|SYDNEY, AUSTRALIA-(26-12-2004) The Bureau of Meteorology has given a belated Christmas present to the skippers and crews of the 116 yachts starting the 60th Anniversary Rolex Sydney Hobart Yacht Race at 1:10pm this afternoon.
The heavy weather conditions they had been warned about in the preliminary forecast on Christmas Eve appear to have eased, though there are still two south-westerly fronts headed towards Bass Strait and for most of the fleet it will still be a rough, uncomfortable sail for much of the race.
At the final pre-race weather briefing this morning, the Bureau told the skippers that they can expect to start in a light north-easterly sea breeze on the harbour, followed by a fast spinnaker run down the New South Wales coast in the strengthening breeze.
Early Monday morning the front runners will sail into the first southerly front a little earlier than expected, the change due at Ulladulla around 9.00am, with winds expected to reach 15 to 25 knots and freshening to 25-35 knots over the course of Monday and Tuesday. Offshore, conditions will be more testing with winds peaking at 40 knots and 4-6 metre seas.
Even though the peak wind speed has been reduced “…it is still going to be cold, windy and miserable,” said Peter Dunda from the Bureau, with the forecast still for showery squalls and cold temperatures out in the Tasman Sea.
The updated forecast means that the prospects for the bigger boats also winning on handicap have lessened, with the race now wide open to decide the Overall winner of the Tattersalls Cup. In fact, any one of 20 boats could be the Overall winner of this 60th anniversary race.
Expect the super maxis to be ahead of Nokia’s 1999 race record schedule by tonight but when they hit the ‘brick wall’ of the southerly front tomorrow, the record should stay safe for another year.