Having the comeback king himself – James Spithill – on board must have been a good omen for the giant American supermaxi Comanche. After suffering daggerboard and rudder damage during last night's storm and losing the lead to the smaller Rambler 88, the Big Indian took back the lead just before 1pm EADT.
Comanche was in deep trouble off the NSW south coast after midnight, when it appeared she would have to withdraw completely after, as skipper Ken Read put it, she “probably hit something”. That “something” all but wiped out a rudder and daggerboard on one side of the boat (she has a rudder and daggerboard on each side).
But in the spirit of his pursuit of a Rolex Sydney Hobart line honours victory, Read chose to sail on, to continue into Bass Strait and chase down Rambler. It took 13 hours.
“We decided to punch on through. We think we can get to Hobart safely,” Read said. “I don’t care if we limp over the line. We are going to finish this damned race.”
At last report Comanche was half a mile in front of George David's Rambler, sailing at more than 15 knots into a moderate south-south-easterly wind. Her position was 113nm south east of Gabo Island. For all positions go to the tracker: http://www.rolexsydneyhobart.com/tracker/
Syd Fischer's Ragamuffin is the only remaining Australian hope for line honours after the withdrawal of Wild Oats XI, Perpetual Loyal and Black Jack. “Rags” was 34nm behind Comanche at time of writing.
With winds expected to go soft over night, positions will change dramatically in the battle for the Tattesall's Cup (Handicap honours). The current leader is Eric De Turckheim's Teasing Machine from Switzerland, ahead of the Victorian Primitive Cool and Maserati from Italy.
Another international is leading the small boats in Division 4. Gery Trentesaux's Courrier Leon leads last year's winner Wild Rose (NSW) and Mayfair from Queensland.
In the Corinthian Division, for boats with no paid professionals on board, it is an all Australian affair at the top of the leaderboard. The Beneteau 45 Black Sheep leads Wild Rose and Ocean Affinity.
In the one-design Clippers, local skipper Wendy Tuck holds a commanding 7.2nm lead over her closest rival Mission Performance.
There have now been 20 withdrawals from the 108 strong fleet that fronted the starter.
– Roger McMillan, with material from RSH Media