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Reigning Hobart winner feeling nervous

AAP logoAAP 23/12/2016 Adrian Warren

The skipper of last year's Sydney to Hobart handicap winner says he's more nervous about the weather forecast than last year, when more than a quarter of the fleet retired.

Paul Clitheroe's TP52 Balance claimed overall honours in 2015 after the fleet was buffeted by a tough southerly on the first night.

Long-range forecasts suggest a fast race with a line honours record time within reach of the four supermaxis in the fleet.

Clitheroe emphasised a fast race was also potentially more dangerous.

"I'm hearing a lot about 'last year was tough because we sailed in to an extended southerly,' 'and it was bloody awful, 32 boats pulled out," the media personality told AAP.

"What I'm find interesting is I'm hearing is 'it's going to be a downwind Hobart, this sounds pretty comfortable.'

"I'm actually more nervous about this year's forecast than last year.

"Into a tough southerly we're probably doing nine or ten knots of boat speed.

"We're pounding and bashing and getting flogged, it's awful, but the boat speeds aren't high.

"I think what people are missing is that we may be going across Bass Strait (this year) at 25 knots of boat speed in really big seas and at those speeds a tiny error becomes a catastrophe.

"You get your steering wrong, because often in big seas particularly at night you get hit by a bit of a side wave, you lose your steering for a second, a boat doing 20-odd knots falls over.

"It's like a small car crash, so I'm actually more nervous about a heavy downwind forecast than I am a heavy storm forecast on the nose, because the speeds are just outrageous and these are carbon lightweight boats."

Clitheroe believes he will have his work cut out beating the other eight TP52s in the race, especially Matt Allen's Ichi ban.

Allen gives the smaller boats little hope in the hunt for handicap honours, tipping the winner to come from the 50 to 80 foot range.

Queensland sailing icon Robert "Robbo" Robertson, who is sailing the 40-foot Bravo, was equally pessimistic about the prospects of the smaller boats.

"A few days ago I thought our chances were a bit better but I think they are fading fast," Robertson said.,

"It looks like the bigger boats are going to get the pressure right the way down the coast."

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