Rolex Sydney to Hobart 2012 – Just hours before the 68th start

A diver takes a moment’s respite from the rigours of hull cleaning at the CYCA. - Rolex Sydney Hobart Yacht Race
On Christmas Eve John Curnow reported for Sail-World from the Rolex Sydney to Hobart Yacht Race 2012 that Conjecture itself really does appear to be on target for both Line Honours and the Overall Winner at present.

That remains unchanged but one thing that has settled down a little in to recognisable pattern is the weather. It’s now Boxing Day morning, just hours before the start and by the time you read this we will be in the final weather briefing. The change went through yesterday with about 20mm of rain. Winds gusted into the mid 20’s from the south but are easing off now. It’s heavily overcast but is beginning to break up and now the sun is peeping through.

Tomorrow it will clock around from Sou’east to Nor’east and may make 25 knots, which will allow the downwind flyers to open up the throttle. In the case of the Maxis, they should be able to match that and with a little extra assistance, even get on towards 30 knots. All of which is a great way to cover ground and despatch some of the 628 nautical miles required to get to Hobart.

After that, a series of what appears to be benign Westerly changes will roll through and slow progress down significantly. On the East coast of Tasmania by Friday, this will look more like a Southerly airstream and build that famous eddy that circulates anti-clockwise around and can provide for some very interesting and challenging transitions as you plough on to Tasman Island.

The current theory still expects that the overall winner will come from the likes of IchiBan, Blackjack or Loki, who comprise a wolf pack of magnificent minimaxis. The Maxis themselves are not out of contention yet and Lahana, who rates exceptionally well for her 30m length, may be the dark horse in this whole equation. If you had to go for it, you might think it is IchiBan year, especially if Hughie, the God of Wind, allows for a longer period under spinnaker. Note also, that if the wind from the Nor’east does build past the expected 25knots, then the three Volvo 60s will also begin to come in to the equation, rapidly.

The race record is also within reach, given that it is only a 15knot average. Even though that is an impressive number, what is even more impressive is the ability for Wild Oats XI, Ragamuffin Loyal and the recently-updated-yet-once-more and previous winner, Wild Thing, to canter off at a pace that disposes of nautical miles as if they are used tissues when you have a cold.

WILD THING, Sail n: M 10, Owner: Grant Wharington, State: QLD, Division: IRC, Design: Jones 98 Maxi - Rolex Sydney Hobart 2010


Cruising Yacht Club of Australia Commodore, Howard Piggott, commented on the level of variance that would seem to be on offer. ‘It’s going to be a good tactical and challenging race, which it should be. There’ll be times when the breeze will change and bring on some big decisions and I would think most of the sail wardrobe will be used, too.’

In terms of the all-important sail choices and what is to be left on the quay before you go, Howard said, ‘I would be reluctant to leave a light spinnaker out of the mix, with the way the forecast is reading and there certainly are times when you need to have the whole inventory at your disposal. The Drifter is a very handy sail to get the boat moving in those ultra-light moments and I imagine most of the fleet will have them packed on board and not at the bottom of the stack either.’

Earlier on we saw how there is an old adage for this race that you go out early and come in late. It refers to being out to sea off the New South Wales coast and then much closer in as you approach the end of the second stage of this iconic event. At the time Sail-World noted that this may be a year for that strategy to be well and truly tested. Right now, there are more than a few computer models that suggest that the converse could well be the track to pursue. At any rate, before we shorten the odds any more on conjecture winning the lot, our newsletter readers can see what those actually travelling South in the 2012 Rolex Sydney Hobart Yacht Race have to say.

For the most detailed coverage of this year’s race stay with Sail-World.com. Our 24x7 team will be in the air, on the water in the harbour and offshore.

Get some cornstarch (we will explain later), put your thermals on, your mid-layer and your offshore pants and jacket and come along for the ride!!

Santa and Elf come striding down the dock at the CYCA. - Rolex Sydney Hobart Yacht Race


Things are building up here at the CYCA, as the action on A finger demonstrates... - Rolex Sydney Hobart Yacht Race
Alex McKinnon