Comanche and Oats close on Loyal and Ragamuffin as night falls

After five hours of the 2014 Rolex Sydney-Hobart, less than four nautical miles separates the four leaders. Comanche and Wild Oats have closed on the shoreline and on the race leaders Perpetual Loyal and Ragamuffin.

Just after 6pm on Boxing Day, Loyal still led the race by 1.8nm from Rags but Comanche had closed to within 1nm of second place. Wild Oats XI continues to follow every move the big red-and-black American boat makes and is only 1.1nm further back. All four 100ft super-maxis were off the coast of Nowra.

Peter Isler, on Manouch Moshayedi’s RIO 100 reports that conditions are certainly testing on the big American super maxi. “We are definitely learning our boat in these conditions. It's very rough, sailing upwind in 25-27 knots of wind and pounding hard into short steep waves

“The yachts are all on port tack, but given our current angles everyone will have to be thinking about taking a short starboard tack as we get close on the beach,” he added. “It’s like riding a bucking bronco. These are boat breaking conditions, though we expect the wind to ease by midnight. Until then though we will hang on and keep pushing.”

The internationals lead IRC, with Jim Delegat's Volvo 70 Giacomo (NZL) ahead of Richard Dobbs' Titania of Cowes (GBR). Ian Creak's Osreo from New South Wales is the first Australian boat but there is less than 10 minutes separating the top 20 boats on handicap.

So far there have been four retirements, the first two occurring only a few hours into the race. Tina of Melbourne fell off a wave and suffered hull damage. The Bear Necessity suffered rudder damage and is heading home to Balmain.

At around 1500 hours Occasional Coarse Language Too suffered steering problems while in the top three on corrected time and 40 minutes later Willyama reported a torn mainsail and is also returning to her home on Sydney Harbour.

“We fell off a large wave and noticed water coming in through a seam near the front of the boat. Two years of hard work down the drain,” Tina of Melbourne's owner Andy Doolan said on docking at the CYCA this afternoon. “We were trucking along nicely, just settling into the race. The sea was very confused though and we fell off a wave.

“I guess we’ll have a shower and have the damage assessed,” Doolan added, searching for the positives. “We’ve got a chef and restaurateur on board – the catering is five-star. We had boeuf bourguignon for lunch and were looking forward to a chicken cassoulet for dinner – we’ve got lots of food to get through.”

Current standings can be found here while the tracker can be viewed here

– Roger McMillan, Editor, with quotes supplied by CYCA.

Update at 6.30pm: Comanche has closed the gap completely and the tracker shows her just ahead of Loyal.

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