This morning at 5.30am, the super maxis were dancing a close tango in a weak southerly east of Green Cape, and while Jim Cooney’s Comanche might still be in front of the pack in the Rolex Sydney Hobart Yacht Race, anything could and probably will happen, as Seng Huang Lee’s SHK Scallywag is just one mile adrift of the leader.
Behind the pair, Black Jack (Peter Harburg), InfoTrack (Christian Beck) and Wild Oats XI (the Oatley family) are only six miles astern of the leaders, with little more than 5 nautical miles between them in the Cruising Yacht Club of Australia’s 75th running of the 628-nautical-mile race.
As the boat speeds vary between 5.5 knots and 10 knots, the famous five are sailing well off the coast, being chased by the newest addition to the race, URM, the Reichel/Pugh 72 owned by Anthony Johnston (formerly Neville Crichton’s Shockwave), is dicing with Wild Oats XI – there is nothing between them.
Last year’s winner, Alive (Phil Turner, Tas); Naval Group (Sean Langman, NSW), Maserati (Jacek Siwek/Jacek Piotrowski, Poland); Chinese Whisper (David Griffith, NSW); the 2017 winner Ichi Ban (Matt Allen’s TP52, NSW); No Limit (David Gotze, Vic), and the 2008 and 2015 winner Quest (Bob Steel/Craig Neill’s TP52, NSW) are all right on Wild Oats XI’s transom this morning.
And while the tracker is indicating a finish on 29 December, this will change again as the next transition of wind comes through. The Bureau of Meteorology is predicting a north to north easterly wind of 10 to 20 knots down the south coast this morning, moving into the north-east this afternoon at 15 to 25 knots, reaching 30 knots at times.
Should this prediction eventuate, it will have the effect of letting the super maxis play their escape cards again and give Comanche her head once more.
At this early stage, the classic yachts are having their moment in the sun, with Bill Barry-Cotter’s Katwinchar leading the race for the Tattersall Cup. Barry-Cotter is not aboard, instead his brother Kendal has been left in charge of the oldest boat in the history of the race – the ketch was built in 1904.
Behind her are the S&S 48, Windrose (Ashok Mani, Tas); Komatsu Azzurro (Shane Kearns, NSW); Natelle Two (Laura Roper, Tas) and three-time race winner, Love & War (Simon Kurts, NSW).
Last evening, Will Oxley reported from Ichi Ban, “All well on board. We are having close racing with Envy Scooters; the previous Ichi Ban. We’re expecting things to lighten considerably, around 1900 tonight, but for now we are ripping.”
Aboard Tim Gadsby’s Filepro from Bellerive Yacht Club in Tasmania, the crew were enjoying the earlier part of their race: “Sunny afternoon out here, having a sneaky send in 25-30 knots of breeze,” Gadsby said from aboard the 1993 Sydney Hobart winner, the formerly named Cuckoos Nest.
“Downstairs is like a sauna, and every now and then we turn into a submarine. The navigation team is downstairs plotting our next tactical move.”
Two yachts have retired from the race; both late yesterday afternoon. Ray Roberts’ Hollywood Boulevard (NSW) broke her rudder, while the Inglis 38, Faster Forward (Matt Fahey, Vic), sustained steering damage. All aboard both boats are fine.
Down in Hobart, the locals and those from the race’s finishing partner, the Royal Yacht Club of Tasmania (RYCT), eagerly await the arrival of the fleet.
“Every year, every Sydney Hobart is a celebration, but this year even more so, being the 75th running. We look forward to welcoming each and every yacht, day or night. We wish every yacht safe and successful sailing, and see you in Hobart for the celebrations,” Tracy Matthews, the RYCT Commodore said.
To follow the race and for all information, please go to: http://rolexsydneyhobart.com/
By Di Pearson, RSHYR media