Supermaxis engage in dogfight for line honours, and 35-45-knot winds and 6m seas in the offing

Race leaders Konica Minolta from New Zealand and Australia’s Skandia are this morning sailing towards Bass Strait in their extraordinary repeat boat-for-boat duel for line honours in the 60th anniversary Rolex Sydney Hobart Yacht Race.

The two 98-footers were playing a cat-and-mouse game as they made their compulsory check-in call to the Radio Relay Vessel, Four Seasons,reporting they were abeam of Green Cape on the New South Wales – Victoria state boundaries.

In last year’s Rolex Sydney Hobart Race, Skandia beat Konica Minolta, then called Zana, across the finish line by a mere 14 minutes after 628 nautical miles of ocean racing.

This morning, Grant Wharington’s Skandia called in at 1.50am to report that the boat was abeam of Green Cape and Stewart Thwaites’ Konica Minolta called shortly afterwards to give the same time, both advising that they boat and its crew were in a sound conditions to tackle the rugged Bass Strait crossing.

They were coy about giving their latitude and longitude, but the Cruising Yacht Club of Australia’s Yacht Tracker satellite system at 2.30am placed the leading yachts well out in the Tasman Sea, with the Kiwi supermaxi 27 nautical miles east of Green Cape and the Australian boat just one mile further inshore on virtually the same latitude.

Sean Langman’s 66-footer, AAPT, was the third boat to report its position as abeam of Green Cape, calling the Radio Relay Vessel at 2.12am, with Ludde Ingvall’s new 90-footer, Nicorette, expected to be the next boat to call in.

Yacht Tracker at 2.30am placed Nicorette in third place in the fleet, 22 nautical miles east of Green Cape, followed by the AAPT which the furthest to seaward at 38 nautical miles of Green Cape.

The Australian Bureau of Meteorology last night issued a gale warning for New South Wales Coastal waters south of Ulladulla, forecasting northerly winds of 20/30 knots ahead of a south-westerly change this morning, with winds reaching 20/30 knots later in the morning and reaching 35/45 knots at times later today. Seas are predicted to rise 3-4 metres this afternoon, 4-6 metres at times.

Meanwhile, there has been one further retirement overnight – with Farr 41, Wiseman’s Ferry, skippered by Roger Williamson advising Four Seasons at 2.29am that she was returning to Sydney with a broken gooseneck.