Tasman Island target: Matt Allan, owner of the yacht Ichi Ban. Photo: Nic Walker
As uncertainty over the weather conditions for the Sydney to Hobart intensified on Monday, all Matt Allen - owner of handicap contender Ichi Ban - could offer as a firm tip was that any crew hoping to win had better pass Tasman Island before Sunday.
A north-easterly is still forecast for Thursday's Boxing Day start to the 628 nautical mile race, but fluctuating weather patterns have left many observers in doubt as to what to expect later in the race.
Reports on Monday were that the expected southerly could hit the fleet earlier than initially forecast, which would affect the smaller boats in the 94-strong fleet.
Allen will be lining up for his 24th start in the blue-water classic; but this time on a new version of Ichi Ban – a Carkeek 60 that is 18.5 metres long and was built in Dubai and only arrived in Australia by ship last month.
When asked what conditions he hoped for, Allen cited the weather that struck the fleet in 1983 when he crewed on Challenge, owned by the great Lou Abrahams that won the race on handicap – or corrected time.
“The ideal for us will be a nor'-easter all the way to Tasman Island and then a front the moment we reach Tasman Island,” Allen said on Monday.
“Last time I had those conditions we won the race. We are hoping for that again. With the weather, the models aren't really in line at this stage.
“It's probably going to move around a little, but certainly the boats that haven't gone around Tasman Island by Sunday are going to struggle.
“Thirty to 40 knots, maybe more, from the south-south-east is going to push the smaller boats back in my view.
"So it's pretty hard to work out who's going to win the race, but I think you are probably looking at the middle to larger sections of the boats [as] probably with the best chance.
“You have to win your division to have any chance of winning the race, but I think the people who will be in that mid to upper ranges have the best chace of winning the race overall given the weather [forecast].”
Roger Hickman, owner and skipper of the evergreen but strong performing Farr 43 Wild Rose that was built in 1985, is tapping into the mindset of Australian cricket captain Michael Clarke for his approach to the race.
“I have it on very good authority from Michael Clarke … you can win and take wickets with the old ball, just as well with the new ball,” said Hickman, who has sailed in 36 Sydney to Hobarts.
“I guess with that philosophy, [for] the old girl, the old boat, there is an opportunity, it's a small opportunity, long odds opportunity, but we have done well and there is a slim chance we could win …”
Asked how the difference in boat designs, sizes and ratings affects a boat's handicap and chances of winning the Tattersall's Cup, Hickman said: “The new boats go fast, and we go slow, but this story is about the hare and the tortoise.
"We plod along and the handicap allows us a lot more time.
"Because the old boat is older and fatter and slower with a smaller sail plan, the handicap … allows us a fair bit more time.
"The weather comes and goes in that time, but there is an opportunity for every boat.”