One of the key jobs on the list for Australia was to travel south to the coastal town of Therrual to meet marine meteorologist Dr Roger Badham, or "Clouds" as his known to the yachting fraternity.
Roger has been weather forecasting for 35 years and is the head meteorologist for Emirates Team New Zealand, guiding their round the world and America’s Cup teams.
From his home-based office, nestled amongst 30 acres of rain forest, he also advises the Ferrari Formula One team on when the next drop of rain will hit the race circuit so they can have their wet weather tyres poised for change.
His guidance across the Tasman, picking the quickest way through the currents, eddies, local winds to big picture conditions, will be invaluable.
Each day Clouds will send us a text message to our satellite phone, advising us of what we can expect and where he advises us to head towards that day.
He recommended we sit on the left side of the train for the one-hour ride down from Sydney so we could “see the course”, but the sight of half a dozen cargo ships on the Tasman, a few kilometers offshore, was quite concerning.
Was this the Tasman highway at rush hour?
He quashed my concerns and advised that they were all at anchor, waiting to get the green light to enter Port Kembla at Wollongong where they collect cargo from Australia’s largest steel works. (which produces 5.3 million tonnes of crude steel each year). Phew.
Back to the agenda and how to get from Sydney to Auckland. Once we’re out of Sydney Heads (avoiding a wind against tide situation as they will be pretty hairy) where do we go? Straight ahead?
Er, not quite.
Essentially, the course can be broken into two – what’s before 160 degrees (of longitude) East and what’s after.
The East Australian Current (EAC - remember Finding Nemo?) and the many strong, warm water currents dictate the first half of the course.
The EAC is at its strongest on the edge of the continental shelf, where the speed can be up to five knots and the water temperature up to five degrees warmer.
It’s so significant that rowing north from Sydney to pick up the stronger, faster current around at 30 degrees north (south?), around Coffs Harbour, is a possibility but will depend on a few other factors on the day.
Once on the EAC express train, we will then get a relative slingshot from one current to the next and could, theoretically, knock off up to half the Tasman in under two weeks.
That doesn’t necessarily mean though we will be home, sipping a cold beer and inhaling our first burger in under a month.
The two Aussie kayakers, James Castrission and Justin Jones, who paddled the ditch in 2007 were at that pace but then spent six weeks doing battling winds and currents in the Tasman and, at one stage, had to paddle for 36 hours to break out of a current that was trying to push them north.
That said, with four rowers we have substantially more man power and should be able to make more speed towards the ‘mark’ of Cape Reinga at New Zealand’s northern tip.
The next part of the course is more challenging and depends entirely on the prevailing breezes – either south westerly or south easterly to easterly. There is less current in the Tasman for the second half so the breeze becomes a more dominant factor.
A strong south westerly will propel us towards the cape while a strong easterly breeze may force to row towards the lower half of the north island and hug the west coast of New Zealand.
This level of planning ahead ensures that we have sufficient warm clothing on board so if we do find ourselves at cooler, lower latitudes then we can get better quality rest and recovery.
The good news is that for a strong easterly breeze (which would require rowing into headwinds – not ideal) to develop, it requires a large high pressure system to form in the lower Tasman, which is a rarity in spring time.
Fingers crossed that the westerly winds we need to send us home and round the top of New Zealand materialise by the time we reach 161 degrees East.