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Heartbreak drives Sydney to Hobart bid

AAP logoAAP 21/12/2016 Darren Walton

Still haunted by last year's retirement, Sibby Ilzhofer admits she has "unfinished business" to attend to in her fourth Sydney to Hobart start.

One of only two female skippers in the 89-strong fleet that will set sail on Boxing Day, Ilzhofer returns to lead the challenge of 47-footer Dare Devil.

But while she'll once again head up a 12-strong crew, Ilzhofer felt very alone when a damaged rudder abruptly ended Dare Devil's 2015 race before it really began.

"It felt like somebody ripped my heart out, to be honest," she told AAP on Wednesday.

"So it's kind of unfinished business this year.

"Having a crack at seven trophies, I'd like to think we could win one of them.

"But just to finish would be a good start."

Ilzhofer's best chance of landing silverware would be beating home Stephanie Kerin's 46-footer Dekadence to win the Jane Tait Memorial Trophy as the top-placed female skipper.

Dare Devil is also contending for corinthian honours but Ilzhofer admits simply finishing would be reward for the huge emotional and financial sacrifice involved in preparing for one of the world's most demanding ocean races.

"I take a lot of time off work, which obviously hurts from an income perspective because if you don't, we're never going to get it done," said the vocational education trainer.

"I feel we've left no stone unturned and we've basically changed everything that needs changing, fixed everything that needs fixing and so I think we're very well prepared.

"We've changed fittings on the rig, rebuilt the main traveller blocks, obviously got the new rudder - just little things that eliminate anything that can go wrong."

Nothing, though, can ever truly prepare even the most experienced of skippers or the sturdiest of boats for the elements and Ilzhofer concedes the weather forecast isn't overly favourable for Dare Devil.

"She's a really good upwind boat and it doesn't seem like we're going to have a lot of upwind conditions," she said.

"We're going to have a lot more downwind. We'll see how we go.

"It's just up to the crew, I suppose."

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