The Civil Aviation Safety Authority has warned anybody thinking of filming the Sydney to Hobart yacht race to think again before launching their unmanned aerial vehicles into the sky.
With the yachts departing Sydney Heads at 1pm tomorrow, CASA’s Peter Gibson says drones pose the highest risk during the start and finishing stages of the race.
The 2017 Sydney to Hobart yacht race will see a fearsome battle for victory, with a major showdown between at least four of the fastest boats in the world gunning for line honours.
At 1pm on Boxing Day, as lunch is taken at the MCG, the cannon will blast to signal the start of the 73rd great race, the racing fleet sailing 628 nautical miles down south to Hobart and the finish line up the River Derwent.
Last year’s race saw the race record crushed, with close to five hours taken out of the previous record by winner Perpetual Loyal, the 100-foot supermaxi. She returns in 2017, under new owner and new sponsor name InfoTrack, skippered by Christian Beck.
“I’d probably go so far as to say that InfoTrack is probably the shitbox of the super-maxi fleet,” Beck said, half-jokingly, half-serious.
But, InfoTrack skipper Tom Slingsby added: “These guys are pretty strong, but if we get our conditions, we’ve shown … that this boat can go really fast.
“Hopefully we get a bit of our conditions as well. It doesn’t look like it too much, but you never know, it’s a Sydney to Hobart race.”
The three other supermaxis looking to beat InfoTrack start with Wild Oats XI, back again to attempt a ninth line honours victory, after suffering keel damage and retiring last year, and surviving a massive lightning strike that damaged electronics on the eve of the race.
Wild Oats XI skipper Mark Richards has predicted an “excellent” battle between the massive supermaxis.
“You’ve basically got the four fastest hundred-footers on the planet in the race, which I think is an amazing feat in itself,” Richards said.
American Maxi LDV Comanche, winner in 2015, changed hands just two-weeks ago, and will be competing under new Sydney skipper Jim Cooney.
“It’s a once in a lifetime opportunity – too good to pass up,” said Cooney.
“This year competition is fierce, with the strongest line-up of supermaxis ever seen on one race.”
Peter Harburg’s re-jigged Black Jack – a redesigned boat previously known as Alfa Romeo which won in 2009 – rounds out the four, which have all won under different names.
Black Jack won the Big Boat challenge over Wild Oats XI on Sydney Harbour last week, adding keen interest.
“We bought that hull because it was so similar to Wild Oats,” Harburg told the Sydney Morning Herald.
“We just felt it was better for the racing that I’ve experienced in Australia, there’s quite a bit of time in light weather.
“If they weren’t here we still would’ve gone that way. The result of Oats being here and us being here is that it’s very close racing and that’s what we do it for, isn’t it.”
Chasing the top four will be Botin 80′ Beau Geste, Volvo 70 footers, including Wizard, the rebadged Giacomo, who beat home two super maxis in last year’s finish, and won overall handicap honours, along with Ichi Ban, brand new IRC 52. These boats will be more likely to be in consideration for overall winner, rather than line honours.
As always, the prevailing weather conditions will play a huge role in deciding the winner, with all boats suited to their own preferred winds.
Early weather forecasts have changed, with the final forecast for a lighter easterly breeze to guide the fleet out of the Sydney Heads, with a downwind nor’easter to get up later which will see some extremely fast sailing while it lasts. The hardest stretch will be up the notoriously quiet winds of the Derwent River.
American yacht Comanche looks the hardest to beat during the strongest winds, but may face troubles during the lighter conditions and had sudden upheaval with hew crew change, while Wild Oats XI is shaking off two years of retirements and has something to prove.
The other two supermaxis have less experienced crews in their boats and haven’t participated in any races ahead of the Boxing Day classic.