- POSTED: 24 Dec 2013 12:14
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Crews were warned to brace for a bumpy, challenging ride in this week's Sydney to Hobart yacht race on Tuesday, with updated forecasts of gale force winds dampening record hopes.
SYDNEY: Crews were warned to brace for a bumpy, challenging ride in this week's Sydney to Hobart yacht race Tuesday, with updated forecasts of gale force winds dampening record hopes.
Delivering its annual pre-race briefing, the weather bureau said the field of 94 boats could expect a strong southerly of up to 30 knots and possible thunderstorms at the starting line at Sydney Harbour on Thursday morning, instead of the favourable conditions earlier forecast.
The headwind would ease and a nor'easter pick up as the fleet worked its way down the coast, but meteorologist Andrew Treloar said a cold front would hit on Saturday night, bringing wild gale-force conditions for boats crossing the Bass Strait.
"Getting into Bass Strait on Saturday, they could be picking up strong winds ahead of the front, and then the front moves through the eastern part of Bass Strait later on the Saturday," Treloar told reporters.
"That could come through with a pretty big push. At the moment, we would be expecting at least strong winds and possibly gales."
Treloar said it was a different weather picture to the devastating storm in the 1998 edition which sank five yachts and killed six sailors but "nevertheless we have to be on guard."
Thursday's stormy conditions and headwinds mean a new race record is now unlikely and defending champion Wild Oats XI will have a battle on her hands to take line honours.
"It's going to be a very tricky race, don't rip up your tickets until the death," said Wild Oats skipper Mark Richards.
"There's a big variation in designs, and each boat will have favoured conditions for themselves at some time, and not so much down the track."
Anthony Bell from rival supermaxi Perpetual LOYAL said he had gone from a "little bit depressed a day or so ago" to feeling heartened by the new forecast.
"Things are much more uncertain now, I think we're going to be in for a proper boat race," said Bell.
The shifting weather patterns mean the 628-nautical mile dash to Hobart may be won on navigation and skill rather than sheer speed, heartening the crews of the smaller boats.
Mystery entrant Beau Geste, from Hong Kong, is among those fancying their chances.
"This thing is really going to be a different beast, she's a big, powerful boat, and she's going to go really well downwind," said trimmer Dave Sweet of businessman Karl Kwok's Botin 80.
"We're a bit of a dark horse to the fleet, but she is a dark horse to us as well. We don't really know what the boat's capable of, but we'll find out in the race that's for sure."