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Smaller boats to get weather boost in Hobart race

December 24, 2014

SYDNEY (AP) — Smaller boats appear favored for this year’s Sydney to Hobart race handicap honors due to forecast weather which makes a line honors race record seem unlikely.

Cruising Yacht Club officials in Sydney, where the race begins Friday, said Wednesday that the 117-boat fleet will be sailing into strong southerlies up to 30 knots (55kph/35mph) on the first night.

Skippers of the five 100-foot super maxis, including new American entry Comanche and defending champion Wild Oats XI, must judge how hard they can push their yachts and crews in the tough conditions.

Winds forecast for later in the race are expected to give the smaller, trailing boats a push up the fleet.

Wild Oats won line honors for the seventh time last year, finishing the 628-nautical-mile race in 2 days, 6 hours, 7 minutes. The yacht also holds the race record of 1 day, 18 hours, 23 minutes and 12 seconds set in 2012.

The race begins in Sydney Harbour, heads south along the coast of New South Wales state and across Bass Strait to the island state of Tasmania and its capital city Hobart.

“It’s certainly not a forecast for a record,” Wild Oats skipper Mark Richards said Wednesday. “The record will get smashed one year, but I don’t think this will be the year.”

Comanche skipper Ken Read says his recently-launched super maxi remains untested in the anticipated rough conditions.

“The weather report is what you expect when you come here to the Hobart race,” Read said. “It is no surprise and we will all work our hardest to keep our Christmas dinners down, one would imagine, on that first night. But this is what we expect.

“We will try and keep it in one piece. This is a completely untested boat at this stage. I am as curious as anybody as to how she will react.”

In 1998, six sailors died and five yachts sank in a storm that hit the fleet early in the race.

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