|BASS STRAIT 1:32:00 PM AEDT -(27-12-2004) The southerly change is taking its toll on the Rolex Sydney Hobart Yacht Race fleet with nine retirements and another two yachts heading to port to effect repairs.
The latest retirements include the Sydney 38 Hidden Agenda which is heading to Eden with a slightly injured crewman. This boat has suffered a run of bad luck in the event having been dismasted in last year's Rolex Sydney Hobart Yacht Race.
Also out of the race is Tasmanian entry Quest Travelscene 66, skippered by John Bennetto, the yachtsman with the most number of Sydney Hobarts to his name – 43. He is heading to Ulladulla on the NSW south coast with a broken rudder.
Bill Koppe’s Delta Wing from Sydney also retired this morning due to broken gear.
Three boats are still in the race but are heading to port, including Kickatinalong with a torn mainsail, Pretty Fly II with radio problems and Hidden Agenda with a crewman with a slight injury. Hidden Agenda and Pretty Fly II are heading for Eden and Kickatinalong is making its way to Bermagui.
Meanwhile barely half a mile separates the two leading boats, and they seem to have settled into a replay of the 2003 Rolex Sydney Hobart Yacht Race when neither was willing to let the other out of his sight.
“It’s as close as it was last year,” Will Oxley, Skandia’s navigator observed this morning.
The two yachts entered Bass Strait together at around 2:00am Monday morning, after a glorious spinnaker run down the New South Wales coast that at times saw them as much as 25 miles ahead of the race record schedule set by Nokia in 1999. Now they are well out of contention, having slipped 70 miles behind Nokia’s position at this stage of the race in 1999.
The frontrunners have extended their lead today over Ludde Ingvall’s Nicorette and Sean Langman’s AAPT which is slogging in the headwind, more than a third of the way across Bass Strait.
Based on current speeds, the first boat is due to cross the finish line in Hobart tomorrow afternoon.
A disappointed Ingvall said this morning that Nicorette lost six miles yesterday afternoon when their largest running spinnaker split in two within hours of leading the fleet out of Sydney Harbour.
The torn sail snagged in the rigging, forcing them to sail under mainsail alone for forty minutes. `We never give up. We’ll see if we can keep up the speed and hunt them down. We have made it hard for ourselves though,` Ingvall said.
A gale warning is current in northern Bass Strait with one yacht reporting to the Race Committee during the midday weather sked they had experienced winds of 35-40 knots from the south south west.