As the rain poured down in Sydney this morning, the Bureau of Meteorology’s (BOM) Michael Logan left Rolex Sydney Hobart competitors wondering just what the weather situation would be for today’s 1.00pm start and beyond of the famous 628 nautical mile race.
Describing conditions for annual Cruising Yacht Club of Australia race at the briefing the Club this morning, Logan said they would be “tricky”. He said a narrow cloud band over NSW with thunderstorms in it is filling in from the west and sliding gradually north-east: “Even it if shifts, there will still be cloud cover, rain and storms between short bursts of sun,” he stressed.
Logan’s warning of “It’s a discouraging for crews who think they will get to Hobart early,” brought much laughter from owners, tacticians and navigators in the room. “I expect it will be very light today, probably a westerly, if the cloud cover stays.
“A sea breeze may take the westerly out, but it will probably be west with a north/west flow,” was the best the BOM man could predict as he added: “The uncertainty is thunderstorms and gusts, which could change the outlook.”
Race entrants were told they can expect the first of the southerly busters around 6.00-7.00pm around Wollongong on the NSW south coast this evening, which could infringe into Sydney, with a strong wind warning attached.
‘I don’t know if it will be a true southerly, it may be a sou-westerly, but the fleet (87 yachts) can expect 20-30 knots. Monday winds will surge up the NSW coast and by 5.00pm there will be a strong southerly for up to 12 hours,” Logan warned.
A new system is expected through on Tuesday 5.00am, when it is expected winds will lighten off again, with sea breezes up and down the coast.
A third change is expected on Wednesday, bringing 20-25 knot westerlies to Tasmania. Logan said bands of storms look likely to be on the cards, but said “the situation would be re-capped closer to the time.”
It’s a far from easy situation for skippers, navigators and tacticians, as there are no certainties in the forecast.
However, navigator of 21 races to Hobart, Roger Grimes, remained positive, which is a bonus for his skipper, Nick Bartels, who owns the Cookson 50 Terra Firma from Melbourne.
Grimes had firm ideas of what to do to win the Rolex Sydney Hobart this year and the rain at the CYCA this morning was like water off a duck’s back for the veteran yachtsman and pilot, who says he subscribes to the farmers’ theory that “rain before 7.00 (am) means it’s clear by 11.00 (am).”
According to Grimes, because strong rainfall has filled dams over the last couple of weeks, the cold water overflow is pushing the east coast current offshore.
“It will be more of a wind game plan, especially early on. The trick is to not screw up on the first night, or you’re gone,” he says.
“You need to look for any current and the south-westerly. Once you’re in the sou’wester, you want to foot (sail off the breeze) for Hobart; you don’t want to sail hard on the wind,” he says.
“The third part of the race is the approach and timing to the Tasmanian coast. If you can get all those things right, then you’re in with a chance,” he maintains.
Grimes will work with tactician/helmsman Barney Walker to get it right. “Between us we’ll figure it out,” Walker said.
To follow the fleet in the Rolex Sydney Hobart Yacht Race go to www.rolexsydneyhobart.com <http://www.rolexsydneyhobart.com/> and click on Yacht Tracker. Seven Network will broadcast the start live from 12.30pm AEDT and webcast via Yahoo!7 http://au.sports.yahoo.com/ <http://au.sports.yahoo.com/> . The Australia Network will also broadcast the start program through 45 countries throughout Asia, Indian and the Pacific including Australian troops serving in Afghanistan.