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Tough conditions predicted for start of annual bluewater classic

Tough conditions predicted for start of annual bluewater classic

Tough but not dangerous conditions are expected to greet sailors in the annual Sydney to Hobart yacht race after the start Tuesday afternoon from Sydney Harbour.
The "southerly buster" _ an intense depression forecast earlier in the week _ is now set to be further offshore from Sydney. As a result, the start will not be in a 30-knot breeze as previously forecast, but in a more sedate 10 to 12 knots from the southwest or south decreasing over the first 24 hours of the race.
Last year, Wild Oats XI, owned by Sydney businessman Bob Oatley, became the first boat in the race's history to complete the triple of line and handicap honors and a race record.
Wild Oats wiped more than an hour off the previous time to win the 61st version of the race in one day, 18 hours, 40 minutes and 10 seconds. Nokia set the previous mark for the 628-nautical mile (723-mile; 1,163-kilometer) race of one day, 19:48:02 in 1999.
Mark Richards, skipper of Wild Oats XI, said he won't believe the forecast until Tuesday morning, but admits the present forecast indicates a good tactical race rather than one of survival.
Six sailors died in 1998 during a terrible storm that hit the fleet.
"If you see 35 or 40 knots we'll start thinking about backing off, but you have to see pretty extreme conditions first," Richards said Monday on the race Web site. "We've been training for these conditions."
If Wild Oats becomes the first yacht in 42 years to claim back-to-back line honors, it will have to beat an imposing entry from New Zealand called Maximus.
Maximus makes its first appearance in Australian waters in a 78-boat fleet which includes the last three line-honor winners: Skandia (2003), Diabetes (which won as Nicorette in 2004), and Wild Oats.
After the yachts leave Sydney Harbour, they travel down the New South Wales state south coast and across the Tasman Sea and Bass Strait to the island state of Tasmania. After a sail up the Derwent River, the race finishes at Constitution Dock at the state capital Hobart.
Wild Oats XI consistently finished ahead of Maximus in the Maxi Yacht Cup in Sardinia, Italy, in light winds earlier this year, but the Kiwi boat is considered a serious contender for Hobart honors in forecast breezier conditions.
Connections of Maximus are hoping for later winds of 25 to 35 knots.
"We're pretty confident Maximus is strong enough to handle whatever we face," said Maximus captain Max Brown.
Suggestions of some strong southerlies during the race could well benefit Maximus and the two 70-footers, ABN Amro and Ichi Ban.
Race landmarks will be achieved by the boat Phillip's Foote Witchdoctor, which will contest the race for a record 26th time. And Australian sailor Lou Abrahams will equal the late John Bennetto's milestone of 44 races.


Updated : 2021-05-12 19:21 GMT+08:00