Line honors leader Wild Oats expected in early hours

At 1300 local time this morning Bob Oatley's Wild Oats XI had 100 miles to go to reach the finish line off Hobart's Constitution Dock where local experts are predicting she will arrive after midnight tonight. The latest update shows her to have a 13.8 mile lead over her other 30m rival, Grant Wharington's 2003 line honors winner, Skandia and 25.6 miles on Matt Allen's Volvo Open 70, Ichi Ban. The boats are half way down the east coast of Tasmania with Skandia inshore and Ichi Ban offshore.

In theory Wild Oats XI is in good shape to secure her second consecutive line honors win, but this is the Rolex Sydney Hobart and making predictions is always a dangerous affair. Before reaching the finish line, Wild Oats XI has still to round Tasman Island at the southeast corner of Tasmania where she will pass first Cape Pillar and then Cape Raoul, known for its famous vertical columns of rock known locally as the 'organ pipes'. From there the race leader must turn northwest and negotiate Storm Bay. Here in previous races, boats have been becalmed enabling those astern simply to sail around them although this is unlikely to occur this time with a southerly breeze forecast. Through Storm Bay the boats head for the mouth of the Derwent River leading up to Hobart where there is even greater chance of gusts, sudden wind shifts and calms.
WILD OATS XI sailing off Tasman Island. Photo by: Carlo Borlenghi/ Rolex.

"It is going to be pretty tough to catch them from here, but obviously we're hoping the wind will shut down in the river tonight and it will give us another chance," said Skandia skipper Grant Wharington this morning, his fingers crossed.

While yesterday Skandia broke her daggerboard and was expected to be overtaken by Ichi Ban overnight, Wharington and his crew have done an admirable job of hanging on to their position. This may have partly been due to the conditions overnight which at one stage saw the big blue and white maxi becalmed. "We just had a complete shut down on the breeze," confirmed Wharington. "When the boat speed reads 00.0 you know that that's three lemons and that its all going bad for you."

For around two hours the wind subsequently filled in from the east due to some thunderstorm activity associated with the weak cold front that was passing over them, allowing them briefly to make ground sailing downwind. However at this time Wharington reported they managed to split their jib top headsail. Fortunately they don't need this sail at present as the wind has returned to the south-southeast putting them hard on the wind.

The wind is forecast to be southerly all the way to the points on the south side of Tasman Island, and if this proves true then Wharington reckons they will have to put in another losing tack off to the east. This is not helped by their broken daggerboard. "We have about half the righting moment we would otherwise have so that makes the boat quite tippy and obviously we go a bit sideways as well. So not really ideal," said Wharington. Given this situation Wharington believes there is a good chance they will be caught by his old Volvo Open 70, now Matt Allen's Ichi Ban. "Everything is great. The boys are in good spirits. But they are very wary at this stage that the fat lady hasn't been sighted yet," he concluded.

Further offshore, the wind went light overnight for Ichi Ban, but they were not becalmed, although the wind also clocked right around. They were also able to hoist their downwind sails in the early hours this morning, but by dawn the wind had backed to the south-southeast blowing 14 knots.

Crewman and sail maker Michael Coxon, reported that this morning Skandia was still in sight. "I think we must have been coming down on different pressure because we were catching both her and Wild Oats until we got into the same wind pattern. We think that Skandia even with her damaged rudder is fast enough to hold us off."

Despite being further offshore than Skandia with a better angle into the coast, even Ichi Ban at present wasn't able to lay the southern end of Tasman Island, reported Coxon.

After a dramatic 24 hours of dismastings and a sinking, last night was quiet with no additional problems reported among the 69 boats that are still racing.

On handicap the lead has reverted to the smaller boats with Lou Abrahams, a veteran of 43 previous Hobarts races, ahead on his Sydney 38 Challenge, but only 14 minutes ahead on corrected time from Graeme Ainley and John Williams' Petersen 44 Bacardi. Simon Kurts' venerable 1974 and 1978 overall winner Love & War is third.

In the battle of the 50 footers, Geoff Ross' brand new Reichel Pugh 55 is leading on the water and on handicap in Division B, while Ray Roberts' Cookson 50 Quantum Racing is on top in the larger Division A.

Listen to recorded audio interviews from the Rolex Sydney Hobart Yacht Race:

For more information about the Rolex Sydney Hobart Yacht Race 2006 including updated position reports (every 10 minutes) please visit

All contents are copyright (c) 2006 by Northern Breezes, Inc. All information contained within is deemed reliable but carries no guarantees. Reproduction of any part or whole of this publication in any form by mechanical or electronic means, including information retrieval is prohibited except by consent of the publisher.