In all likelihood, sometime this evening skipper Ken Read, his crew and owners Jim Clark and Kristy Hinze-Clark will be the toast of Hobart, celebrating a line honours triumph that 24 hours ago seemed impossible.
With 150 miles to go Comanche is almost 16 miles ahead of Rambler, while any potential challenge from the last standing Australian supermaxi Ragamuffin 100 appears to have evaporated with the morning mist. She trails Rambler by 34 miles, unable to take anything out of the wounded Americans overnight.
It does look like a podium finish for Syd Fischer, though. As the winds lightened the Italian V70 Maserati was always going to struggle, and after an absorbing duel with Rags yesterday she now trails the three leaders by another 11 miles.
But all eyes will be on Comanche today. This will be a truly famous victory.
In the middle of the race’s wild first night southerly bashathon Ken Read was considering going home? Something had taken off most of Comanche’s starboard side dagger-board and rudder. Read told the Race Director at the Cruising Yacht Club in Sydney it was all over.
But then he decided that they had come so far, damned if they wouldn’t finish this race. He called Sydney back.
Read figured a win was pretty much off the table: Rambler had scooted past and was steadily pulling away. Right up to the moment that she, too, hit something, suffering remarkably similar damage to her rival. The game was back on.
And it is not over yet.
The forecast is for very light westerlies along the Tasmanian coast. The cliffs will cast a big wind shadow, and as the race leaders approach Tasman for the turn into Storm Bay later this afternoon it looks as though there could be a very large parking lot planted just above the island. These are minefields for front runners. You don’t know if you have run out of air until you really have run out of air, and as you wallow in frustration you are a big road sign for the boats behind: Danger, Keep Out.
As the race for line honours enters the final stage the contest for the outright win is starting to take shape, favouring the smaller boats at the other end of the race track. The four race leaders, King Billy, Wild Rose, Courrier Leon (this year’s Fastnet winner) and Mayfair have only recently stepped into Bass Strait, with Rambler the best placed of the big boats, in fifth place.
The lead will chop and change quite a bit today but if these early standings hold we will most likely have to wait another two days before we know who won the race.
Another three yachts retired overnight: Local Hero, Trybooking.com and Avalanche, the Victorian Hick 40 launched just weeks ago. This brings the total number of withdrawals to 32
Jim Gale, RSHYR Media