Plenty of challengers for Syd-Hob's overall champion

Sam Haynes' Celestial is vying for back-to-back Sydney to Hobart race overall handicap victories but a fleet of 119 other yachts stands in her way.

The skipper of the Sydney to Hobart race's latest overall winner Celestial believes there's no shortage of competitors that can challenge his boat's title defence.

One year after a time penalty cost her the trophy, Celestial won a maiden Tattersall Cup last December as the fastest boat to Constitution Dock on handicap.

The 52-footer is one of 120 yachts entered in this year's fleet ahead of the Boxing Day start and could become only the fourth boat to win overall honours in consecutive editions of the blue water classic.

His eyes on the trophy, skipper and owner Sam Haynes is most wary of fellow Transpac 52 yachts Caro and Smuggler, which finished third and ninth respectively on handicap last year.

Haynes is hoping for a fast, downwind race but knows those conditions could also play into the hands of some of his challengers.

"You're looking at Caro, obviously they're a similar-sized boat, extremely quick, they've got such an amazing track record over the last couple of years," Haynes told AAP.

"They pushed us all the way last year in the Hobart.

"Smuggler is going well this year, so that's another boat that we're definitely keeping an eye on because it's a very similar speed to us.

"We might have a slight edge on them in some conditions but the boats are super-close together. If we get conditions which suit us, it's going to suit Caro, it's going to suit Smuggler."

Whisper, which finished fifth on handicap in 2021 as Chinese Whisper, and 72-footer URM are both slightly bigger and in Haynes' sights.

Haynes believes three-time Tattersall Cup winner Love & War will pose a threat if the conditions fall her way.

"if it's a moderate up-wind race, those sort of boats are beating us the whole way," he said.

"It's very hard to get the time back, you have to have a reasonable amount of fast sailing for us to get time on those sorts of yachts."

But if last year's race taught Haynes anything, it was that anything can happen on the water, and that resilience is the ultimate measure of a boat's success.

Early on, Celestial damaged her mainsail and some aboard feared she would need to retire, or at the very least, resign herself to missing out on top honours.

"In the end we just put it aside and it worked out fine," Haynes said.

"Things are always going to go wrong in these races, nothing goes according to plan for the whole thing.

"It's being able to pick yourself back up, get back into it and have the guys around you to be able to do all of that.

"Something like a Hobart race, it's not over until it's over."