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One of the toughest yacht races in the world is back, with 92 yachts set to make the 628-nautical mile journey from Sydney to Hobart. Join The Roar for live updates and coverage from 12:30pm (AEDT) on Boxing Day.
After a controversial time penalty last year, Wild Oats XI was stripped of a ninth line honours title, with new entry Comanche claiming victory.
The race in 2018 is again shaping up to be one between the two biggest and most expensive super maxis in the field, but the weather isn’t going to be quite as good as last year.
It was a race record last time around, with Comanche (who actually finished second before the penalty) crossing in just 33 hours and 15 minutes.
Before Perpetual Loyal (now Infotrack) became the first yacht to go under the 40 hour mark in 2012, even that was seen as something which might only be achievable in excellent weather, so to shave seven more hours off the time goes to show exactly how fast the run south was 12 months ago.
On the 20-year anniversary of the disastrous 1998 race in which six people lost their lives, there could be some heavy seas and strong winds with the east coast of Australia copping a battering over the last couple of weeks.
Even without the heavy winds and worsening conditions though, Comanche may well have made enough improvements to hold Wild Oats off in light conditions.
They had the running down the New South Wales coast and across Bass Strait last year, leading all the way into the final 25 miles. However, once the yachts got to the Derwent River in Hobart, Comanche struggled to find any pace in the lighter air and Wild Oats came storming home to take the unofficial victory.
All the talk in the lead-up to the race is that they have improved in soft conditions and taking out line honours in the warm-up Bird Island race would go a way to proving that, but missing the Big Boat Challenge on Sydney Harbour hasn’t helped tipsters.
Wild Oats took out that race against Black Jack, who are likely to make a strong charge for line honours this year. Black Jack is one of those yachts who have continually improved over the years, and alongside Scallywag, will throw the challenge down if conditions suit.
If they are within striking distance once the fleet get to the Derwent River, there may be no stopping the outsiders from coming through.
The one yacht out of the line honours hopefuls who is a bit unknown is Infotrack, who took the race record in 2016, but have been poor since.
The race for handicap is always difficult to pick, however, Ichi Ban could well go back-to-back, up against others like Teasing Machine, Privateer, Winning Appliances and Komatsu Azzuro.
Judging by all the warm-up racing, Comanche are well ahead of the pack. Not competing in the Big Boats challenge gives up valuable time in low winds, but they should have enough of a gap over the fleet heading onto the Derwent to hang on.
Comanche to beat Wild Oats – properly this time.
Be sure to join The Roar for live coverage of the 2018 Sydney to Hobart from 12:30pm (AEDT) on Boxing Day and don’t forget to get involved by dropping a comment in the section below.
Start: Wednesday, December 26, 1pm (AEDT)
Start location: Sydney Harbour
Finish location: 628 nautical miles (1163km)
TV: Live, 7mate (first hour only)
Online: Live, 7plus (first hour only)
Betting: Comanche $1.85, Wild Oats XI $3.50, Black Jack $4.50, Scallywag $10, Infotrack $12
2018 winner: Comanche
Race record: Comance, 2018 – 1 day, 9 hours, 15 minutes, 24 seconds