The line honours winner of the 2021 Rolex Sydney Hobart Yacht Race should be known early tomorrow morning, so long as the wind does not shut down on the Derwent River.
At 4pm today, the three 100-footers – Black Jack, LawConnect and SHK Scallywag – were sailing at 10 to 14 knots and south of Cape Sonnerat in first, second and third places respectively.
An approximate expectation is of a 2am finish for the first yacht, but that could drastically change if the wind suddenly stops on the Derwent River, which Sydney Hobart history has shown does happen to the frustration of all.
With 90 nautical miles to go in the Cruising Yacht Club of Australia’s 628 nautical mile race, Peter Harburg’s Black Jack still led by 10 nautical miles over Christian Beck’s LawConnect.
Third, and 14 miles back, was Seng Huang Lee’s SHK Scallywag 100, skippered by David Witt.Fourth and 72 nautical miles back was the Botin 80, Stefan Racing, skippered by co-owner Grant Wharington.
Meanwhile, David Griffith’s JV62 Whisper was in fifth place, but 102 nautical miles behind.
The Rolex Sydney Hobart fleet is still numbered at 52. This included 10 Two-Handed Division entries after one, Rogue Wave, withdrew earlier this morning, due to boat damage.
CYCA Commodore, Noel Cornish, said a 10 to 14 knot local easterly was raising hopes of a 2am finish. “There’s a really good breeze. They’re coming home fast now,” Cornish said.
“So, we’ll anticipate about 2am. Of course, if at some stage the breeze shuts down, which it can do, then that’ll be delayed a little bit; but that’s our best information at the moment.
“It will be a thrilling finish. Black Jack and LawConnect are so close to each other. They’re obviously having a great battle out there.
“We couldn’t pick [a line honours winner] at the moment … no one’s established supremacy on the race track there.
“I suspect it’ll be all the way across Storm Bay and maybe into the Derwent before we see, obviously, someone get out in front.”
The Commodore said it will be “like the race starts all over again,” if Black Jack and LawConnect remain locked as they are for the 11 nautical mile run up the Derwent River.
“They’ve all battled in the first day and a half, and they’ve got down the Tasmanian coast now,” he said.
“They could have a neck and neck battle all the way up the Derwent.”
Cornish would not tip one 100-footer over the other as the likely line honours winner.
“I’ve heard the owners talk that Black Jack is lighter and would go better in lighter conditions; and that LawConnect is a better boat, wider, in the heavier conditions,” Cornish said.
“How that plays out in reality, I don’t know.
“We should know later tonight. Often the Derwent does shut down at night, and if that’s going to happen, it often happens around 10pm.
“We just don’t know. It’s one of the reasons why this yacht race is such a challenge. It’s one of the reasons that attracts people to it.
“You’ve got to deal with these variable conditions and you never really know until you can see that finish line how you are going to go,” the Commodore said from the benefit of 12 Sydney Hobarts.
“I’ll just be thrilled for whoever wins and just excited to be here with them.”
However, Cornish would not rule out the chances of SHK Scallywag 100 finishing fast and making a late bid for victory either.
“It really does depend on that weather pattern. Scallywag can really come through from behind,” he said.
“A number of us have been parked in Storm Bay or parked on the Derwent watching on the tracker as our competitors come down the coast in breeze.
“So, Scallywag is still there. Stefan Racing is still there. Whisper has been on their tail all the way through. It’s going to be an exciting finish.”
Rupert Guinness/RSHYR Media