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Offshore gamble could help Hobart fleet

NZN 25/12/2016 Adrian Warren

Wild Oats XI skipper Mark Richards has identified rival supermaxis Scallywag and Perpetual LOYAL as the big threats to his boat in a Sydney to Hobart which could deliver a race record if boats gamble by going further offshore.

A southerly change of around 10-15 knots with occasional pockets of 20 knots is forecast for late Monday night, after a start expected to provide north easterlies which will freshen through the afternoon.

"The consistent message we're getting from the computer models here is that the worst parts of the southerly will be close to the coast," Bureau of Meterology duty officer Rob Taggat told AAP on Sunday afternoon.

"That southerly is probably going to stay within around about 50 or 60 nautical miles from the coast.

"If the faster yachts decide to swing out offshore a little bit, then they could miss the southerly altogether."

He said they may pick up weaker north easterlies by going that far out, with the breeze expected to swing back in that direction along the whole NSW coast by late Tuesday.

Should those conditions eventuate, the 2012 line honours record of one day 18 hours 23 minutes 12 seconds set by Wild Oats XI could fall.

Skipper Mark Richards isn't focusing on the time as Wild Oats XI looks to build on her record eight line honours wins.

The main challenges will come from the three other supermaxis, especially proven boats, Scallywag and Perpetual LOYAL, while the rebuilt and lengthened CQS remains an unknown quantity.

"I think Scallywag is going to be the boat for us to beat this year and Perpetual LOYAL," Richards tol AAP.

He said his boat had a much better preparation than last year when it struggled to test out all of its modifications in time.

"Last year was very rushed. This year has been very well planned and we've ticked every box that we wanted to tick and we've achieved every training that we wanted to achieve," Richards said

"We're going to be half a ton lighter, made some good sail modifications, we've got some nice things that will definitely enhance the boat's performance."

Scallywag, formerly Ragamuffin 100, finished third across the line in 2014 and second last year.

"We like being under the radar," Scallywag skipper David Witt told AAP.

"I think it will be the best finish and the best race we've had."

Perpetual LOYAL's skipper Anthony Bell believes he has assembled his best ever crew after significantly reducing his usual celebrity quotient and hiring more top class specialist sailors.

Media personality Erin Molan, who was aboard last year, is the only celebrity in a crew that includes around half of the roster that piloted Comanche to line honours in 2015.

Ingvall admitted there was an element of the unknown about his radical and recently launched boat.

"Absolutely we don't even know ourselves what she can do so it's uncertainty across the board, but it will be a lot of fun," Ingvall said.

The winning supermaxi might also have a chance of winning handicap honours if it turns out to be a fast race, as expected.

The contingent of nine TP52s headed by Matt Allen's Ichi Ban and Rupert Henry's JV 62 Chinese Whisper are other leading candidates for overall honours.

Ragamuffin navigator Adrienne Cahalan will become the first female to contest the race 25 times, while Duende's Tony Cable will stretch his record for the most races overall to 51.

The fleet contains 12 boats from overseas representing Germany, China, Hong Kong, Sweden, New Zealand, Russia, Korea, the United States and the United Kingdom,

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