The 72nd edition of the Rolex Sydney Hobart Yacht Race starts at 13:00hrs on Boxing Day (UK), Monday 26 December 2016.
The 2016 race is shaping up as another epic at the front. There are four super maxis, each capable of smashing the race record: Wild Oats XI, Perpetual Loyal, Scallywag and CQS.
Then there are four dark horses: Beau Geste, Black Jack, Giacomo and Maserati.
The boat to beat is Wild Oats XI, if only because she has won line honours a record eight times and won the triple crown twice.
Breaking the race record, winning both line honours and overall. She is, simply, the most garlanded yacht in the race’s 71 year history.
Click image for a larger image
Gone is the lateral hydrofoil installed a couple of years ago to stop the bow from digging in downwind. The new, longer bow, with the mast stepped further back, has rendered the foil redundant, saving weight and improving her rating.
If the winds are light to moderate from the north for long periods, the sleek, narrow Wild Oats XI will be hard to beat.
The conditions most favourable to Wild Oats XI are also likely to suit the wily Ludde Ingvall and his radical CQS too.
She is the 90 foot Nicorette Ingvall won line honours with in 2004, but she is unrecognisable now.
Lengthened, with a reverse curved bow, wings and a full canting keel, CQS is the most radical boat in the fleet.
She is an unknown quantity, but her line honours in the Kiwi Round White Island Race suggests she is quick, in a race quite different to the Hobart though.
CQS - Click image for a larger image
Stronger winds will suit the big, beamier, more powerful Perpetual Loyal and Scallywag.
Scallywag raced last year as Syd Fischer’s Ragamuffin 100, and while she had her share of problems, she showed plenty of speed. Now with an extended the boom, a larger mainsail and shaved off weight, she is faster.
Perpetual LOYAL has extra wetted surface on such a big, beamy hull which kills you in light airs. But upwind in a fresh breeze, she will run over the narrower boats.
A super maxi should arrive in Hobart first, but note the word should.
The V70s are fast, tough ocean racers, designed to be pushed relentlessly around the globe by uncompromising, professional crews.
They are built tough, and frankly, they want a fast, brutal Hobart. Enough wind and no slowing down to hold together.
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Jim Gale, RSHYR media
17 December 2016 12:36 GMT