Sheppard expecting kinder weather

Wollongong yachtsman Derek Sheppard is expecting kinder conditions in his second Sydney to Hobart.

Derek Sheppard (at the helm) and the crew of Black Sheep ahead of the Sydney to Hobart.

SAILING 

Wollongong yachtsmen Derek Sheppard is expecting kinder conditions in his second Sydney to Hobart as a skipper when the Bluewater Classic launches on Boxing Day.

Last year’s race was Sheppard’s first as skipper of Black Sheep, the 45-footer he acquired with brother Martin in April 2013, which finished a credible ninth in division three.

“We were going very well in the first half but then when we got hit by a gale that tested us a bit,” Sheppard said.

“We ended up a bit too far out to sea and the waves were a bit big so we lost a bit of time getting back in but overall we were happy how we went.”

Conditions are expected to be kinder to smaller boats after a roaring south-westerly front off the east coast of Tasmania battered the back half of the field in the latter stages of last year’s race.

“I think it’ll suit the smaller boats better than the bigger boats and we’re kind of in between so we’re not totally out of the picture from a weather perspective,” Sheppard said.

“It’s looking like a pretty tough first night with some quite strong winds from the South but it’s looking pretty light in the middle of the race so that’ll slow everybody down.

“If we’re a little bit slow getting down to Tasman Island we might get beaten up a little bit.”

Sheppard said the conditions will make the handicap aspect of the race interesting.

“The good thing for the little boats is they’ll have the chance of making some ground on handicap,” he said.

“The fast boats will hit the light spot and slow down so from a handicap perspective it will be harder for them to achieve the required speed relative to the smaller boats. In theory if everybody sails to their handicaps and the weather plays into your hands you can sail at the best speed for your size.”

At the front of the field Sheppard said US super-maxi Comanche will rightly start favourite but the weather could suit seven-time winner Wild Oats XI.

“Comanche’s probably got to be the favourite because it’s the latest and greatest but I think the weather is playing into Wild Oats’ hands quite nicely,” he said.

“For [Wild Oats] it’ll be quite light in the latter half of the race and they’re a bit narrower so they should do quite well there and make up the ground they may lose a bit earlier.

“I think all the lead boats are quite different in their designs so they’ll have weather windows that work for them and windows that work against them.”


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