Cricket: Fast, open race ahead for Sydney-Hobart
The fleet for the 72nd edition of the often brutal 628 nautical mile (1,163 kilometre) blue water run down the east coast stands at 91.
Leading super-maxi skippers are predicting a fast, open race when Australia‘s gruelling Sydney to Hobart classic sets sail on Monday with favourable winds forecast.
The fleet for the 72nd edition of the often brutal 628 nautical mile (1,163 kilometre) blue water run down the east coast stands at 91 and includes the local favourite Wild Oats XI which has taken line honours eight times.
While a quick pace is expected, organisers said the latest weather report has reduced the chances of a new record time to beat the one day 18hrs 23mins 12sec race record set by Wild Oats in 2012.
"I don’t think about the record," skipper Mark Richards said Saturday.
"All these boats here can rack up serious miles in the right conditions."
The four 100-foot (30-metre) super-maxis entered this year are expected to fly out of Sydney Harbour in the spectacular Boxing Day launch to the event.
"All these boats are going to have their moments," Richards told reporters.
"It’s really exciting this year considering we’ve got four very good boats.
"It’s going to be a great race to watch. Hard to put money on anyone."
Perpetual LOYAL skipper Anthony Bell, the main challenger to Wild Oats, likes the forecast too.
"It’s going to be a fast race," he said.
In a bid to be more competitive, Perpetual has dropped fundraising celebrity sailors and brought in half the world-class crew of last year’s winner, the US super boat Comanche, which is not entered for 2016.
"We have not fulfilled the potential," Bell admitted after pulling out of the last two Sydney-Hobart races.
"We needed to bring a better crew," he said, adding, "We need a bit of luck. We are determined to get there this year."
Savage southerly winds forced dozens of boats to pull out last year, including Wild Oats.
Finn Ludde Ingvall took line honours in 2000 and 2004 and he is back for 2016 with Nicorette completely redesigned and renamed CQS.
"I think the forecast gives everybody the chance to have a bit of fun," he said.
Australia’s Bureau of Meteorology expects the fleet to sail south with north-easterly winds strengthening to 30 knots (55 kilometres per hour) and possibly more.
On Monday evening a southerly front will move up the coast, but it will not be as powerful as previously expected, before easing to north-easterly winds again within 24 hours.
Another change on December 29 or 30 will see a low pressure system over Tasmania produce waves of up to three metres (10 feet).
Storms are part and parcel of the race with six men dying, five boats sinking and 55 sailors rescued on a fatal night in 1998 when a deep depression exploded over the fleet in the treacherous Bass Strait.
Ingvall underlined that his vessel was very new and he was not too ambitious for this year.
"It’s a matter of learning how to fly this thing," he said.
"We have the lowest rating of the top four boats. Anything better than that (fourth) will be awesome."
The other super-maxi is the rebadged Scallywag, now owned by Hong Kong businessman Seng Huang Lee, which came second in line honours last year as Ragamuffin.
Skipper David Witt said he would not rely too much on the very changeable weather forecast in the region.
"It will be pretty tactical," Witt said.
However, the super boats may not have it all their own way.
Last year’s overall handicap winner, Australia’s 52-footer Balance, is hoping for a second successive crown for the TP52.
Among a dozen international vessels, five are from Asia with the Korea Ocean Sailing Club chartering a 52-footer and naming it Sonic for the nation’s first Sydney to Hobart.
China counts two boats for 2016 with Dong Qing back with Ark323 and a new crew after a stormy debut ended in early retirement for the country’s first ever entry last year.