• Wild Oats XI Rolex Sydney Hobart race 2013 - photo Brett Costello.
    Wild Oats XI Rolex Sydney Hobart race 2013 - photo Brett Costello.
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Despite its carbon fibre hydrofoil wing breaking off while surfing down waves at speeds in the early hours of this morning, the Mark Richards skippered Wild Oats XI is on the run in the Cruising Yacht Club of Australia’s Land Rover Sydney Gold Coast Yacht Race, keeping her rivals at bay; same size super-maxi, Perpetual LOYAL is around10 nautical miles adrift and struggling to overtake her rival.

Travelling at speeds averaging 18 knots, but surging into the 20’s at 8.15am today, crew member Rob Mundle said the loss of the wing at around 1.30am would make “a significant difference to the boat speed - we would be going faster with it – but there’s no panic on board, we’re sailing as fast as we can. We were surfing off waves and it snapped off.”

“We’re off Yamba at the moment and can see LOYAL around 8 miles behind and Black Jack in the distance. We’re struggling to lay Byron Bay, but will know later whether we will or not,” he said of the boat which is sailing in a west/sou’ westerly breeze with an expectation of reaching the Main Beach finish line after 130pm this afternoon.

Richards, along with the bulk of the 55-boat fleet has sailed Wild Oats marginally closer to the coast, with Anthony Bell’s Perpetual LOYAL, carrying Aussie cricket captain Michael Clarke, 10 nautical miles astern. Peter Harburg’s Black Jack from Queensland is a further 5 miles behind, sailing a course closer to the coast off Coffs Harbour.

At 8.00am, Bell reported from Perpetual LOYAL: “We’re about 10 miles behind Wild Oats and unfortunately the current wind direction doesn’t allow for any passing lanes. I’m about to have a meeting with Michael Coxon (his tactician) and Tom (Addis, navigator) about what we can do. Getting stuck in the parking lot on Sydney Harbour yesterday didn’t help.”

Bell said they had just passed Coffs Harbour “and we’re choosing to stay offshore a bit. We’re struggling to find anything tactically we can do to pass Wild Oats. Conditions will mean everything now – we’re happy though – the boat’s moving along nicely at 19.5 knots.

On Aussie cricket captain, Michael Clarke’s maiden offshore race, Bell said: “He’s doing really well. He’s such a great team person. He’s running round the boat doing anything he can to help. His energy is unflagging.”

Before setting sail, Clarke admitted he got seasick and had a fear of sharks. When asked how he was coping, Bell said: “He hasn’t been sick at all; the conditions have been pretty good though. He did fly out of his bunk late last night, but no damage done. The guys have been teasing him about seeing sharks, but he’s yet to see a real one!”

Fourth on line and a further 40 miles behind, Adrienne Cahalan, the navigator on Matt Allen’s Carkeek 60, Ichi Ban said at 7.05am this morning: “We’re abeam of Smokey Cape. Conditions are fantastic under spinnaker, fast, and the sea is smooth. We’re hoping this south-westerly will stay in around 15 knots or above for most of the day.”

Only late yesterday afternoon, Adrienne Cahalan said from Ichi Ban: “Very slow couple of hours, but we’re all moving now up the coast. We knew it would be a tricky afternoon as the trough moved offshore. Patience.”

Behind the top four, the race is on to take the race out overall and with the bulk of the fleet bunched fairly tightly, with few miles separating the yachts, it is a lottery. By tomorrow, the picture should be clearer, but right now Tony Kirby’s new Ker 46, Patrice, leads the charge from the 2013 Rolex Sydney Hobart winner, Victoire (Darryl Hodgkinson) and Sam Hayne’s Rogers 46, Celestial.

But there is still a long way to go in the 29th edition of the 384 nautical mile race got underway yesterday in light airs.

The CYCA’s proven yacht tacker system is allowing family, friends and yachting enthusiasts to follow the race and their favourite yachts for its duration. Each yacht isfitted with a Yellowbrick tracker that will obtain a position using the GPS satellite network, and then transmit the position back to Yellowbrick HQ using the Iridium satellite network.

Each yacht’s position is then visualised on the race yacht tracker map,or overlaid on Google Earth. In addition, the yacht tracker system also shows distance to finish line and progressive corrected time positions under the IRC, ORCi and PHS handicap divisions.

By Di Pearson, CYCA Media

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