The quest for line honours in the Rolex Sydney Hobart Yacht Race is wide open – judging by positions at the first position schedule (“sked”) with the fleet at 8pm tonight.
Sailing In a 15 knot easterly breeze, pre-race line honours favorite Alfa Romeo is storming down the NSW South Soast at the head of the fleet, passing Jervis Bay around 6:30pm.
Alfa Romeo, Neville Crichton’s Reichel/Pugh 90-footer, has been reaching down the coast at speeds of 10 and 11 knots, and is only two miles behind Nokia’s position at the same time on day one of her record breaking run in 1999.
But it is a narrow lead.
The British maxi Canon (ex Leopard of London) remains in second place and just three miles astern of Alfa Romeo.
The fact that she has so successfully held on to Alfa Romeo in these conditions must be delighting her owner/skipper Mike Slade, who will be hoping that as the wind swings north over the next twelve hours it will also freshen.
This should allow him to take advantage of Canon’s longer (97-feet) waterline length while reducing his water ballast, bringing the luxury yacht’s weight closer to her Australasian rival.
Seven miles behind Canon is Grant Wharington’s downwind flyer Australian Skandia Wild Thing, closely followed by Nicorette (Ludde Ingvall), Grundig (Sean Langman) and George Snow’s traditional favourite, Brindabella.
Just 11 miles separate the first four boats, so the race for line honours is wide open, and there is still a chance of a record.
So for now a race that began as a pure drag race up Sydney Harbour remains just that as the fleet powers down the NSW coast.
The expected wind shift to the north has not yet eventuated, but is likely to arrive early tomorrow, with a mild southerly front due to meet the front runners Friday afternoon.
This will change the nature of what, so far, has been a straightforward test of boat speed into a more tactical affair, and with the lead contingent so closely packed local knowledge could well help the Australian boats trailing the big New Zealand and British maxis.
In contrast to previous years the benign conditions have seen no further retirements since the event packed start.
The sole Queensland contender Trumpcard is back at the Cruising Yacht Club after her stern was rammed just seconds from the start by Loki while Tasmanian Tony Lyall ponders whether he can salvage his badly damaged Valheru.
Valheru was badly holed as she left Sydney when the joint French Australian Peugot Racing rounded up, out of control because of a jammed mainsheet, slicing her midships.
Rolex Sydney Hobart Media Centre (02) 9327 5867 or email – firstname.lastname@example.org