With a predicted strong wind behind them, this year’s Sydney to Hobart race fleet could break records, competing skippers are predicting.
And with handicap colossus Ichi Ban not racing this year, the fastest of all vessels may well turn out to be one of the high-quality overseas entries.
Local yachts have taken overall honours in each of the past four races, with a staggering 12 of the last 13 emerging winners of the Tattersall Cup, the trophy awarded to the overall winner.
Pre-race weather forecasts suggest it is unlikely to be a small-boat race, with yachts in the 60-to-70-foot range and the always competitive TP52 contingent most likely to feature.
Andoo Comanche skipper John Winning said his supermaxi was unstoppable if sailed correctly in the right conditions, with the boat poised to create Sydney to Hobart history if it lives up to his hopes and expectations.
‘A pretty fast race’
“These conditions look like its going be a pretty fast race,” Matt Donald, co-owner of TP52 Gweilo, which finished second overall in 2019, said.
“If we can get down (to Hobart) early on the 28th then we’ve got some chance of maybe winning on handicap.”
One of the most-fancied local boats is Tasmanian 66-footer Alive, which took overall honours in 2018.
“I’m confident we’ll have a good race but I’m not confident we’d win,” Alive skipper Duncan Hine said.
Donald and Hine were both wary of the eight overseas entrants.
“We have [New Zealand’s] Caro, which is probably one of the best boats out there at the moment in the 52 world. You’ve got Warrior Won [from America],” Donald said.
“[From Australia,] Quest, that does very well every year, Celestial, Zen, so the fleet is deep around that [mid-sized] theme.
“Then you’ve got ones that are slightly bigger, like Whisper and Alive. And URM, Moneypenny, they are racing really well this year, so its going to be competitive.”
Botin 52-footer Caro, which was launched last year, underlined its credentials by winning Division 1 of the 2022 Australian Yachting championship in Hamilton Island, beating several local TP52s, including Ichi Ban.
British 38-footer Sunrise, which will have Australian navigator Adrienne Cahalan on board, was the overall winner of the 2021 Fastnet and second in the Middle Sea race. Earlier this year it won its division of the RORC Caribbean 600.
TP52 Warrior Won took overall honours at this year’s RORC Caribbean 600 and won her division of the Newport Bermuda race.
“If we can hang in the wake of the big boats we will do really well assuming we sail the boat well. It’s sailors who win races, not boats,” Warrior Won’s skipper and owner Chris Sheehan said.
There are potentially even more contenders this year, with the two-handed division eligible to win the Tattersall Cup for the first time after making their race debut in 2021.
Rupert Henry’s and Greg O’Shea’s 34-footer Mistral was the overall winner in this month’s Cabbage Tree Island race, in which all three placegetters were two-handed boats.