With a record 17 boats racking up on the start line for the Strathfield Coffs Harbour race and short race series starting on 26 December, this years winners will be harder to pick than a broken nose.
However, in the interests of enlightenment and bar side gossip we'll give it a shot. The hardest thing about picking this years fleet is there are no clear standouts, such is the equality within the Sydney 38 One Design Fleet. Backing up for their umpteenth trip North will be Royal Prince Alfred Yacht Club stalwarts The Business (Grant & Robin HALLIDAY), Conspiracy (the Conspiracy syndicate), The Bigger Picture (Hooper, WILLIMENT and COULHURST), Eye Candy (Dawson & Ward) and Blue Sky (Michael HILL).
All these boats have competed before and most of their owners and crews are very experienced with the vagaries of the beautiful Coastal Waters between Sydney and Coffs. Joining them will be a raft of new owners - Chris LOBB with Uncensored, The Payne family with Risk, The Way Family on Easy Tiger, Geoff BONUS' Bashful, Tony LEVETT'S team on Eleni, Robin TEDDER'S Stonybroke and Daryl HODGKINSON'S No Options. Then there are the unknown quantities - returning to the fold after a season away from One Design Racing will be Steven PROUDS Swish and The Pickering's Love Byte along with the chartered Wadadli (Chris MATHEWS), Cuckoos Nest (Middleton) and Getaway Sailing.
You'd have to say on past form that the Business looks good - they know their way North, have gained consistent results in round the cans racing and have won on this track before. Next I'd have to say that Blue Sky, Uncensored, Easy Tiger, The Bigger Picture and Conspiracy all have a shot based on experience, solid performances and some good crews. Bashful and Stonybroke both have had up and down performances over the season - but when they are up they are both well up there and I know both have been training hard to minimise the downs and maximise to ups.
So too has No Options and Eleni, and whilst both are brand new to the Class they have both got solid pedigrees in J35's backing them up. As for the unknowns - it's too hard to say, let's leave them as the jokers in the pack who are more than capable of causing upsets at every corner. Whilst the round the cans racing is common practice for the Sydney 38 One Design fleet - it'll be the long race that separates the men from the boys.
One Design racing over 224 nautical miles means little or no sleep for a couple of days and tireless work from all crews will win this battle - very hard work and there will be no luck involved for the winner of this race.