Winning line honours may be the Sydney to Hobart yacht race's glamour trophy but securing overall victory remains the purist's holy grail.

The famous 628-nautical mile race is now so utterly dominated by cash and technology that only the largest and most expensive boats ever stand a chance of reaching Tasmania first.

And there's nothing wrong with that - line honours is an exciting, design-driven pursuit, not unlike modern Formula One racing.

But imagine Mark Webber's Red Bull car with all its modern gadgets going up against Ayrton Senna's late 1980s McLaren and you get an idea of the gulf between some of the Sydney-Hobart yachts.

To level the playing field the handicap system exists to ensure even the smallest vessels have a chance of overall victory - provided they sail brilliantly and have lady luck onboard.

The Tattersall's Cup is awarded to the yacht that finishes the race fastest, once boat size and other handicap factors are taken into consideration.

And that means dozens of ordinary skippers in this year's Sydney-Hobart, which starts on Boxing Day, can dream of reaching what is essentially the very top of their sport.

"The Tattersall's Cup is the pinnacle of sporting achievements," Wild Rose skipper Roger Hickman, the 1993 handicap winner, told AAP.

"To win an Australian championship is magnificent, to win an Olympic medal would be just amazing.

"But there's some things people can do and some things they can't.

"For me, winning the Tattersall's trophy is a possibility, albeit a very very very small one."

Hickman's 43-foot yacht is less than half the length of 2012 line honours favourite Wild Oats XI and has little in the way of its high-tech gadgets or cutting-edge design.

It's sailing partly to raise money for a children's cancer charity.

Yet the handicap system means it's totally in the running for overall victory.

And the same goes for at least another 25 boats in this year's 77 boat fleet including Matt Allen's Ichi Ban and Jim Cooney's Brindabella.

Black Jack, the 66-foot Reichel Pugh class yacht, is another contender and her skipper Mark Radford says good fortune plays as much of a role as good sailing.

"The wind can stop or change direction, which is the lottery part of ocean racing," he said.

"... I hate to say it but it's pretty much luck."

That will be particularly true this year, with a series of weather fronts expected to cause unpredictable winds once the Sydney-Hobart fleet reaches Bass Strait.

There's also a strong possibility that one of the super maxis like Wild Oats XI or Ragamuffin Loyal could take line honours and overall victory.

Wild Oats XI was the last boat to win both, in 2005.

But as always with the Sydney-Hobart, lady luck and mother nature will probably have the final say.