Yachts To Watch In The Sydney To Hobart
Comanche is the favourite to take Sydney to Hobart line honours but connections of most of her supermaxi rivals are tipping eight-time winner Wild Oats XI as the boat to beat.
A fleet of 85 will start on Boxing Day, with five supermaxis vying for line honours and plenty of quality contenders tussling for a handicap win.
No excessive winds are forecast for a race in which Comanche and Wild Oats XI will continue their rivalry, while having to be wary of the other supermaxis Black Jack, InforTrack and Sun Hung Kai Scallywag.
Wild Oats XI crossed the line first last year but was relegated after Comanche lodged a successful protest following a near collision early in the race.
Comanche has enjoyed a string of line honours victories in recent months, with the Oatley family's much loved boat still very competitive and highly regarded heading into the 74th Sydney to Hobart.
But rivals think otherwise.
"Forget about Comanche, Oats are the boat to beat," said David Witt, skipper of Hong Kong's Sun Hung Kai Scallywag, the only supermaxi from outside Australia and last remaining one from the group to achieve line honours in the race.
"You beat Oats you win," Witt told AAP.
Here are the yachts tipped to make it interesting:
Going for back-to-back line honours, all of her four supermaxi rivals will struggle to keep pace with this imposing beast of a boat if she gets enough strong winds .
WILD OATS XI
Perhaps the best performed big boat across a variety of conditions, this grand old dame of the supermaxis remains competitive and will look to add to her record eight line honours wins, though the last was back in 2014.
The line honours winner in 2009 as Alfa Romeo, this proven light wind performer is now more competitive in heavier airs and may need to be to trump her other maximum length rivals.
Relegated from fourth to 24th last year after being penalised for a rule infringement, the 2016 line honours winner as Perpetual LOYAL may struggle to stay close to the other supermaxis.
SUN HUNG KAI SCALLYWAG
Back after finishing third across the line in 2016, the Hong Kong supermaxi has had less preparation time than her four Australian counterparts and also had the unwanted hassle of suffering sail damage in the Big Boat Challenge earlier this month.
Matt Allen's 52-foot flyer is bidding to become the first boat for over 50 years to go back-to back in overall honours and will start favourite after winning the vast majority of her races on handicap since her 2017 Sydney to Hobart triumph.
The 54-foot French yacht is one to watch after last year finishing overall winner of the RORC Transatlantic race and third on handicap in the Middle Sea race
This Cookson 50 from the United States has sound form, recording second place finishes on handicap in the 2017 Fastnet.and RORC Caribbean 600 at the start of this year..
Victorian Bruce Taylor has come close to taking overall honours on numerous occasions in 37 previous cracks at the race and his 40-foot boat could potentially deliver him a long sought after win.
WILD OATS X
The race's first all-female professional crew has the experience and the boat to push for overall honours, with the 66-foot yacht finishing 11th on handicap last year.