An edge-of-the-seat finale in the battle for line honours in the Rolex Sydney Hobart is a real prospect, with all five super maxis within contention as sunset fell over the fleet tonight.
At 1900 hours, the 2017 line honours winner and race record holder, Comanche (Jim Cooney/Samantha Grant) still led the 628-nautical-mile race, organised by the Cruising Yacht Club of Australia, as the fleet sailed into 30 knot east-nor-easterly winds.
But only 6.9 nautical miles blanketed Comanche and the next three super maxis – InfoTrack (Christian Beck), SHK Scallywag (Seng Huang Lee) and Black Jack (Peter Harburg) respectively.
Meanwhile, the defending line honours champion, Wild Oats XI (the Oatley family) had fought her way back up to fifth and from a 30-nautical-mile deficit is now six nautical miles behind Black Jack.
Wild Oats XI’s charge heightened the prospect of the race seeing all five super maxis fighting for the line honours win. Last year also produced a dramatic finish when the first four reached the Derwent River within sight of each other, and only 42 minutes separated them at the finish.
As always, speculation hung over when the first boat would finish this year, as the conditions could change easily. Awaiting the leaders also is the uncertainty of the Derwent River to the finish line off Castray Esplanade in Hobart, where many crews have seen their winning hopes scuppered there.
However, indications are that the first boat should reach Hobart on Saturday by lunchtime.
By Rupert Guinness, RSHYR media