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Melbourne-Hobart yachts face rough seas

AAP logoAAP 23/12/2016 Jason Phelan

Crews in the annual Melbourne to Hobart and Melbourne to Devonport yacht races are bracing for difficult conditions as they cross Bass Strait.

Fleets for both races will get under way on Tuesday morning from off Portsea, with most yachts having already competed in the annual Cock of the Bay race on Boxing Day from Port Melbourne to Blairgowrie.

The races will start in near-perfect conditions that are expected to deteriorate throughout Tuesday night.

"One of the bigger stories this year will be watching the fleet throughout that first night because, on the early forecast, it looks like it's going to be a tough one," Ocean Racing Club of Victoria commodore Neville Rose told AAP.

"The day sailing will be nice and easy but then Tuesday night will be a bit hairy out in the middle (of Bass Strait).

"Fortunately, the winds are from the east ... if they were from the south, it would be even more horrible.

"There will be those who sail conservatively through that but that's when these races are generally won and lost - at night. It will be those who fare the best through that first night who will do quite well."

The Melbourne to Hobart fleet will tackle the famed 440-nautical-mile 'Westcoaster' course that will take crews around the southern tip of Tasmania.

Shortwave set the course record for the Westcoaster race - just over one day and 17 hours - in 2008 but that mark appeared safe given the current forecast.

Extasea took line honours last year but would not contest this year's race, with Cadibarra 8, a Jones 42 skippered by Paul Roberts, the pre-race favourite in a 10-yacht fleet.

Catamaran Peccadillo, skippered by Charles Meredith and line-honours winner in last year's Melbourne to Devonport race, is again the yacht to beat over the 195-nautical-mile course.

Prowler set the course record of just over 19-and-a-half hours in 1998 and conditions could allow the quickest of the 11-yacht fleet to get close to that mark.

A fleet of about 80 yachts is set to contest the Cock of the Bay, a feeder race for the Hobart and Devonport races, which is on Boxing Day from 10.30am.

The 34-nautical-mile course hugs the coastline from Port Melbourne to Sandringham, which Rose said should afford spectators on the shore a spectacular view.

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