THE forecast for the Rolex Sydney to Hobart Yacht Race, starting today, looks good for Gladstone sailor Tom Barker on his St George Midnight Rambler.
Strong southerlies of up to 30 knots on the first night will challenge the 117 boat fleet, but smaller boats are likely to be favoured later on.
The navigator of the yacht said tonight was going to be tough. "It'll be a good bash to get everyone into the race," he said.
"Throughout the second day the breeze will soften off quickly and hopefully that will slow up the bigger boats.
"The last part of the race is looking very fast with a downwind which suits our boat."
St George Midnight Rambler is a Jason Ker boat that was launched in 2011 and is a good all-round yacht. Most of the crew will work on shifts of two hours on and four hours off.
"I float because I am the navigator," Barker said.
"I have to be awake for the critical stages of the race, the tactical points, and make sure the crew is rested so they are 100% for day three."
In his 11th Sydney to Hobart, Barker said it can take more than three days to finish. "I haven't missed a race since I was 18 and the length depends on the conditions," he said.
"If we get a lighter breeze at the northern part of Bass Strait, it could take three-and-a-half days."
The 28-year-old started sailing in the Gladstone Harbour and was a member of the Port Curtis Sailing Club.
"My parents are long-term members of the sailing club and both have had stints as commodores," he said.
"I learned to sail with the Learn to Sail program and my mother was also heavily involved in that."
He moved to Sydney at the age of 18 for university.
"I really came to Sydney to sail and do uni on the side," he said.
"They put in a rule after the storm-ravaged 1998 race you had to be 18 to compete. As soon as I was 18 I was racing to Hobart."
Earlier this year the St George Midnight Rambler completed the Land Rover Gold Coast Yacht race, finishing 16th on line and first in its division.