The super maxis were still dancing a tango in the battle for line honours leadership in the Rolex Sydney Hobart Yacht Race this afternoon as the fleet sailed on towards night two.
As the super maxis were about to begin their crossing of Bass Strait, Comanche (Jim Cooney) and SHK Scallywag (David Witt) were in a two-way battle for the lead in a fleet that numbers 155, following the withdrawal Hollywood Boulevard and Faster Forward soon after Thursday’s spectacular start in Sydney Harbour.
Comanche had a marginal lead in the 75th edition of Cruising Yacht Club of Australia's Rolex Sydney Hobart and at 12.50pm there were just 14 nautical miles separating the five super maxis, which were sailing south-east of Gabo Island.
Peter Harburg’s Black Jack and Christian Beck’s InfoTrack are still leading the defending line honours champion, Wild Oats XI, which has struggled to keep pace with the front pack.
The surprise package of the race to-date has been Anthony Johnston’s 72-foot URM, which is fifth in line honours and has been dogged in its challenge to Wild Oats XI.
Meanwhile on overall standings, the first three positions were held by TP52 yachts.
In first place was Craig Neil and Bob Steel’s Quest, ahead of Stay Calm Hungary skippered by Aron Ormandlaki, followed by Matt Allen’s 2017 winner Ichi Ban.
The hours preceding 1pm saw the lead chop and change in the race for line honours and overall. Who may lead either category going into the second night is still wide open.
However, more changes were expected as the next wind transition was to come. The Bureau of Meteorology predicted that a north to north-easterly wind of 10 to 20 knots down the south coast would become a 30 to 40 knot north-easterly at around 4pm today.
While the race for line honours should be decided by tomorrow afternoon, the excitement over who will win the race overall for the Tattersall Cup is set to build for much longer.
Sean Langman, skipper of the Reichel/Pugh 69, Naval Group, has seen both races unfold first hand due to his proximity with the fleet leaders. Naval Group started this year’s 75th race on the first line along with the super maxis. However, his main goal is to win the race overall.
He said the race for every boat has become challenging in fluctuating but lighter winds.
“We started out pretty well,” Langman said by satellite phone at about 12.30pm when his Naval Group was 15th on line honours and 32nd in the overall standings. “The last 10-12 hours have been pretty tough going for us – and a few other boats – including Wild Oats.
“We got pretty badly parked up and we lost about 20-25 miles from where we expected to be. But we’re back in fair winds now and chipping away at the guys who got a good break on us.
“Everyone worked pretty hard through the night. Obviously, you know, when you get a little bit of a setback, you’ve got to dig deep and work together as a team to get a better result.
“There were a few times where we were disappointed, but we know that everyone’s going to be in the same position at some stage, so [morale’s] not so bad.
“For us now, we’re at full main with a Code Zero and a J5, and we’re getting along in a fairly decent breeze of 11 knots heading straight at the mark. So, the next little while is really just making sure everyone is, you know, in good spirits and well fed, well rested and getting back into the boat race.”
By Rupert Guinness, RSHYR media