By far the biggest race in Australia is the annual Rolex Sydney-Hobart race — 630 nautical miles, mostly on open water, beginning the day after Christmas.
The long-range weather forecast issued yesterday by the Bureau of Meteorology predicts a start in abating southerly winds and a strong nor'easter the next morning to push the boats with possible 20- to 25-knot winds all the way south to the Australian island of Tasmania.
Maybe the fastest boat in the fleet will be the super-maxi yacht Wild Oats XI, and skipper Mark Richards believes his yacht has every chance of busting his own Rolex Sydney-Hobart race record this year.
Richards set the elapsed time race record of one day, 18 hours, 40 minutes, and 10 seconds in 2005.
"We simply want to get to Hobart first — so the record would just be a bonus," Richards told The Australian.
The fleet of 77 yachts will start with a spectacular and colorful spinnaker run down Sydney Harbor to the Heads, before they turn into the southerly wind and waves for the first eight to 10 hours.
Duty forecaster at the BOM, Michael Logan, said the strong southerly winds, which he predicted would start on Christmas Day after a very hot Christmas Eve (it’s early summer there), would start to abate late on Boxing Day and that night swing to the northeast.
Sean Langman who will skipper the smallest and oldest yacht in the race, the 30-foot Maluka, said the race was not looking good for the smaller boats in the fleet.
"We hope to be there in time for the fireworks on New Year's Eve," Langman said.
The Sydney to Hobart Yacht Race, sometimes referred to as “The Hobart,” has grown since the inaugural race in 1945 to become one of the top three offshore yacht races in the world and it now attracts maxi yachts from around the globe.
The 1998 Sydney to Hobart Yacht Race was marred by tragedy when, during an exceptionally strong storm that kicked up winds near lower-category hurricane strength. During that infamous run, five boats sank and six sailor died. Of the 115 boats that started, only 44 made it to Hobart.