The new owner of last year’s Sydney to Hobart line honours winner has all but written off Infotrack’s chances of going back-to-back due to an unfavourable weather forecast and a star field.
Perpetual Loyal was first past the post 12 months ago and set a new race record in the process, but the downwind conditions expected this time around are much better suited to race favourite LDV Comanche, and fellow heavyweights Wild Oats XI and Black Jack.
Software entrepeneur Christian Beck has since purchased the boat from Anthony Bell and at the pre-race press conference on Sunday morning described it as “the s–t box of the super maxis”.
Beck is new to the sport and embarking on his first ocean race, but has retained most of the crew from last year’s winning journey including Olympian Tom Slingsby while bringing in multiple America’s Cup winner Grant Simmer.
But he was quick to play down his chances up against a stellar field.
“Comanche is a difficult boat for us to beat, I’d probably go as far as to say Infotrack is probably the s–t box of the super maxis,” Beck said.
“These guys did very well [last year]. They won and they broke the record.
“Realistically, the other three competing weren’t in there. Part of our success is probably other people’s misery, we’re unlikely for three of those to have a bad trot this year.”
The 2015 line honours LDV Comanche didn’t contest last year’s race, while this year’s event is the first for Black Jack, previously Alfa Romeo, since it won in 2009.
Wild Oats XI started last year’s race but was forced to retire early with a hydraulics issue.
A steady north-easterly is expected to cart the super maxis towards Hobart on Boxing Day. A weak westerly which would favour Infotrack is predicted to hit Bass Strait two days later, but by that stage it might be too late to take advantage.
“Our best conditions are definitely side on to the wind, 90 degrees wind angle to the boat, that’s where we’re strong,” Slingsby said.
“This is going to be hard downwind running, it’s not our strong point. It would usually do pretty well but the top three boats in the world who can beat us in those conditions are here so they’re going to be faster than us.
“You never know, we could go through a bit of a transition. The wind might be more side on than we think, that’s when we get a bit better. At the moment, 20 to 25 knots, that’s not enough wind for us to get over the top of these guys.”
Beck said he wasn’t nervous about his Sydney to Hobart debut, but was expecting a rough ride despite the friendly forecast.
“Realistically I’m a glorified passenger here, it’s a very good forecast,” Beck said.
“We had a 24-hour compulsory qualifier and four hours into that I thought I’d put some warm clothes on. Tom hit a big wave and I hit the kitchen bench.
“My ribs were very sore and I spent the next 20 hours below deck. Four of the other Infotrack guys threw up over the side so we’re kind of learning how tough it really is.
“These boats do look really good on the TV going across the big waves but when you’re actually in the boat going across the big waves it’s a different experience.”