The sailing master of Skandia has confirmed that the 98-footer from the Mornington Yacht Club in Victoria is still holding a narrow lead from New Zealand’s super maxi Zana with about 85 miles to sail to the finish of the Rolex Sydney Hobart Yacht Race.
At 5pm this evening, Ian ‘Barney’ Walker, a previous two-time line honours and three-time handicap winner of the ocean classic predicted a “boat for boat” finish up the Derwent River in the early hours of tomorrow morning.
Walker said that the two boats are sailing in smooth seas in moderate breezes and the crew is getting as much rest as possible in expectation of a long night ahead.
“There is still a long way to go,” he said. “No one is down and out, and both boats will be locked together as they come up the Derwent River”.
“We are not confident that the Derwent River is going to be that friendly,” he added, referring to the notoriously fickle 11 nautical mile stretch of water that has decided the winner in the final few miles of the 638 nautical mile race.
Walker described the conditions overnight as “horrendous” and the pressure from Zana as relentless but admitted the trip so far had been “remarkably hassle free for the boat and crew”, with just a minor knee injury last night to Andrew Henderson the only incident amongst the crew.
The only thing that could upstage a Skandia and Zana finale is a surprise appearance by Sean Langman’s 66-footer Grundig AAPT. At the moment though, no one knows quite where she is.
Communication with Grundig AAPT have been difficult due to weather and technical problems aboard the yacht.
The families of the three frontrunners Skandia, Zana and Grundig are hovering nervously around the Hobart waterfront anxiously awaiting news of an ETA for the first boat to finish.
When told that the Rolex Media Centre was contacting Skandia this afternoon for an update, Grant Wharington’s mother asked staff to pass on a special message from her.
“If you’re talking to him tell him to hurry home”.