Twas the Night Before Hobart

December 24 The first of two mandatory race briefings is this morning. The race briefing is split into two groups in order to accommodate the size of the fleet. Our boat is included in the first briefing group. Each boat is required to have four people at this briefing. All but one or two of our crew is there. The race briefing includes a very short discussion of the sailing instructions, a weather briefing, words from an Australia Rescue Coordination Center person, and instructions regarding arrival at Hobart. The only good news in the weather briefing is that the forecast for the start of the race is for sunny and comfortably warm conditions. Otherwise gale force winds, high seas, and dangerous cold are promised. The situation does not sound good. The instructions calls for two location confirmations, or skeds, and two weather briefings during each day for a total of four required radio listening periods. The race committee chairman informs the group that he expects to have weather briefings broadcast at all of the four radio listening periods. We are also informed that random calls will be made to individual boats to confirm they are listening at the weather briefings. It is confirmed at the race briefing that all boats will be fitted with a tracking device. The rest of the day I have off. Michelle and I go to Manly Beach and to Darling Harbor to sightsee. Unfortunately, a beautiful morning turns into a rainy late afternoon. We spend the evening quietly together with take away (its not take out here) Thai food and television. December 25 Merry Chrissy! The crew and their guests get together at Phil's yacht club, the Balmain YC, for Christmas lunch. Most of us travel there on the boat with Phil guiding the way. But, a few meet the rest of us there. Barbecued steaks, sausages, and salmon, along with sides and sweets to finish, follow boiled prawns and oysters. All is lovely, although it does not feel much like Christmas at home. When we returned to the dock the crowds of people walking the docks blew me away. All the boats now have affixed their bow stickers and bow numbers and have their Rolex Sydney Hobart Race battle flags flying. Many of the boat crews are socializing on deck. Some boats are empty. Couples and small groups are strolling the dock, looking at the boats, occasionally stopping to comment about someone they know who is sailing on one boat, how another boat did last year, or how another boat is expected to do. Today's weather is cold and cloudy. Still, it is warmer than home. The weather forecast for the race has improved slightly from yesterday. The low-pressure system that promised to intensify into nasty weather for the Bass Strait crossing seems to be staying too far south to be an issue. We are not exactly out of the woods. Even the improved forecast promises strong winds on the nose for a major part of the race. And tomorrow's forecast may well be just as bad as yesterday's.