Tuesday, 29 December 2009

RSHYR: Weather holds the key to race win

Niklas Zennstrom's RÁN in Storm Bay - possibly this year's Rolex Sydney Hobart overall winner, however conditions overnight (29 Dec) will determine this. Image copyright ROLEX/Daniel Forster.

by Bruce Montgomery

An unfavourable weather forecast for the rest of today and tomorrow for yachts still at sea and in contention for corrected time honours in the Rolex Sydney Hobart Yacht Race holds the key to the overall race win this year.

In sailing terms, the forecast for the lower part of the Tasmanian east coast and for Storm Bay to the Derwent is for the wind on the nose for those approaching Tasman Island and once they get round tomorrow, the wind will swing to the north, again putting it on the nose as they beat across Storm Bay and into the Derwent.

And since the wind will be on the nose, they will have to tack back and forth into the wind, forcing the yachts to travel further to get to Hobart; a fact of life that the race computer does not take into account when it estimates times of arrival at the finish line.

To the computer, if you are 100 nautical miles from Hobart, as the crow flies, and you are travelling at 10 knots, it must mean you reach Hobart in 10 hours. It does not allow for wind direction and sea state.

This news means that with the promise of heavy windward work under reduced sail, those that are contenders for overall honours in the race must now prove their mettle. If not, the leader in the clubhouse, the British yacht RÁN, will add the Rolex Sydney Hobart win to the Rolex Fastnet that she won in August.

For those at sea, the interesting scenario is developing that it becomes a race within a race between relatively new, lightweight 40-foot boats of the ilk of Tony Kirby’s Patrice Six from Sydney, Mark Welsh’s Victorian sloop Wicked and Andrew Saies’ new South Australian Far-design Two True, and the old timers that were built just for these conditions.

The old-timers include Simon Kurts’ three-time winner Love and War, Mike Freebairn’s Ray White Spirit of Koomooloo, which is a former Ragamuffin and Margaret Rintoul ll, and Seahold Perie Banou ll, a solid Sparkman & Stephens design like Love & War and skippered by WA yachtsman Jon Sanders who completed a triple circumnavigation of the world in 1988.

The forecast for the race area between Wineglass Bay, Tasman Island and the Tasmanian south coast for the rest of the day is for strong southerlies, 15-25 knots and 30 knots offshore, but easing to 5-15 knots as night falls, but tending more south-easterly. Seas of two to three metres should abate.

Tomorrow for this lower part of the east coast, the forecast is for strengthening north-east to northerly winds, reaching 20-30 knots by evening. The forecast is similar for seas west of Tasman Island for tomorrow but not quite as strong.

The northerly weather in Storm Bay is expected to continue until a westerly change on Thursday.

Who will win? Who knows?

Rolex Sydney Hobart Yacht Race

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