Testing rather than torrid race expected

ADRIAN WARREN
Last updated 15:05 24/12/2012
Investec Loyal sails past Tasmania's iconic Organ Pipes on the way to winning the 2011 Sydney to Hobart yacht race.
Reuters
A WINNER: Investec Loyal sails past Tasmania's iconic Organ Pipes on the way to winning the 2011 Sydney to Hobart yacht race.

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This year's Sydney to Hobart fleet can expect a testing rather than torrid journey south.

The Christmas Eve weather briefing for the fleet of 77, confirmed the race was likely to start under south easterly breezes of around 15 knots, with the force increasing to around 20 knots outside Sydney Harbour.

The winds will lighten off a few hours into the race, but north easterlies forecast for early on Thursday will give the fleet a good downwind push.

A westerly change will reach Bass Strait late on Thursday, with a series of westerly changes forecast for Friday and Saturday.

"It looks as though it's going to be a fairly easy race, I don't think we're going to get knocked around too much," said Syd Fischer, skipper of defending line honours champion Ragamuffin Loyal.

Wild Oats XI skipper Mark Richards said beating his boat's 2005 race record remained a possibility under the latest forecast, but would be a bonus.

"For all of us it's just going to be pedal to the metal," Richards said.

"Don't back off, push off as fast as you can and hopefully sail the shortest course possible and the rest is in the hands of the gods."

Matt Allen, skipper of the fancied 70-foot handicap cap contender Ichi Ban, tipped the overall winner to be a boat of at least 60 foot.

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