Wild Oats Xl and Skandia battle it out for honours and possibly the record, Johno Fullerton reports
The two big maxis Wild Oats Xl and Skandia are match racing down the East coast of Tasmania for the final turn up the Derwent River to claim line honours in the 2008 Rolex Sydney Hobart race. The two giants have pulled over 20nm ahead of the rest of the fleet due to a freshening NE breeze. The rivals traded places during the night when unexpectedly Skandia took full advantage of a stronger current and led the battle for some time.
Wild Oats had experienced damage to their reaching spinnaker but were soon back in contention in the building breeze. Ray Robert’s Quantum Racing, a pre-race handicap favourite also had a disappointing night.
“We made good gains in the late afternoon but we had a major shut down of the breeze around 2am this morning,” said Bryan Northcote, the navigator of Quantum Racing.
“The boats that chose to gybe north east of Montague island into the rhumbline got the biggest dividend; Quest, Cougar II and Yendys. They probably put about 25 miles on us.”
Peter Harburg’s Reichel Pugh 66 Black Jack similarly suffered, on the seaward side of the fleet. However for the last 8-9 hours these most easterly boats have been making gains, as the trough line has slid south.
Leading meterologist Roger ‘Clouds’ Badham comments. “This afternoon was always going to be the trickiest part of the race and it’s not disappointed. The trough line has moved from Victoria to the eastern coast of Tasmania.”
“Right now the westerly has come in, on Flinders Island there is 20.7 knots from the west and 21.4 knots at Wilson’s promontory and at Maria Island is swung to the south west at 19.7.”
Badham continues “gradually tonight the north westerly will return, it will fill in from the south and south west and so the most southerly boats will be the first to gain, the rich will get richer.”
“There is just not going to be enough pressure tonight. In theory the leaders could do it, but it’s looking less likely. Normally the Derwent is still particularly between 2am-6am, but tomorrow morning there could be as much as 4-6 knots and for the two super maxis, they can power to the finish line with that little breeze.”
It’s going to be a long night for the line hours and overall handicap contenders and the race record remains in the balance.