”

The Boxing Day start of the Rolex Sydney Hobart Yacht Race will be broadcast live on the Seven Network via 7Mate throughout Australia. The race start will also be live streamed to a vast international audience via the Rolex Sydney Hobart Yacht Race website www.rolexsydneyhobart.com. Tencent, Fox Asia and ABC International will also pick up the feed and broadcast to their markets.  

For full list of entries and all information: http://rolexsydneyhobart.com/

By DI PEARSON, RSHYR media

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