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
"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
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
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.
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