Wild Oats dogs Comanche as favourites extend their lead in darkness

“He followed like a bloodhound on their track” is a line from Banjo Patterson's famous poem The Man From Snowy River. The words could be ringing in the ears of Camanche navigator Stan Honey as he sees Mark Richard's Wild Oats XI still just a nautical mile behind the big red-and-black American boat.

The two Rolex Sydney-Hobart line honours favourites were well out to sea off Eden, the last port on the New South Wales coast, at 7am this morning. As they have done ever since the gun was fired at 1pm yesterday, Wild Oats has followed every move Comanche has made and has never been more than a couple of miles behind.

This morning they were still beating into the lumpy seas but the wind had swung from south-east to south-west and had eased considerably. The big super-maxis were still sailing at 11 knots, but had been forced to leave the coast that most of the fleet hugged all yesterday afternoon.

Over night, Comanche and Wild Oats have put a gap into the other line honours contenders with early leader Perpetual Loyal and her own “bloodhound”, Syd Fischer's Ragamuffin, now 11.4 nm behind. The two Volvo 70s, Black Jack and Giacomo, are still ahead of the fifth 100 footer, Rio 100, and Black Jack has moved past Giacomo, which led the fleet on handicap going into last night.

The small boats are leading in the quest for the Tattersalls Trophy with Division 3 and 4 boats making up the first seven places. The original Wild Oats, Roger Hickman's Wild Rose leads IRC overall from Ron Forster's Ariel and Simon Kurts Love And War, making it an all NSW leaderboard. They are followed by a South Australian yacht, Concubine, then come two more from NSW, Imagination and TSA Management, with Kraken from WA the second “inter-stater”.

Sailing on the Beneteau 45 Black Sheep, Cruising Helmsman editor Phil Ross reported the conditions overnight for the mid-size and smaller boats: “Lots of tacking since the start to get port tack lay into Jervis (Bay). Big breeze meant all crews were on the rail, no lookouts. Saw a few near miss port and starboards.

“The breeze was 25 then 30 at 3pm then began to swing east. We dropped the reef out at 5pm and peeled the No 4 jib to No 1 heavy just before dusk. Champers sail all night, saw mid-fleeters looking good on our hip.”

The forecast for today is for the winds to go light as the high pressure area fills in, with winds then switching to the north, allowing the back-markers to close up. Positions will change dramatically when that happens.

Overnight there were two more retirements – Bridabella and Last Tango. See “related content”.

Current positions can be found here.

– Roger McMillan, Editor.

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