As the fleet spreads out along the north west corner of Tasmania line honours leader Oskana is sprinting close inshore but behind her the battle for AMS handicap honours is being fought.
Leader at the moment on AMS is one of the three smallest boats in the fleet, Justin Brenan's Lidgard 36 Alien that is only four miles behind the other fleet tiddler, Whistler (David Aplin), an Mdb 36 design while the third 36 footer, Maverick is 13 miles behind. Aboard the double-handed Maverick it's been a trying night for Rod Smallman and Thomas Vaughan. “After an interesting night of chasing electrical gremlins, Maverick is up and away this morning. All fixed now, a faulty Bluetooth receiver would disengage autohelm randomly.” Without the autohelm moving the tiller, the two crew would get little rest, with one having to steer and another making the sail changes.
“The solution was found: unplug Bluetooth receiver. The downside is, no more stereo,” said an upbeat Smallman. Their Jeanneau Sunfast 3600 is an internationally proven design that's a winner of some major events including a China Cup and is particularly strong off the wind so they will be hoping for more northerly in the prevailing westerlies on this part of Tasmania. “Conditions have proven quite tricky with lots of light and variable winds. Nonetheless, the crew are happy, especially now the bean bag has made its way on deck!,” added Smallman.
Life on smaller race boats like these is bouncy so a particular challenge for the foredeck crew who have to man-handle the spinnakers and jibs while caring for their own safety. Currently life shouldn't be too bouncy for the bulk of the fleet that is experiencing light southwesterly winds as they make their way through the Fleurieu Group of islands.
Sadly, the first retirement has taken place, with Paul Bunn's Christine reporting engine trouble so the Beneteau 44.7 is being towed to Devonport. A yacht's engine is a key part of the system even when sailing as it must start to charge the batteries periodically, allowing the navigation and other electronics to run. A functioning engine is also part of the safety rules for participation in this Category 2 race. Bunn’s wife Lynn reported, “Paul is just devastated. I feel so sorry for him and the crew. The engine had recently been serviced, everything should have been fine.”
According to the ORCV race tracker (see below) race leader Oskana has 269 miles to the finish in Hobart, which may put her arrival around Saturday afternoon. But it's by no means plain sailing as she makes her way along a rocky lee shore for most way around the bottom of Tasmania, then has to navigate the rock and island strewn east coast. Another hazard here is static fishing gear and the huge kelp beds that can trap yachts. All part of the challenge that is the mighty 435 mile long West Coaster!
– Kevin Green and Jennifer McGuigan, ORCV media