Mix of winds should benefit all Hobart yachts - differently

THE Bureau of Meteorology has delivered Christmas presents for the 117 entrants in this year's Sydney to Hobart Yacht Race.

The big supermaxis - including last year's line honours winner Wild Oats XI (pictured) and US billionaire Jim Clark's Comanche - will handle the conditions of a southerly change forecast to hit soon after the start on Boxing Day bringing 35-45kmh winds. But those same winds could prevent them establishing a big lead.

"That strong southerly down the coast will be the time to keep the boat in one piece," conceded Wild Oats XI navigator Juan Villa.

Andrew Treloar, from the BoM, said the winds would get lighter the further south the boats sailed with the frontrunners expected to cross a high-pressure ridge around Gabo Island giving them light westerlies across Bass Strait on Saturday.

Winds off the Tasmanian coast on Saturday night are also expected to be pretty light westerlies and they could be quite fluky.

One sailor excited by the forecast is Tom Barker, the navigator on the Ker 40 St George Midnight Rambler.

"In terms of handicaps, the slow start means that is more time the big boats will have to take out of us," Barker said.

"If we do get some of this reaching and running northerly while the big boats have had slower stuff, it plays into our hands. The Ker 40 is very good upwind and very dynamic downwind."