Alfa Romeo, the 90-footer owned and skippered by Neville Crichton, has led the 630 nautical mile race since the start yesterday and, in moderate east to south easterly breezes has maintained an average speed of more than 12 knots.
At the position schedule or “sked” at 3am today, she was 25 nautical miles south of Jervis Bay on the NSW South Coast, with seven miles back to Mike Slade’s Canon and another six miles to the Victorian 83-footer Australian Skandia Wild Thing skippered by Grant Wharington.
Close astern of Wild Thing is Sean Langman’s Grundig followed by the Swedish maxi Nicorette and Australia’s best known maxi, Brindabella (George Snow).
The fleet has been two-sail reaching since the start, some of the bigger boats carrying powerful Code 0 headsail for power sailing down the coast, aided by a 1-2 knot south running current.
Winds are forecast to back to the north-east during the day and freshen to 15-20 knots, enabling the fleet to hoist spinnakers for a rollicking ride south. However, ahead of them is a southerly front, which will slow them down as the leaders head across Bass Strait to Tasmania.
On corrected times, big boats dominate the IRC positions, a situation not unexpected in these conditions, with Alfa Romeo holding first place from Canon and Brindabella.
George Snow’s Brindabella heads the grand prix IMS division for the premier Tattersalls Cup, with the smaller Sydney 38, Andrew Short Marine Mercury, skippered by Andrew Short, in second place overall and veteran Syd Fischer’s Ragamuffin third. In fourth place is the Victorian yacht Another Challenge, with skipper Lou Abrahams sailing his 40th Sydney Hobart Race.
Heading the smaller boats on corrected time is another Victorian boat, the 35-footer Toecutter skippered by her designer Robert Hick. Toecutter is sixth overall.
In the PHS division, the oldest yacht in the fleet, Bill Koppe’s Delta Wing has revelled in the reaching conditions to be first on corrected time from Alex Whitworth’s Brolga 33, Berrimilla, and Peter Rodgers’ She II.
There have been no further retirements since Tasmania’s Valheru and the Queensland yacht, Trump Card, were forced out at, and shortly after, yesterday’s start on a wet and misty afternoon on Sydney Harbour.
The late starter, Ichi Ban, whose new rudder arrived only 15 hours before the start of the race, has staged a remarkable recovery after being 40 minutes behind the leaders going through the Heads. She is now only four miles astern of her near sistership, Hollywood Boulevard, in 11th place in the fleet.
The fleet is spread from south of Montague Island to just south of Jervis Bay with Jim Dunstan’s Zeus II the last boat.