Sydney to Auckland Ocean Race 2023 – make for the corner

Four of the five competitors elected to go the Southern side of the Rhumb Line in the dash to the top of New Zealand. By and large, you’d have to say it paid. Painkiller, the Bavaria 51 from the Royal Sydney Yacht Squadron was the one exception, but they may have been on a slightly different mission, namely fishing, so that could well explain that.

The crews report that those affected have got past the early seasickness, and are now charging hard. Frantic would be the one to have done the most in that regard, and is all over the significantly larger Antipodes. The two vessels representing the Cruising Yacht Club of Australia are virtually neck and neck, with the early TP52 holding on to the slenderest of leads for now, and just at that.

As expected, the wind abated somewhat and went into a Southerly to Sou’sou’westerly trend and something in the order of 8-15 knots, accompanied by a Sou’westery swell of some 3m or so. This will be advantageous to drive the boats back up to the Rhumb Line and their turning mark atop New Zealand (just look out for the Manawatāwhi/Three Kings Islands), before they make down the East coast of the North Island and into home at Auckland, which for the leaders could well be later tomorrow.

The transitions have been interesting, with some crews reporting nearly no breeze as the stiff Sou’easterly gave way to the slightly warmer winds under the high pressure. Another shift is expected tomorrow that sees the wind clock even further right to the West and even Nor’west, and abate to light conditions overall, under dry but cloudy skies.

On Friday the winds are expected to strengthen once more for that predominantly Nor’west direction, before clocking back left to the Sou’west under a new line of low pressure. You would think Intiy from the host club, the Royal Prince Alfred Yacht Club will be best placed to capitalise on this. The Two-Handed crew have some ground to get back off the full crewed Mayfair from the Royal Queensland Yacht Squadron that is around 242nm ahead of them. They have done just over 200nm in the last 24 hours, so that is commendable for short-handed and a 36-footer at that. 

Painkiller is some 488nm astern of the leader, and 161nm behind Intiy, so they would be wanting to use that Nor’wester to really drive them down to the turning mark.

Apart from watchkeeping, life on board always comes back to food. Sandwiches, coffee are mainstays. Mayfair’s Navigator Steve Taylor said, “Highlight so far has been the food, dinner and breakfast absolutely delicious. Reaching along in 16-18 knots, and also just found the stash of chocolate croissants so don’t worry about us!”

Painkiller went gourmet with Spaghetti Bolognese and salad to accompany a relaxed and comfortable ride under reefed main and jib, and added to the comedy by noting, “We do feel some sympathy for our fellow competitors who would have experienced a challenging night, constantly tweaking and re-adjusting sails as we were snug in our bunks,” said Scott Alle.

RPAYC Commodore Rob McClelland said, “What a great race. They have had something from just about all of the true, blue water manual – blast reaching, becalmed (or nearly so), huge shifts, and fresh to conditions to downright cold. Hard charging in the cold and wet gave way to sail changes to cope with the transitions, and then good rolling swells helped to push them all along.”
“Our partners at the Royal Akarana Yacht Club look set to see the leaders very soon. For those further back in the fleet it looks some more changes in conditions are about to beset you, so it is great you have had plenty of practice at it now as to be totally ready.”

The welcome team on the dock comprises, Race Director Nick Elliott, Commodore of the RAYC Nick Hanson, and RPAYC members, Rear Commodore Robert Alpe, Rear Commodore Kirsty Hunter, and Mary-Anne Guerin.
After clearance by Customs the crews will receive Steinlager beer, a new, and very special, ‘I conquered the Tasman’ T-Shirt to mark the occasion, as well as the obligatory and eagerly awaited hot shower. The winner under IRC will also receive the Sir Lipton Cup Perpetual Trophy.

View the live tracker HERE

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