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Winds to help break records in Australian race

SYDNEY -- The wind forecast for the start of the Sydney to Hobart yacht race favors the bigger boats and could also help break the event's best-ever time, officials said Friday.

The crew of the 100-foot supermaxi Wild Oats XI, a six-time line honors winner that last year broke her own race record, like the long-range forecast of 10 to 15 knot breezes for the Sydney Harbour start on Boxing Day.

“It's downwinds and it looks like we are starting at about the right time in the sequence of southerly fronts, which is good for these big boats,” Wild Oats XI navigator Tom Addis said.

“These big boats are so fast that if you start at the right time, you get through in good time.

“It used to be that when every boat was taking the best part of a week to get down there you'd have two or three fronts to get through, whereas now the boats are so quick if you happen to start at the right time you can slot through pretty much unscathed.”

Addis is hoping to break Wild Oats XI's race record of one day, 18 hours, 23 minutes and 12 seconds over the 628 nautical mile race down the east coast of Australia from Sydney to the Tasmanian city.

The Bureau of Meteorology has forecast northeasterly winds for the start of the race, and for these to freshen to up to 30 knots as the 94-strong fleet makes its way down the coast.

A westerly change is due overnight on Dec. 27 which could cause headaches for the smaller boats, but not affect the larger yachts which by then will have passed it.

Cruising Yacht Club of Australia commodore Howard Piggott said conditions meant “it will be a running race to start with.”

“There will certainly be a breeze to get them out of the harbor, and breeze on the first day of racing,” he said. “A race record is a possibility ... but no-one can really say whether it's on the cards until we see the weather on race day.”

Stan Honey, the navigator on Wild Oats XI's key rival and fellow 100-footer Perpetual Loyal, said the forecast as it stands might suit Wild Oats XI more than his wider and heavier boat.

“Our two boats are quite a bit different, and it looks like the course right now suits Wild Oats XI a little bit better than it does us,” he said.

“We are looking for conditions that are more demanding of stability, which we have lots of, so we'll be pulling what strings we have to pull to get that change to come through more quickly and more vigorously.”

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Crews prepare their yachts in Sydney, Australia ahead of the Sydney to Hobart race on Friday, Dec. 20. The wind forecast for the start of the Sydney to Hobart yacht race favors the bigger boats and could also help break the event's best-ever time, officials said on Friday. (AFP)

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