The maxi yachts should get off to a flying start in this year’s Rolex Sydney Hobart Yacht Race, based on the NSW Bureau of Meteorology [BOM]’s long range weather forecast.
Northerly winds are expected for Monday's start, according to the forecast presented today at the Cruising Yacht Club of Australia, organisers of the 628 nautical mile race.
Gabrielle Woodhouse, forecaster at the NSW Bureau of Meteorology, said the light east-to-north-easterly winds forecast for Monday’s 1pm start should freshen later that afternoon.
Those winds are expected to continue into Tuesday, with a trough forecast on Wednesday and winds shifting to south-south easterly and light rain showers developing.
"For those boats that will take a little bit longer, it's still unclear as to the timing of another trough that could come through during the second half of next week," Woodhouse said.
"But for the most part, we are looking at northerly winds and having those northerly winds increase through the first half of the race with the trough coming through on Wednesday."
The forecast augurs well for the big boats in the 111-strong fleet, especially the four maxi yachts – Andoo Comanche, Black Jack, Hamilton Island Wild Oats and LawConnect.
It could see the maxis sail to Hobart in one assisting weather pattern, while the rest of the fleet, from the mid-to-small sized boats, will have to battle through two or more patterns.
"The forecast is generally good for us as we like going downwind," said Andoo Comanche navigator, Justin Shaffer, who is sailing in his second Rolex Sydney Hobart.
"We'll be a good chance of being ahead [after the start]… by how much we'll see," Shaffer said.
Stan Honey has navigated on all four maxis and this year, his eighth, will be on Hamilton Island Wild Oats.
He agrees the long-range forecast is made for a big boat start.
"At this point it looks like it could be a big boat race," Honey said.
“It looks like the big boats will get through most of the race in the north-easterly.”
For the mid-sized boats, like the TP52 Patrice, the forecast indicates they will have to sail through at least two weather patterns before reaching the finish in Hobart.
Patrice navigator, Michael Bellingham, who has sailed in 29 Sydney Hobarts, concurred with Honey, saying: "The big boats will probably do this in one weather pattern.
"How this changes and pans out on Wednesday will affect how the fleet do in this race.
"It will be interesting to see what sort of wind strengths and sea conditions we get across Bass Strait."
Bryan Northcote, navigator on the XP44 ToyBox 2 and with 17 Sydney Hobarts to his name, is open-minded about which boats will eventually be favoured by the forecast.
"I think it's too early to call at this stage," he said.
"The weather's changing daily, as it always does, moving into Hobart. This far out... Sure, the big boats look favoured. But I think the race conditions are going to change.
"As always, if you read every newspaper from Hobart, they're going to break the race record. When it comes to Boxing Day, I think that might change."
Duncan McCrae, navigator on the S&S 34 White Bay 6 Azzurro and a veteran of 18 Sydney Hobarts, says the crew members are once again bracing themselves for myriad conditions.
"We're probably going through three weather patterns," he said. "It will depend how that trough [on Wednesday] pans out on the second day. We'll still be in Bass Strait at that point."
The start of the race will be broadcast live on the Seven Network throughout Australia and live-and-on-demand on the 7Plus app, as well as on the official race website - rolexsydneyhobart.com - for viewers around the world.
For the full list of entries and more information about the race, visit rolexsydneyhobart.com.
By Rupert Guinness/RSHYR Media