Weather conditions look good for Sydney to Hobart race

SYDNEY (AP) — Comanche skipper Jim Cooney is predicting a quick Sydney to Hobart yacht race but believes his 100-foot super maxi’s line honors record will probably stand from last year.

The Bureau of Meteorology on Friday was forecasting light winds for the start of the Dec. 26 race in Sydney Harbour, but stiff north to northeasterly gusts of up to 35 knots later in the day.

The 630-nautical-mile race (1,170 kilometers) takes the fleet, expected to be 92 yachts, down the southeastern Australian coast, across Bass Strait and into Hobart, the capital of the island state of Tasmania.

“I think we’re looking at a fairly quick race, but I’m not sure the record is in any danger at this stage because the winds are not as strong as they were last year,” Cooney said. “I think unless that changes then we’re probably not looking at record pace.”

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Comanche set the race record of 1 day, 9 hours, 15 minutes, 24 seconds while winning last year in controversial circumstances.

Super maxi Wild Oats XI, which has won line honors nine times, was stripped of the 2017 title following a protest over a controversial tack just minutes after the start.

Comanche lodged a protest over a near-collision with Wild Oats that occurred as the boats were leaving Sydney Harbour. An international jury imposed a one-hour penalty on Wild Oats XI, negating its winning margin which was 30 minutes ahead of Comanche.

Wild Oats XI approached Comanche on a port tack, while Comanche was on a starboard tack, giving Comanche the right of way under sailing’s rules.

The near-miss was serious enough that Wild Oats XI navigator Ian Burns said that the crew had discussed taking a 720-degree penalty turn but decided it wasn’t necessary.

A 720-degree turn would have cost Wild Oats XI a maximum of five minutes in race time which could have seen the yacht retain line honors and the race record.

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