Comanche skipper Jim Cooney is preparing for an additional responsibility at the start of the Sydney to Hobart and feels greater apprehension than he did before last year's race.
While Comanche is the line honours favourite, she has four other supermaxis striving to stop her going back-to-back.
The Australia trio of Wild Oats XI, Black Jack and InfoTrack, all of which contested the 2017 race, have been joined by Hong Kong's Sun Hung Kai Scallywag, which finished third in 2016.
"I think there's definitely more apprehension, the fact that there's five big boats that are all very capable and everybody has been working on improving their performance across the range," Cooney said.
'We're seeing the boats all performing a little bit more equally than ever before, so it makes for a tighter race and that makes your decisions all the more important."
Decision-making will be at the forefront of Cooney's mind at the start of the race.
Jimmy Spithill drove the boat at the beginning of the 2017 race, but the America's Cup star had to withdraw from this year's event after suffering an elbow tendon injury in preparation.
"This will be the first time I've driven Comanche at the start (of a Sydney to Hobart). I've driven all my other boats across the line, but it will be a little bit different,' Cooney said. .
'It's always a bit nerve racking in the last few hours before we get out there thinking 'OK, what do I have to remember, what's the bail out tactic, what do I need to be careful of?'
"So probably the start is what's most on my mind, everything else we're very comfortable with."
While he strives to steer Comanche into the best possible place on the starting line, Cooney will keep an eye on what the other four supermaxis are doing.
'We certainly need to look where they are because once you are across the line you have to be aware it's a chess game," Cooney said.
"You have to predict what the next move is going to be."
SYDNEY TO HOBART YACHT RACE BY THE NUMBERS
.. Size of 2018 fleet: 85
.. Biggest fleet:- 371 (1994, the 50th race)
.. Smallest fleet: 9 (1945, the inaugural race)
..Average size of fleets: 1945-2017 -: 81
.. Most line honours wins: Wild Oats XI - Eight
.. Most overall wins: Freya, Love & War - Three
.. Line honours record time: Comanche - One day 9 hours, 15 minutes, 24 seconds (2017)
.. Slowest time: Wayfarer - 11 days, six hours, 20 minutes (1945)
.. Closest finish: Condor beat Apollo by seven seconds (1982)
.. Most races by any boat: Bacardi - 28
.. Most races by an individual: Tony Cable - 51
.. Most races by a woman: Adrienne Cahalan - 26
.. Most successive races: Lindsay May - 45 (1973-2017)