IceFire skipper expects favourable conditions

SAILING

South Coast yachtsmen Peter Tucker expects favourable conditions to greet IceFire at the start line of the Pittwater to Coffs Harbour Yacht Race today.

North-easterly breezes are anticipated for the 1pm start before an expected southerly change around 2pm propels the 33-strong fleet up the coast.

IceFire thrives in heavy weather downwind conditions and Tucker said the early conditions would be close to ideal for his crew.

"Anything off the breeze is good for us and lets us sail the boat to its potential," Tucker said.

"We're expecting it to be southerlies and easterlies for the first eight hours, and then probably about midnight depending on how far we get up the coast, there's going to be a light patch into Friday up near Smokey Cape.

"That'll slow us up a bit and then Friday at around 11 o'clock there's a nor-easter due in and that'll change the whole situation again."

With conditions expected to change tomorrow night Tucker said the start would be crucial.

"It all depends on the first section of the race and how far north we can get before that nor-easter comes in," he said.

"We're looking to stay on the rhumb line and go as hard as we can in the first eight hours to use as much of the southerly and easterly as we can.

"The nor-easter is going to really pick up to around 25 to 30 knots and at one stage it might even be blowing up to 40 knots.

"We're hoping that Friday morning we're somewhere near Smokey Cape and from then on everyone will stay on deck until we finish because we have to drive the boat hard through that nor-easterly."

Tucker admits his crew has had a limited preparation as the boat underwent preparation but said the team was extra keen after forgoing the Sydney to Hobart to compete in the event.

"Everyone's pretty keen today [Wednesday]," he said. "We have a big drawcard of people to draw on for crew but all four owners are on the boat this race so everyone's a bit excited."

The Pittwater to Coffs will also tick the final box for IceFire which has sailed in every other major bluewater race on the east coast.

"This is the only one we haven't done in this boat," Tucker said.

"We've done them all, the Sydney to Gold Coast three times, the Brisbane to Keppel Island, the Gosford to Lord Howe and the Sydney to Hobart twice so it's good to now do the Pittwater to Coffs with this boat."

It may also be Tucker's swansong as IceFire's owner as the team looks for a newer boat to tackle the 70th edition of the Sydney to Hobart next year.

"She's been a great boat but we just get hammered on handicap," he said.

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