Ichi Ban in strong position to defend Sydney Hobart title as winds go light over night

The Rolex Sydney Hobart fleet slowed over night as the north-easterlies weakened, but the race leaders maintained their positions.

Matt Allen's Botin 52 Ichi Ban is in a strong position to defend its handicap title, holding a lead of more than 90 minutes on corrected time over Ron O'Hanley's Cookson 50 Privateer, which is the leading international yacht. Next comes Bruce Taylor's Chutzpah, a boat that is always in the mix, and the equally well-campaigned Winning Apliances, Patrice and Hollywood Boulevard.

The battle for line honours also sees “the usual suspects” at the pointy end, with Comanche holding a 3.7nm lead over Wild Oats XI at 6am EADT. Both boats were south of Gabo island and, at current speeds, are expected in Hobart in the early hours of Friday morning. Black Jack holds third place, ahead of Infotrack and Alive (the former Black Jack).

Chris Links reported from Wild Oats XI this morning: “We crossed tacks with Comanche a couple of times this morning between 3 and 4am. We can just see Black Jack too. There’s nothing in it. We’re doing 18 knots in a northerly of 15 knots. We’re on the edge of Bass Strait – entering it.”

Links conceded, “This is the closest race we’ve been in – we’ve been in close races with Comanche before, but never been in such a close race with four of us.”

The weather pattern so far has lived up to predictions, delivering favourable conditions to the bigger boats. The first eight on the leaderboard are from IRC 1, 0 and 2, with the first Division 3 boat, Zoe Taylor's Cookson 12, Grace O'Malley, currently in ninth. The smaller boats are suffering badly in these conditions, with the Division 4 leader, Midnight Rambler, way down in 42nd position.

Carl Crafoord reported from his and Tim Horkings’ Sail Exchange this morning:  “We are going great,” he said from 10th overall. “We’re first in Division (3). We’re gybing in current, 30 miles off Bermagui with Enterprise (the modified Farr 40 owned by Anthony Kirke). All well on board – we’ve had a good night.”

The division leaders at present are:

IRC 0: Privateer, Alive, Wild Oats X.

IRC 1: Ichi Ban, Winning Appliances, Hollywood Boulevard.

IRC 2: Chutzpah, Patrice, Smuggler.

IRC 3: Grace O'Malley, Sail Exchange, 2 Unlimited.

IRC 4:Midnight Rambler, Mayfair, Trumpcard.

ORCi: Ichi Ban, Voodoo, Chutzpah.

PHS: Helsal 3, Flying Fish Arctos, Pekljus.

Corinthian: Cinquante, Dare Devil, Lunatix.

There have been three retirements. Zen (rig damage) and Scallywag (broken bow sprit) retired shortly after the start. Overnight, Patriot suffered a broken rudder and M3 Team Hungary was dismasted. Further reports on the situation of these yachts will be provided when more details are known.

The wind on the south coast of NSW has died overnight, averaging around 5 to 6 knots at Montague Island, but fresher northerlies are predicted for the daylight hours, rising to 25 knots by nightfall on the second day.

To check the latest positions click here.

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