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24 December 2002, 12:56 pm
Light Wind Start Forecast
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Rolex Sydney Hobart Race
Sydney, NSW

The Bureau of Meteorology has told the skippers of the 57 yachts competing in the 2002 Rolex Sydney Hobart Yacht Race that they can expect fairly benign conditions for much of the 630 nautical miles race down the Australian East Coast.
It's a prediction that will please some, but could have robbed several of the more fancied maxi yachts of their chances for line honours.

At today's pre-race skippers and navigators briefing at the Cruising Yacht Club of Australia Bureau, forecaster Bruce Southern predicted that the race would start on Boxing Day in a light south easterly seabreeze breeze of just 5 to 10 knots, with only slightly stronger winds some distance out to sea.

However, even these will weaken during the day, until the wind begins to move around to the north east on Friday, still light but gradually picking up to 15 to 20 knots on Saturday. It will not be until Sunday that winds will really strengthen, and by then most of the fleet should expect to be in Hobart.

For the race record to be broken a lot will depend on the first 24 hours. Skippers of quick boats like the Volvo 60's will be hoping for as much east in the breeze as possible, so that they can break out their Code Zero's, their huge light wind headsails that can deliver exceptional performance in very light winds.

The overall forecast does seem to favour Neville Crichton's 90 foot maxi Alfa Romeo in the competition for line honours.

His biggest threat, the 97 foot British yacht Canon has shown surprising speed downwind wind but the crew was really looking for stronger winds from the North to enable her to crack her sheets and take advantage of her longer waterline length.

In the early light South Easterly, Canon will need to hang on to the quicker Alfa Romeo and hope that the Bureau underestimated the strength of the North Easter when the wind finally swings.

In the race for overall handicap positions the smaller boats in the fleet will relish not only a less bumpy ride south than usual, but also the prospect of a slow race, at least in the first days, improving their chances on corrected time.

They will hope that once the bigger boats are safely in Constitution dock stronger winds will allow their small boats to pick up time and achieve a somewhat rare honour of winning the race Overall.

During the briefing the skippers were also given detailed briefings on safety procedures and equipment and helicopter evacuation techniques in the event of medical emergencies.

No Sydney Hobart fleet has ever been better prepared for safety than this 2002 fleet, with crew being required to be well trained in survival procedures and each boat carrying a full range of safety equipment including personal EPIRB satellite location beacons.

But if the Bureau is right, this time they will not be needed.
Peter Campbell/ISAF News Editor
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