Although Ichi Ban currently holds the best time some of the older, smaller boats are beginning to threat 29/12/06

It is going to be a long wait for Matt Allen, the skipper of Ichi Ban. Safely in Hobart already, his is the time to beat for the Tattersalls Cup and the title of overall winner of the 2006 Rolex Sydney Hobart.

But he will have to wait until tomorrow morning before he knows whether the prize is his. He may even have to wait a little longer.

The capricious wind, and especially the fickle breeze in the Derwent River, may decide his fate.

Already fate has cast aside the 50 to 60 foot grand prix yachts like Yendys, Loki and Quantum Racing. When Ichi Ban became the second boat to cross the finish line last night the three 50-60 footers were still in with a chance of pipping the bigger Volvo 70 at the post. But light winds this morning around Tasman Island and Storm Bay slowed them down dramatically and they watched their hopes of glory dissolve with the morning mist.

Now Ichi Ban faces a real challenge from the older and smaller boats in the fleet, including Sean Langman’s Maluka, the oldest and smallest of them all, which this afternoon is gathering pace as she sails well out to sea off the north east tip of Tasmania.

The 75 year old Ranger has surged up the standings and now lies in third place on IRC handicap, one place ahead of Ichi Ban. She has to get to Hobart by 11.50pm tomorrow night and, if she maintains her average speed, she will be there five minutes ahead of that deadline.

In Maluka’s favour is the fact that she will reach the Derwent River during the day, and perhaps make it up the river before the breeze dies for the night. Just like Ichi Ban did last night.

Leading the fleet on corrected time is Love & War, the venerable winner of the 1974 and 1978 races. Skippered by Lindsay May and with a crew largely made up of experienced ex-Brindabella sailors, including owner George Snow, she is less than a hundred miles from Hobart and has until 11.46am tomorrow to rain on Ichi Ban’s parade. Based on her average speed so far her ETA is 9.07am.

Second place on handicap is currently held by Graeme Ainley and John Williams’ Bacardi, another veteran from the 1970′. She has to finish by 9.46am tomorrow to beat Ichi Ban and, like Love & War, she less than 100 nautical miles to go. Her present ETA is 8.27am.