As expected, Jim Cooney’s LDV Comanche is leading the line honours race on the first morning of the 2017 Rolex Sydney Hobart, making the most of a strong north-easterly wind in Bass Strait and well ahead of the race record set by Perpetual LOYAL (now racing as InfoTrack) last year.
At 4am, just 15 hours into the Cruising Yacht Club of Australia’s 628 nautical mile race, LDV Comanche was already more than 50 miles south of Gabo Island, sailing at consistent speeds of 20 to 25 knots, and 48 miles ahead of the position last year’s record breaker, was in at this time of the race.
In fact the leading six yachts are all ahead of the record pace, including last year’s overall winner, Giacomo, now racing as Wizard for American brothers Peter and David Askew.
This is an astonishingly fast race, as was predicted on start day.
What was not expected though, is that in these conditions, which are perfect for the big, powerful LDV Comanche, her rival super maxis Wild Oats XI and Black Jack would not only be so close to LDV Comanche at this stage, Wild Oats XI has actually taken a little time out of the big black and red leader overnight.
At 5.50am, Wild Oats XI is 14 miles behind LDV Comanche. Late on the first night she was trailing by more than 20 miles.
Black Jack is a further 20 miles astern of Wild Oats XI, Beau Geste another 10 miles, then another 3 miles astern lies InfoTrack. The V70 Wizard is just 2 miles further from Hobart and then comes Wild Oats XI’s little brother, Wild Oats X, some distance back and not yet into Bass Strait.
In these conditions it was feared that LDV Comanche would just blast away from her rivals. Their challenge at this stage was to stay in touch so that when conditions lightened in the final leg of the race they would be close enough to try to haul her back in on the Derwent River. Wild Oats XI and Black Jack are meeting the challenge.
It is always good to be in front, but Wild Oats XI is putting enormous pressure on the leader, as is Black Jack. Any mistake on LDV Comanche will not go unpunished.
In these great running conditions, the remainder of the fleet is strung out along the rhumbline, the shortest route to Hobart. This is a flat out drag race. No-one is wandering too far from the pack looking for better breeze further out to sea this year.
The TP52s are having a ball. Celestial (Sam Haines) skippered by Sean Kirkjian, Quest (Bob Steel), Ichi Ban (Matt Allen) and Rockall (Christopher Opielok) are in the top five overall, but it is early days and they are not having it all their way. Craig Carter’s Carkeek 46, Indian (WA), is leading the charge for the Tattersall Cup, doing her best to rain on the TP52 parade.
Basically, the further south a boat is, the more wind it is getting, and the breeze across Bass Strait throughout the day is going to be strong, in the 25 to 35 knot range. Fantastic for fast planing, but in winds this strong, the super-maxis and the TP52s are an exhausting handful. Keeping the boat in one piece will be day’s great challenge for every crew in the fleet.
By Jim Gale, RSHYR media