CHEAT SHEET: A super-quick guide to the 2017 Sydney to Hobart yacht race

(L-R) Ragamuffin, Perpetual Loyal, Wild Oats and Comanche sailing out of Sydney Harbour in 2014. Photo: Peter Parks / AFP / Getty Images

The Rolex Sydney to Hobart yacht race starts today. Here’s a quick run-down on the favourites, the conditions, and some of the colour in the 2017 running of the world’s toughest yacht race.

When and where to watch: Channel 7, or streaming on the official Sydney to Hobart website. Coverage starts 12.30pm AEDT.

The start: Larger boats in the fleet cross a start line just to the north of Shark Island in Sydney Harbour. The Cruising Yacht Club of Australia’s cannon signals the start at 1pm, with warning and preparatory cannon blasts fired at 12.50pm and 12.55pm.

The sprint: The fleet races out towards The Heads — Sydney Harbour’s gateway to the ocean — and while the hard racing all comes after the turn south, there’s great prestige to leading the fleet out before the cameras. Boats must round a mark one nautical mile east of the heads.

The course: It’s 628 nautical miles from start to finish. Here’s the map:

The fleet: 102 boats, including 30 internationals.

Conditions: The start will be into an easterly breeze expected at five to 10 knots. Several hours after the competitors leave Sydney, the wind will pick up and swing in behind the fleet from the north-east, so some of the bigger yachts will have some very fast sailing in the evening as the wind pushes them towards the Bass Strait. Here’s the wind map for 8pm tonight:

Image: Bureau of Meteorology / MetEye.

The record: The fastest line-honours time is one day, 13 hours, 31 minutes and 20 seconds, set by Perpetual LOYAL last year.

Boats to watch

There are four super-maxis — regarded as the fastest four 100-footers in the world at the moment — in the fleet this year. All four boats have taken line honours over the past decade.

LDV Comanche pictured in 2014. Photo: Peter Parks / AFP / Getty Images

LDV Comanche: The big dog, steered by two-time America’s Cup-winning helmsman Jimmy Spithill, known in world yachting for his aggressive leadership and tactics. Comanche was bought this year by Sydney businessman Jim Cooney and the forecast conditions are considered in its favour.

InfoTrack: InfoTrack is the renamed Perpetual LOYAL, which won last year and holds the line-honours record. It’s skippered by another Australian superstar of international yachting, Olympian and America’s Cup sailor Tom Slingsby. The boat was bought this year by Christian Beck, who has hilariously described it as “the shitbox of the super-maxi fleet”.

Wild Oats XI. Photo:

Wild Oats XI: Bob Oatley’s boat, skippered by Mark Richards, will be chasing a record ninth line-honours win. Astonishingly, its eight line-honours wins have been achieved in just 10 years. Its mast was struck by lightning with just over a week to go before the race, stuffing up electronics with a power discharge of 10 million volts, but they report they’re ready to race.

Black Jack: Previously known as Alfa Romeo, this could be the dark horse in this year’s race. The boat has competed strongly against Wild Oats XI — they were built by the same company — in recent races and can be quick, especially in lighter winds like those expected at the start of the race. Owned by Peter Harburg.

Overall contenders

The defending champion is Giacomo, now named Wizard. Others to watch as winners in the overall race — in which the winner is determined with a complex handicap system — include Ichi Ban, Quest, Koa, Azzurro, and Beau Geste.

You can track the fleet and individual boats on the official race website.

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