27 Dec 2018

Very close in Sydney-Hobart race

9:04 am on 27 December 2018

Four Australian supermaxis are locked in a thrilling battle for Sydney to Hobart line honours.

Only around half a dozen nautical miles separated the quartet after a night when the winds dropped and the leaders fell off race record pace.

Sydney to Hobart Yacht Race; Wild Oats XI.


While Wild Oats XI replaced Comanche at the front of the fleet on Wednesday evening, Jim Cooney's supermaxi regained the lead on Thursday morning.

Comanche was three-and-a-half nautical miles ahead of Wild Oats XI, with Black Jack and InfoTrack not far astern.

The leading quartet were sailing south of Gabo Island on the Victorian coast and not far away from entering Bass Strait

Black Jack and InfoTrack were sailing inside Wild Oats XI and Comanche, and were both closer to the rhumb line.

"We crossed tacks with Comanche a couple of times this morning between 3 and 4am, there's nothing in it," Wild Oats crewman Chris Links said at 5.40am.

"We're doing 18 knots in a northerly of 15 knots. We are on the edge of Bass Strait - entering it.

"We can just see Black Jack.

"This is the closest race we've been in - we've been in close races with Comanche before, but never been in such a close race with four of us."

The fleet is down to 81 after Hungary's first ever race representative M3 Team Hungary retired overnight, after the TP52 suffered a broken rig.

That meant the international contingent was down to nine yachts,

Three boats pulled out on the first day, Hong Kong supermaxi Sun Hung Kai Scallywag (broken bowsprit), and the Victorian J133 Patriot (broken rudder).

The leaders were on record pace on Wednesday evening as they flourished in strong northerlies, but slowed overnight, as the wind didn't have the same intensity on Thursday morning.

The early IRC standings had some of the handicap favourites right up the front.

Last year's overall winner Ichi Ban was first, with Matt Allen's TP52 followed by the highly regarded American Cookson 50 Privateer and Victorian Bruce Taylor's 40-foot Chutzpah.

Just behind them was one of Allen's other boats, his loaned Carkeek 60 now sailing under the name Winning Appliances, with two-time world men's surfing champion John John Florence aboard, followed by Sydney 46-footer Patrice, which finished third overall last year.