Sydney to Hobart fleet at sea with long-range forecast

The Sydney to Hobart fleet are in for a nervous week after the long-range weather forecast revealed uncertainty over race conditions.

Typically, the forecast a week from Boxing Day gives crews an indication whether conditions on the 628-nautical mile race will suit their boat, and provides a chance to begin work on tactics.

But NSW's hot and humid weather, combined with the possibility of a low-pressure system forming this weekend, has made it difficult for the Bureau of Meteorology (BOM) to make conclusive predictions.

A low-pressure system forming over the Tasman Sea could set storms in motion from December 27, which would have significant impact on waves and wind direction.

As of Monday morning, the BOM's best guess was that the race will begin in southwesterly winds; but even that could change.

Navigator Adrienne Cahalan, sailing Alive in her 31st Sydney to Hobart race, said it was almost unheard of to have conditions so unclear a week out.

Alive navigator Adrienne Cahalan (right).
Alive navigator Adrienne Cahalan (r) has plenty of work to do before the race starts on December 26.

"If this low pressure (system) does develop, then it sort of throws everything out the window that we might've already had," she told AAP.

"While there's always the potential for that to develop, it creates uncertainty in the forecast.

"The models at each run are changing from having a low on the NSW coast to maybe having a high-pressure (system). 

"This great diversity from model runs is something that's quite new."

The uncertainty means navigators are working overtime, with more insight to be gleaned from weekend forecasts.

But not all crews can wait that long to begin making tough calls.

"Some boats don't have to make decisions a week out," Cahalan said, outlining sail choice as just one crucial factor. 

"We do. That's why this long-range forecast is really important for us. 

"It just means it's double the work, because you've got to be prepared for everything, whereas in the past you might've been able to dismiss a couple of scenarios that you know won't happen."

URM Group, one of Alive's rivals for overall honours, is hoping to embrace the uncertainty.

The 72-footer has enjoyed a dominant lead-in to the annual event, recording wins at the Bird Island, Sydney Gold Coast and Flinders Islet races.

"I find it a little bit exciting when the forecast is this uncertain, because anything can happen," URM navigator Alice Parker said.

"There'll be opportunities for little boats and opportunities for big boats."

The variable forecast is perhaps even more alarming for the smallest boats in the two-hander division, which will require a handful of days to reach Hobart's Constitution Dock.

"We don't have one weather system to worry about, we probably have at least two to get through," David Henry, skipper and owner of Philosopher, said.

"We have double-trouble when it comes to predicting what the weather is going to be.

"The only thing that we definitely know is that we don't know (what the conditions will be)."

License this article

What is AAPNews?

For the first time, Australian Associated Press is delivering news straight to the consumer.

No ads. No spin. News straight-up.

Not only do you get to enjoy high-quality news delivered straight to your desktop or device, you do so in the knowledge you are supporting media diversity in Australia.

AAP Is Australia’s only independent newswire service, free from political and commercial influence, producing fact-based public interest journalism across a range of topics including politics, courts, sport, finance and entertainment.

What is AAPNews?
The Morning Wire

Wake up to AAPNews’ morning news bulletin delivered straight to your inbox or mobile device, bringing you up to speed with all that has happened overnight at home and abroad, as well as setting you up what the day has in store.

AAPNews Morning Wire
AAPNews Breaking News
Breaking News

Be the first to know when major breaking news happens.

Notifications will be sent to your device whenever a big story breaks, ensuring you are never in the dark when the talking points happen.

Focused Content

Enjoy the best of AAP’s specialised Topics in Focus. AAP has reporters dedicated to bringing you hard news and feature content across a range of specialised topics including Environment, Agriculture, Future Economies, Arts and Refugee Issues.

AAPNews Focussed Content
Subscription Plans

Choose the plan that best fits your needs. AAPNews offers two basic subscriptions, all billed monthly.

Once you sign up, you will have seven days to test out the service before being billed.

AAPNews Full Access Plan
Full Access
  • Enjoy all that AAPNews has to offer
  • Access to breaking news notifications and bulletins
  • Includes access to all AAPNews’ specialised topics
Join Now
AAPNews Student Access Plan
Student Access
  • Gain access via a verified student email account
  • Enjoy all the benefits of the ‘Full Access’ plan at a reduced rate
  • Subscription renews each month
Join Now
AAPNews Annual Access Plan
Annual Access
  • All the benefits of the 'Full Access' subscription at a discounted rate
  • Subscription automatically renews after 12 months
Join Now

AAPNews also offers enterprise deals for businesses so you can provide an AAPNews account for your team, organisation or customers. Click here to contact AAP to sign-up your business today.

Download the app
Download AAPNews on the App StoreDownload AAPNews on the Google Play Store