First night jitters for Rolex Sydney Hobart

  • Racing
  • NEWS
  • By Jennifer Crooks
  • 26 Dec 2011 10:47:00
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The 88-strong Rolex Sydney Hobart Yacht Race fleet will kick off this afternoon in a brisk 15-20 knot nor’easterly breeze and enjoy a whale of a ride for the first few hours. But by late afternoon the southerly front that hit Melbourne yesterday will reach the race leaders and by late evening it will have worked its way through the rest of the fleet.

The 88-strong Rolex Sydney Hobart Yacht Race fleet will kick off this afternoon in a brisk 15-20 knot nor’easterly breeze and enjoy a whale of a ride for the first few hours. But by late afternoon the southerly front that hit Melbourne yesterday will reach the race leaders and by late evening it will have worked its way through the rest of the fleet.

The front will bring winds 20 to 30 knot winds and the southerly is expected to last right through Tuesday. Yet it may not be the wind so much as the sea state that will make life difficult for the sailors.  Ex tropical cyclone Fina has created a five metre plus northerly swell, and as the wave winds caused by the southerly build, it will make for a very uncomfortable and at times treacherous cross sea, with waves coming from all directions.

For the front runners like line honours favourite Wild Oats XI, it may mean slowing the boat down to keep it and the gear and the boat in one piece.  For the smaller boats strung out  along the New South Wales coast it will mean many hours of wet, uncomfortable  bashing to windward in a bit of a washing machine with fatigue and sea sickness taking their toll.
On the other side of the front, light changeable south and south westerly breeze will greet the fleet in Bass Strait, which at times could threaten to develop into a parking lot. 

Across Bass Strait and down the Tasmanian coast the navigators will come into their own.  They will have to position their yachts perfectly for the shifts, and make the right call off the Tasmanian coast, which could throw a wind shadow over boats that get too close.

Whether this will develop into a big boat or a small boat race on handicap will depend on how far south the super maxis can get before reaching the front, and therefore how much distance they can put on the rest of the fleet, and what sort of weather the 40 footers discover on days three and four when the big boys are tied up in Hobart.

Today’s 1pm start will be broadcast on Network 7, webcast on Yahoo!7 and throughout the Asia Pacific region on the Australia Network.

By Jim Gale/Rolex Sydney Hobart media

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