Brad Butterworth will return to the Sydney to Hobart race with confidence, despite predictions it could be the most dangerous since the deadly 1998 race with gale-force winds expected in Bass Strait.

Sailors are expected to contend with the dangers of high-speed sailing on Boxing Day before encountering huge seas and howling 45 knot sou'westerly headwinds in the strait.

Butterworth will skipper Rambler 88 this year, for the first time since the tragic 1998 race that saw six people die, 55 sailors rescued, and five boats sink in an exceptionally strong storm.

The four-time America's Cup winner says he feels safe onboard the newer boats, with technology having improved drastically since he raced on Larry Ellison's Sayonara.


"I wasn't that keen to do it again," Butterworth told Radio Sport.

"I guess that boats have changed a lot since then.

I've been working on a new project for an American gentleman and the boat's called Rambler 88. He wanted to compete in the Hobart so I said 'yep, sure, why not'.

"Now these boats are amazing. The modern-day boats with huge rigs and huge stability, and they go very fast."

The wind in the 1998 race was measured at 70 knots with gusts up to 90 knots, while a reliable weather model predicts 45 knot winds this year.

Such high winds could spur up the conditions and create rough seas with the potential to again wreak havoc among the fleet.

Leading maritime weather forecaster Roger Badham told the Daily Telegraph: "At this stage there is no indication of the horror 98 run but it could be the worse we have seen since."

The conditions are tipped to favour the foreign crews aboard the Comanche and Rambler over locals such as Wild Oats in the line honours chase.

Strong nor'easterlies are expected at the start as the fleet speed down the New South Wales coast under spinnaker.

Some yachts may need to ease back to avoid sustaining damage in the ultra-fast conditions but the pace-setters are expected to surpass record pace by the first night at sea.

The timing of the rugged southerly will determine whether a race record is possible, with Wild Oats X1's 2012 time of one day 18 hours 23min 12 seconds the current benchmark.

Butterworth expects a fast race, saying: "The actual routing for the race is looking like one and a half days which is a very fast speed for 630 miles."

While he is eager to re-enter the Sydney to Hobart, Butterworth confirmed he has no interest in competing in the America's Cup again.