Forecast a big blow to maxi hopes
SAILING: A spectacular and colourful spinnaker start is on the cards for the Sydney to Hobart with yachts half the size of the fleet frontrunners early favourites to outmuscle their bigger rivals in the race for the overall win.
But the general consensus among top navigators aboard the line honours favourites is that the race record is safe for another year.
The stumbling block to a new mark is the long-range forecast of lightish winds at the start and finish of the race which starts at 1pm on Boxing Day.
"I think it needs a bit more in it for the record,' said LDV Comanche navigator Stan Honey, who navigated the Jim Cooney-owned 100-footer to her line honours victory in the 2015 race.
"I think the competition will be red-hot in the 45-55 foot range,'' Ichi Ban navigator Will Oxley said.
"It will come down to boat handling and minimising sail damage.''
The recently launched Ichi Ban, owned and skippered by Matt Allen, has emerged as one of the early favourites with the current forecast along with fellow T52's such as Quest, the 47-footer Indian, the 50-footer Mascalzone Latino, and the 46-footer Patrice.
But first they all have to make it safely out of Sydney Harbour, the sight of numerous race collisions in recent years.
They then have to keep their boats and sails in one piece as they race at high speed down the NSW coast in building nor'easterlies the first night and morning at sea.
Black Jack navigator Tom Addis, who guided Perpetual Loyal to her race record of one day 13 hours, 31 minutes and 20 seconds last year, also believes the mark is safe and the boats half the size of the supermaxis are in the box seat for victory.
"A 100-footer is a nice size to go to Hobart on but if we were after handicap honours we would set the boat up with very different sails,'' he said.
"With this forecast I think you'd probably choose to be on a 50-footer.''
The fleet currently stands at 103 and boasts 11 yachts contesting the Clipper Round the World race.
The long-range forecast is "benign" with plenty of downwind sailing and no sign of a southerly changer for the majority of the fleet.