Yet more damage
The stage is set for the closest Sydney-Hobart finish in years with the top five Volvo boats only four miles apart as they approach the north-eastern tip of Tasmania. Pre-race line honours favourite, Nicorette, is slowly closing the gap after her early mishaps and is now just 10 miles behind the leaders. At the 0405 hours position report, the leading group was abeam of Cape Barron in the Furneaux Group of Island in south-eastern Bass Strait.
There were echo's of Hobart 1998, with Grundig dramatically issuing a distress signal in the middle of tonight's radio sked. The radical 66 footer lightweight downwind flier sent out a Pan Pan distress message to race authorities at 9:10pm (local time). Grundig's skipper Sean Langman reported that the boat had "launched off a giant wave into the air and come crashing down." Grundig suffered major structural damage and began taking water rapidly. The crew dropped all sails to slow the boat and staunched the flow, by stuffing slabs of foam bunk cushions into the cracks in the hull. "It was like hitting concrete" said Langman. "We were doing everything we could to slow the boat but we came off a giant wave and pancaked"
According to the Australian Bureau of Meteorology, one wave in every thousand is, twice the size of every other and Langham appears to have been unlucky. He now reports that the water inflow has been controlled sufficiently that he has withdrawn the Pan Pan and the boat is proceeding slowly under motor to Eden.
The race is maintaining its reputation as a boat-breaker with Lisa McDonald's Amer Sports Too suffering a broken forestay during the night.
Other retirements include Krakatoa which went into Ulladulla with a seasick crewman and Terra Firma which reached Eden this morning with skipper Peter Bartels being admitted to Pambula Hospital suffering neck injuries. He is in a satisfactory condition.
Fourteen yachts have now retired from the 75 boat fleet leaving 61 still racing towards Tasmania. The strong winds and short steep seas which gave the fleet a hard sail across Bass Strait yesterday, appear to be moderating this morning.
The latest forecast for Eastern and Southern Bass Strait is for west to south westerly winds of 10 to 20 knots, easing to less than 10-15 knots. A report from Eddystone Light, on the north-eastern tip of Tasmania, soon after sunrise today recorded the breeze from northwest at 6-8 knots.
Although still more than 200 miles from the finish, the leading group of yachts is expected to enter Storm Bay in the early hours of Saturday morning (around 1400 GMT Friday) with the strength of the wind in the bay and the River Derwent overnight having a significant bearing on the finish.
According to the Cruising Yacht Club of Australia's computer assessment of positions, the German VO60, illbruck, was about two miles in front of Tyco from Bermuda in line astern as they sailed abeam of Lady Barren, with about two miles to News Corp, which was further to the west.