After a one-year absence, Sydney to Hobart race set to sail

·3-min read

SYDNEY (AP) — Super maxi LawConnect is the favorite for line honors in the Sydney-to-Hobart yacht race beginning Sunday, with the forecast for strong southerly winds on the first night potentially giving it the edge over the other two 100-foot boats.

Australia’s Bureau of Meteorology predicts gusting winds on Sunday afternoon during the start in Sydney Harbor, with the possibility of some thunderstorm activity offshore.

“We love a hard southerly to start with because that’s our best conditions, perhaps gives us an ability to get out a little bit,” LawConnect skipper and owner Christian Beck said.

Last year’s race was canceled the week before it was due to start because of coronavirus-related quarantine issues, but the 2021 edition is proceeding with mass virus-testing protocols in place for the 900-plus crew on the 91 boats. There were two late withdrawals related to the testing.

The 628 nautical-mile race (1,170 kilometers, or about 720 miles) sails from Sydney down the south coast of New South Wales state and across Bass Strait to Hobart, the capital of the island state of Tasmania.

In 2017, Comanche set the race record after finishing in 1 day, 9 hours, 15 minutes and 24 seconds, beating Perpetual Loyal’s record of 1 day, 13 hours, 31 minutes and 20 seconds, set the previous year.

Wild Oats XI has won line honors nine times, the last time in 2018, and is the first boat to have claimed the treble — race record, line honors and overall winner. Comanche won the race again in 2019.

Another super maxi in this year's edition, Black Jack, will have to overcome a poor preparation.

The boat didn’t get the chance to race against super maxi rivals LawConnect and SHK Scallywag 100 in the inaugural Australian maxi championship earlier in December after a crew member tested positive for COVID-19. The boat also sustained a broken mast in the Brisbane-Gladstone race in Queensland state in April.

Black Jack, representing the Yacht Club de Monaco in this year’s race, has sailed just five times with her new mast after its delivery from New Zealand was delayed due to coronavirus-related lockdowns in that country.

With no recent racing form she is something of an unknown quantity, though the boat took line honors in 2009 when named Alfa Romeo and finished third, second and fifth from 2017 to 2019 respectively.

One thing working in her favor is the experience of her crew, with 13 having sailed the race at least nine times.

“Our crew on paper is a standout crew in my opinion and that makes a big difference in protecting the asset and getting though heavy conditions,” skipper Mark Bradford said. “There’s a couple of ways to run a sporting team, one is with youth and one is with experience.”

Bradford expects LawConnect to head the fleet early and hopes his boat can make up ground in more favorable light air conditions forecast for later in the race.

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