No matter the weather, Comanche favoured to retain Sydney-Hobart crown

Comanche set the second-fastest time in last year's race - a record its skipper is keen to better.

Comanche set the second-fastest time in last year's race - a record its skipper is keen to better. Photo: AAP

Skipper John Winning Jr is backing Andoo Comanche to defend her line honours title in any conditions as the Sydney to Hobart’s weather forecast remains unpredictable.

On Christmas Eve, the Bureau of Meteorology said uncertainty remained as to wind, waves and weather from Boxing Day after revealing an unusually vague long-range forecast on Monday.

The position of a trough and low-pressure system moving south-east on Tuesday and Wednesday is set to dictate conditions. More clarity is expected early on December 26.

The four 100ft supermaxi yachts may have to contend with stormy conditions from late Tuesday into Wednesday, with showers, gusts and hail all possible for the far-south NSW Coast and Bass Strait.

“Pack another set of thermal gear. It’ll be cold,” SHK Scallywag skipper David Witt said.

The forecast has changed throughout the week, leaving crews to suggest that having an adaptable navigator on board could be a game changer.

“For us, it’s about trusting each person’s role on the boat,” Winning said.

‘In any conditions’

“We back our boat in any conditions to win the race, whether it’s upwind, downwind, light wind, reaching or whatever it is.

“Obviously we’d like conditions that would see us get there as fast as possible.

“But if it is that we’re out there for 48-plus hours, then we still think our boat is fast in all conditions and we’ve proven that in previous races.”

Last year, Comanche stormed to Constitution Dock in one day, 11 hours, 56 minutes and 48 seconds – the second-fastest time for any line honours winner in Hobart history.

Winning’s boat thrived in heavy, downwind conditions in 2022, but the skipper said a line honours win in last year’s Brisbane to Hamilton Island race proved she could stick it in lighter weather.

“We had an edge in the other conditions, when it was a bit windier or reaching. We put distance on (the other supermaxis) a lot faster than they put distance on us in the light,” he said.

“That gave us a lot of confidence.

“We think we’re the fastest boat downwind in wind and we think we can hang in there in the light as well as anyone.

“Certainly it’s not going to be three knots the whole way to Hobart.”

Hoping for rough seas

LawConnect, runner-up for line honours in the past three races, looms as Comanche’s biggest threat to clinching back-to-back John H Illingworth Challenge Cups.

The boat’s crew will hope their dominance of this month’s Big Boat Challenge on Sydney Harbour can translate to a fast start out of the Heads on Boxing Day.

LawConnect, formerly known as InfoTrack and Perpetual Loyal, is particularly strong upwind.

“If we could get that all the way, that’d be awesome,” sailing master Tony Mutter said.

LawConnect won’t shy away from the rough conditions that could come with the predicted low-pressure system.

“We actually prefer it. The more tactical it is, the better for us, we feel,” Mutter said.

“We kind of need that to be a thing for us to have a chance to win.”


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