40 yachts to embrace challenge

THIS year's Launceston to Hobart yacht race is shaping up to be the biggest yet with a fleet of 40 boats expected, Derwent Sailing Squadron Commodore Ron Bugg said yesterday.

Launching the race, which begins on December 27, Commodore Bugg said a number of interstate competitors would also take part.

``This race is designed really for not the big, powerful ocean racers that we see in races like the Sydney race, it's more for your everyday yachtsman,'' he said.

But the race can still be challenging, particularly the Banks Strait section.

``Because there are so many corners there are proportionately more sail changes and there can be a range of different weather conditions,'' Commodore Bugg said.

The Fork in the Road skipper Gary Smith is the favourite to take out line honours in the 285-nautical mile race around the North and East coasts of Tasmania.

The Fork in the Road won the premier AMS handicap category of the 190-nautical mile Maria Island race at the weekend.

It has been a couple of years since Smith has competed in the Launceston to Hobart.

He said the race was becoming better known.

``This is really the big race for Tasmanians because it's a race that starts here and finishes here,'' he said.

Last year's overall winner, Masquerade, skippered by Tony Harmsen, will be lining up again, along with past handicap division winners Host Plus Executive, Pisces and Footloose, skippered by Jeff Cordell, David Taylor and Stewart Geeves respectively.

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