Light wind race to Hobart

We preview Boxing Day's annual Rolex Sydney Hobart race

Monday December 24th 2007, Author: James Boyd, Location: Australasia
Boat Owner LOA State/Nat Div Design
1 City Index Leopard  Mike Slade 100 UK IRC Maxi 30m
2 Skandia Grant Wharington 100 VIC IRC Maxi 30m
3 Wild Oats XI Robert Oatley 100 NSW IRC Maxi 30m
4 Toyota Aurion V6. Andrew Short 79 NSW IRC Jutson 79
5 Ichi Ban Matt Allen 70 NSW IRC Jones 70
6 Pirelli Les Goodridge 65 NSW PHS Farr 65
7 Rosebud Roger Sturgeon 65 USA IRC STP 65
8 DHL - The Daily Telegraph Kookaburra Challenge 64 NSW PHS Volvo 60
9 George Gregan Foundation David Witt 64 NSW PHS Volvo 60
10 Hugo Boss II Alex Thomson Racing 64 UK IRC Volvo 60
11 Helsal IV Dr T Fisher 62 TAS ?? Dynamique 62 
12 Noonmark VI Sir Geoffrey Mulcahy 56 UK IRC Swan 56
13 Capriccio of Rhu Michele Colenso 55 UK Cruis Oyster 55
14 Yendys Geoff Ross 55 NSW IRC Reichel Pugh 55
15 Flying Fish - Arctos Flying Fish Properties 54 NSW PHS Radford 16.4
16 Sailors With Disabilities David Pescud 54 NSW PHS Lyons 54
17 Georgia John Williams & Graham Ainley 53 VIC IRC Farr 53
18 Cougar II Alan Whiteley 52 VIC IRC TP 52
19 Goldfinger Peter Blake / Kate Mitchell 52 VIC IRC Farr 52
20 Ragamuffin Syd Fischer 52 NSW IRC/IRM? TP 52
21 Wot Yot Graeme Wood 52 NSW IRC  TP 52
22 Living Doll Michael Hiatt 50 VIC IRC Cookson 50
23 Quantum Racing Ray Roberts 50 NSW IRC Cookson 50
24 Knee Deep Philip Childs & Frank Van Ruth 49 WA IRC Farr 49
25 Limit Alan Brierty 49 WA IRC Corby 49
26 Spirit of Koomooloo Mike Freebairn 48 QLD IRC S & S 48
27 Swan Song Geoffrey Hill 48 NSW IRC Swan 48
28 Balance Paul Clitheroe 47 NSW IRC Sydney 47
29  Decolsolmarine Sailplane Decosol Marine 47 UK IRC Beneteau First 47.7
30 Endorfin Peter Mooney 47 NSW IRC Sydney 47
31 Global Yacht Racing - Kioni Kioni Sailing Pty Ltd 47 NSW PHS Beneteau 47.7
32 Jazz Chris Bull 47 UK IRC J145
33 Pretty Fly II Colin Woods 47 NSW IRC Beneteau 47.7
34 Wot's Next Graeme Wood 47 NSW IRC Sydney 47
35 Shogun R G Hanna 46 VIC IRC  Rogers 46
36 Pretty Woman R Hudson/M Lockley/R Murphy 45 NSW IRC Farr 45
37 Rush Ian & John Paterson 45 VIC IRC Corel 45
38 Alacrity Matthew Percy 44 NSW IRC Beneteau 44.7
39 Mr Beaks Ribs David Beak 44 NSW IRC Beneteau First 44.7
40 Namadgi Canberra Ocean Racing Club 44 ACT PHS Bavaria 44
41 Another Fiasco Damian Suckling 43 QLD IRC? Jutson 43
42 Phillips Foote Witchdoctor The Rum Consortium 42 NSW PHS Davidson 42
43 Secret Mens Business #1 SMB Syndicate 42 NSW IRC Murray 42
44 Wedgetail Bill Wild 42 QLD IRC Welbourn 42
45 First Light Nicolas Ewald & Susan Rice 41 NSW PHS Adams 12
46 Patrice Six Adrian Dunphy 41 NSW IRC X41
47 Sextant Denis Doyle/ Lynne Smith 41 NSW IRC X-412
48 AFR Midnight Rambler Sue Psaltis & Bob Thomas 40 NSW IRC Farr 40 Mod
49 Aurora Jim Holley 40 NSW IRC Farr 40
50 Chutzpah Bruce Taylor 40 VIC IRC IRC 40
51 Iataia Marcos Rodriguez 40 MEX IRC Beneteau 40.7
52 Inner Circle Ken Robinson & Darren Cooney 40 NSW IRC Farr 40 IOR
53 Krakatoa II Rod Skellet 40 NSW PHS Pogo 40
54 Mr Kite Buckland & Hunn 40 NSW IRC Mr Kite 40
55 Papillon Phil Molony 40 NSW IRC Archambault 40
56 Quetzalcoatl Bruce/Hampshire/Lee Warner/Sweetapple 40 NSW ?? Jones 40
57 She Peter Rodgers 40 NSW PHS Olsen 40 Mod
58 Splash Gordon Stephen Ellis 40 NSW IRC Farr 40 - MOD
59 True North Andrew Saies 40 SA IRC Beneteau First 40.7
60 Dehler Magic Greg Tobin/ Charlie Preen 39 QLD PHS Dehler 39
61 Matangi David Stephenson 39 TAS IRC Frers 39
62 Another Challenge Chris Lewin 38 VIC IRC/OD Sydney 38
63 Challenge Lou Abrahams 38 VIC IRC/OD Sydney 38
64 Eleni Tony Levett 38 NSW IRC/OD Sydney 38
65 Getaway Sailing 2 Peter Goldsworthy 38 NSW IRC Sydney 38
66 IMAREX Marc & Louis Ryckmans 38 NSW IRC/OD Sydney 38
67 Scarlet Runner Robert Date 38 VIC IRC/OD Sydney 38
68 Sheridan Road Rail (Tartan) Ian Sanford 38 NSW PHS Northshore 38
69 Swish Steve Proud 38 NSW IRC/OD Sydney 38
70 The Bigger Picture Mike Roberts & Anthony Hooper 38 NSW IRC/OD Sydney 38
71 The Goat Foye/Gordon 38 NSW IRC/OD Sydney 38
72 Zen Gordon Ketelbey 38 NSW IRC/OD Sydney 38
73 Salona Phillip King 37 NSW PHS Salona 37
74 Pisces David Taylor 36 TAS IRC Sydney 36
75 Stormy Petrel Kevin O'Shea 36 NSW IRC S & S 36
76 Morna Greg Zyner 35 NSW IRC Cavalier 35
77 Huckleberry Steve Humphries 34 WA IRC Sparkman & Stephens 34
78 Palandri Wines Minds Eye Brad Skeggs 34 WA IRC Beneteau 34.7
79 Bear Necessity Andrew & Pauline Dally 33 NSW IRC C & C 115
80 Berrimilla Alex Whitworth 33 NSW TBA Brolga 33
81 Impeccable John Walker 33 NSW IRC Peterson 33
82 Zephyr James Connell 33 NSW IRC Farr 1020

The annual Rolex Sydney Hobart of course gets underway on Boxing Day at 1300 local time (0300 GMT) this year. However this year's race doesn't look like it is going to be a fast one, with a highly changable forecast on the cards.

For the start there is an area of high pressure lurking off the New South Wales coast, centred directly off Sydney. This high is forecast to shift east out into the Tasman Sea over the course of the first 12 hours of the race leaving favourable northerlies in its place. However this respite from the light will be short lived as 24 hours in another area of high pressure moves off the New South Wales shore.

One of the key fleet dividers in this race will be getting south as quickly as possible and into the new breeze for off Eden 24 hours in a band of westerlies associated with a depression in the Southern Ocean (south of New Zealand) is forecast although this will back southwest the further south the boats sail. Unfortunately 48 hours into the race the forecast is for something of a 'glass out' pretty much across the entire race course with the exception of some slight westerly pressure in the mouth of Bass Strait while 60 hours in a northwesterlies gradient wind is forecast off the east coast of Tasmania. In short it is going to be a race that at times favours the front markers, at other times the tiddlers at the back. (See the 12 hourly forecasts on page 2....)

Given the light conditions this race we can expect crews to make more use of the complex currents to be found on the race course. A feature of the NSW coast is a warm current that runs south between 15 and 30 miles offshore

Rolex Sydney Hobart veteran and two-time overall winner Roger Hickman says he is obsessed by the current. “All of the boats have thermal imagery, trying to find it.” The current is warmer than the surrounding water. “Our strategy is built around the assumption that there is current, it’s a trend you always have to watch. We have the set and drift up on display all the time. Every ten minutes I check what the current is doing.”

According veteran navigator Lindsay May, they will go a long way off the rhumb line to find the current. In 2006, at the helm of Love & War, he rode an unusually strong current to a famous victory. On the first night at sea they had four and a half knots of favourable current with them. “We used to think of it as a river,” May says, “but now we know it is a series of eddies. We use the current until it becomes a losing angle, and then we set ourselves up for the next eddy.” While that was exceptional, typically the current will be around two knots. It is this fast moving current, brought head to head with one of the race's notorious 'Southerly Busters' that has in the past brought disaster to the Rolex Sydney Hobart. Thankfully this does not look to be on the cards this year.

For the line honours battle between the 100 footers this forecast is certain to favour Bob Oatley's recently rerigged Wild Oats XI which is some 10 tonnes lighter and with less beam is more slippery than Mike Slade's Farr designed equivalent 100 footer, City Index Leopard.

“It ain’t gonna happen,” was Slade’s summation of their prospects of setting a new race record. "But he’s not giving up just yet. “We’ve got a good fight on our hands. We didn’t come here to lose.”

Wild Oats XI skipper Mark Richards concurs that “records are elusive and with
the forecast, you would have to be doing well to beat it. But don’t rip up your ticket yet, it’s going to be a tricky race.”

A win for the Oats would see them take their third consecutive victory in the Rolex Sydney Hobart, a feat not achieved since Claude Plowman’s Morna beat the fleet to
Hobart in the 1946, 1947 and 1948 Sydney Hobarts.

Given the present forecast predicting an overall winner on handicap is particularly hard. If it is light then the slippery maxis, particularly the lith Wild Oats XI or Roger Sturgeon's new STP65 Rosebud will be able to make their own wind and could be in the chocolates, but equally a small boat, making better use of the current compared to the bigger boats, might steal it.

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