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Supermaxi skippers eye race record in gruelling Sydney-Hobart

Skippers of the supermaxi yachts preparing for Monday’s Sydney to Hobart bluewater classic are targeting a new record in a high-speed race they predict will go to the wire.

With northerly winds forecast for one of the world’s most challenging ocean events, Comanche’s one day, 9 hours, 15min and 24sec record for the 628-nautical-mile (1,200-km) endurance test, set in 2017, is under threat.

“It’s a race that could definitely rack up a record, especially with Andoo Comanche (in the field),” Mark Richards, skipper of nine-time line honours-winning supermaxi Wild Oats, said on the event website.

“It all depends on the actual conditions. But if it’s dead the whole way, I’d say not, but then it only has to change a couple of degrees and all of a sudden, it’s all on.

“If there’s breeze in the Derwent (River), absolutely.”

The NSW Bureau of Meteorology has forecast north-easterly winds for Monday’s start, which augurs well for the 100-foot supermaxis—Andoo Comanche, Black Jack, Wild Oats and LawConnect – among the 109-strong fleet.

They are predicted to get off to a flying start from Sydney harbour, with the winds propelling them down Australia’s east coast before they tackle the notorious Bass Strait towards the Tasmanian state capital Hobart.

Black Jack skipper Mark Bradford, which won line honours last year, said he expected a nail-biting race right up to the run down Derwent River towards Hobart.

“The boats should technically get from A to B—B being Tasman Island—at roughly the same time, but the journey along the way will be very different directions,” he said.

“We’ll see everyone commit to their boats and their modes. Then we’ll get to Tasman Light (house) within eyesight of each other.”

The northerly breezes could feasibly see the supermaxis make it to Hobart without any significant upwind sailing, while the rest of the slower, mid-to-small sized fleet, face two or more weather patterns with a forecast trough shifting winds to south-southeast and rain developing.  

LawConnect navigator Chris Lewis said he was thrilled at the prospect of a high-speed race.

“It’s just going to be so incredibly exciting to see all the boats—not just us—ripping down the coast,” he said.  “It’s going to be quite a sleigh ride.”

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