Forget brute strength, the weather forecast for the 2003 Rolex Sydney Hobart Yacht Race has ensured that the tacticians will play a crucial role in determining who wins.
At the Race Briefing this morning, the Bureau of Meteorology Andrew Treloar told the skippers that the 2003 race will not be your usual tough Hobart, with the fleet starting in South East winds and finishing with North Easterlies to push them down the Tasmanian coast. Treloar expects moderate to light winds for the duration of the race.
The start of the race promises to be a spectacular affair, with the fleet charging down Sydney Harbour under spinnaker in a 10 to 15 knot South Easterly. But the spinnakers will last only until the Heads, with the first day a windward beat as the winds swings from the South East to the South West.
On the second day the fleet can expect South West Winds of around 25 knots against a 1knot current, creating an uncomfortable sea that will delight the heavier boats that are designed for windward work and have the weight to punch through the steep chop.
As the frontrunners enter Bass Strait the can expect to encounter a good reaching Westerly.
By Sunday the wind is expected to swing to the North East, giving the fleet a real push to Hobart, but it is likely that as the fleet trickles into Constitution Dock the wind will ease.
It is a forecast that favours the line honours prospects of Skandia and Zana, the two 98 foot supermaxis. Going to weather there is no substitute for waterline length, and already Sean LANGMAN, who last year almost ran down Alfa Romeo in his Open 66 is conceding that this will not be the ideal race for his downwind flier.
"We will really be racing for 3rd place,"
Langman said after the race briefing. "The longer boats will really stretch their legs (on the first two days). Hopefully we can hang on and the Northerly will come in earlier than forecast."
As for the race for handicap honours, much will depend on how long the Northerlies last. Nicorette's Ludde INGVALL thinks that the smaller boats could do extremely well, but George SNOW on Brindabella fears that the back of the fleet could miss out on the full benefit of the both the early Westerly across Bass Strait, and be caught out as the North Easter eases. "It will be a fast finish for the front of the fleet,"
Snow expects, "and the medium sized boats will do well if they can get the tail end of the northerly winds. But the tail end could get left behind.
"It will be a complicated, tactical race. The timing of the weather will make a difference to the outcome."
Skippers will receive a final weather briefing on the morning of the race.