‘There is danger’: Sydney to Hobart weather warning

    Strong winds and big seas late on the second day of the 628nm race could pack unexpected danger for yachts speeding their way to Hobart.And while downwind racing is less hard on the body that hours of upwind slog, the super-fast sailing forecast comes with risks and that included boat breakage.“It’s a lot of wind. If it was averaging 35 knots and hitting 40 you would have trouble even running with a kite,’’ said top yachting forecaster Roger Badham.“You can be in danger of breaking things. And you can’t go any faster because you can’t run nice big shoots (spinnakers). It’s about looking after your boat Tuesday night.’’And while Badham has warned of potential boat breakage he still believes the race record will stay intact for another year.“It’s close, really close, but I don’t think its there just yet,’’ he said two days out from the start.While the race is still expected to be fought out by the supermaxis – the overall chase is heating up with middle-sized yacht the early picks for the overall honours. SEE STORY BELOW.The minnows of the fleet are expected to encounter a more traditional Sydney to Hobart as they are out at sea two to three times longer than the fleet frontrunners.“There is plenty of sea with those strong winds as well. Three to four metre seas.’’The 2017 race record for the 628nm journey to Hobart is just over one days and nine hours and is held by LDV Comanche.Last year Peter Harburg’s Black Jack won the line honours race. This year it is Andoo Comanche and Wild Oats who have emerged as pre-race favourites on the current weather forecast of a downwind race for the frontrunners.SYDNEY TO HOBART MINNOWS TO COP A POUNDING DEC 23: It’s a thrilling romp south for the big boats but a front “packing a punch” will smash the smaller and slower boats in the Sydney to Hobart fleet in a notorious stretch of water known for big seas and wild windsBig is definitely best in 2022 with a fast and relatively easy race forecast for the supermaxis and faster smaller yachts in the fleet firming up as the 1pm start on December 26 approaches.Lumpy and bumpy is what is on the menu for some of the older and slower yachts as they battle upwind across an infamous Bass Strait and down the east coast of Tasmania.But a cyclone in Western Australia won’t impact the race.“I didn’t think we would get off scot-free,” said Peter Langman, skipper of the oldest and smallest yacht in the fleet, the timber tiny Maluka.“It wouldn’t be a Sydney to Hobart without some sort of upwind for us.“Maluka plods along. She’s just slow.”Langman’s father Sean, the skipper of the 69-footer Moneypenny, will be on dry land and celebrating for potentially two to three days before his son arrives at Constitution Dock.Langman estimates he and his five crewmates – three of whom are doing heir first Sydney to Hobart – will make it across the finish on the Derwent River by the morning of December 31.“Our slowest one was when we arrived at 10pm on New Year’s Eve,” he said.“Our fastest, we got into the morning of the 30th.”Leading yacht racing forecaster Roger Badham said the front will pack a punch of winds up to 30 knots.The race for overall honours remains wide open with some of the smaller boats now coming into play in this race due to the current forecast.With the faster boats now likely to make it to Hobart without any upwind sailing, well campaigned yachts like the British entry Sunrise, skippered by Tom Keen, and Victorian skipper Bruce Taylor and has Chutzpah crew could cause a stir.Also in the running is the New Zealand entry Caro. The fleet was reduced to 109 on Friday with the late withdrawal of the two-handed boat Tumbleweed for not meeting the requirements of the notice of race.SO CLOSE! WILL THE SYDNEY TO HOBART RECORD FALL?DEC 22: It’s fast, but is it fast enough.That’s the question navigators and tacticians are trying to work out as the countdown to the start of the Sydney to Hobart ticks on.The majority of the fleet knows its in for a relatively pleasant romp down the NSW coast and across Bass Strait to Tasmania.But whether the race record will be lowered is touch and go.Top yachting meteorologist Roger Badham is erring on the side of caution.“It’s a very good race record, that’s part of the reason it may not go’’ he said of LDV Comanche’s 2017 super fast time of one day, nine hours, 15 minutes and 24 seconds,“I think it will depend on the first six hours of the are and the last six hours, how quickly they can get into second and third gear going down the coast and what breeze there is the end.“It’s still a bit of an unknown. It will be close … they will give it a nudge but I still think it may be out of their reach.’’But well within reach is a boat outside the supermaxi quartet claiming the covered overall honours.Badham is favouring yachts round 50 foot to push to the front in this race on current forecasting.These yachts would include well campaigned 52-footers like Gweillo and the international entries Warrior Won and Caro.Also in the mix are boats slightly bigger with this group including former winner Alive, and Sydney boats URM and Willow. SEE BELOW STORYDEC 20: The supermaxis hog the limelight each Sydney to Hobart but there’s a group of quiet achievers who could easily upstage them and race off with the biggest prize in world ocean racing.A quartet of yacht around the 70 foot mark have emerged as the boats to watch in the race for the converted overall honours in the upcoming classic.But their fate in this battle – along with both the supermaxis and smaller hopefuls – will all be about the timing of a southerly on the second or third day of the race.Well known ocean racing strategist Gordon Maguire, a regular on overall winning boats including multiple winner Ichi Ban, believes the forecast is currently favouring a well campaigned group of yachts in the 70 foot range for the handicap honours.His boats of choice are Australian entires Willow, URM, Moneypenny and the Tasmanian former winner Alive.Alive is 66 foot long and known to excel in downwind conditions.Willow is a Volvo 70 skippered by Jim Cooney and goes well in the tough stuff.Moneypenny is 69-foot, owned and skippered by veteran Sydney to Hobart campaigner Sean Langman and has Maguire on board as part of the brains trust.URM is a 72 footer owned by Anthony Johnston and skippered by Marcus Ashley-Jones.It was originally known as Shockwave and raced by well known Sydney to Hobart veteran in Neville Crichton.“Alive is a light a freak, Willow a heavy wind freak and we and URM are in the middle,’’ Maguire said.“I think this will be decided by the timing of the front of Tasman, it will change the order at finishing.“It’s not a strong southerly change but it’s still a southerly change and it will make a massive impact.“At the moment with the weather as it is, I think the 70s are looking good.’’WHAT A RIDE: From cattle farm to high seasMaguire said for Moneypenny to break from this pack the forecast winds will need to be lighter.“Downwind is not our big strength. We like it when the light and downwind and light.“If I had 100 bucks I’d probably put it on Willow at the moment. But there’s still a lot of time for things to change for this race.’’Also in the mix if the weather suits smaller boats are foreign raiders intent on making their mark in one of the most famous shirt ocean races in the world.Warrior Won is an American campaign and a TP52, a class that has done well in recent times.Caro is a New Zealand 52-footer.The last international to win the race overall was Giacomo from New Zealand in 2016 and owned and skippered by Jim Delegat.Matt Allen’s Ichi Ban will be absent from the race this year. MORE FROM AMANDA LULHAM HERE

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