Tough conditions forecast for start of Rolex Sydney Hobart on Boxing Day 20/12/06

The Australian Bureau of Meteorology (BOM) today forecast the first day of the 2006 Rolex Sydney Hobart Yacht Race could be a hard one for boats and crews alike.

Barry Hanstrum BOM spokesman speaking at the Cruising Yacht Club of Australia today said that, with six days to go until the race start, he expects a large high to arrive over the great Australian Bight from the Indian Ocean on the weekend, pushing cold Antarctic air over south-east Australia. This should produce a low pressure system to the east of Bass Strait on Christmas Day, causing strong south-west to southerly winds for Christmas and the start of the race on Boxing Day at 1300.

However, Hanstrum warned that, with a week to go and such a dynamic weather situation unfolding, the low could form closer to the coast. If that happens, winds may reach gale force on Tuesday however, they are expected to ease on Wednesday and Thursday, but the fleet of 80 yachts will continue to face an increasing southerly swell the further south they get.

Those seas and wind against current will pose the first major tactical decision for skippers – whether to head offshore to find the northerly current that acts as a sort of conveyor belt south, but at the cost of pounding into steeper, bigger waves which can damage the boat, or to stay inshore where the waves should not be as steep.