|SYDNEY, AUSTRALIA - 6:15 PM -(26-12-2005) As the 85 boats in the fleet enter the first evening of the race the character of this race is becoming evident: dont muck about with fancy tactics - put your foot to the floor and get to Hobart the shortest way possible.
Throughout the afternoon, in light easterly breezes the fleet has steadily spread out along the rhumb line, the theoretical line that marks the most direct course to Hobart.
While the smallest boats, Berrimilla and Gillawa were making good speed at around 6 knots, and in the middle of the fleet the fifty and sixty footers like Chieftain and Loki were seeing speeds above 10 knots, the front runners Alfa Romeo, Wild Oats XI and Skandia were finding speeds of 15 and 16 knots, well in excess of the wind speed.
At dusk you could just about throw a blanket over the three frontrunners. As expected Alfa Romeo and Wild Oats XI have been inseperable, with pre-race favourite Alfa Romeo in front for most of the afternoon, but the rebuilt Skandia has been a revelation, matching her newer, more fancied rivals for speed throughout the afternoon and, at times, closing the gap to within a mile.
As her delighted sailing master Will Oxley said at 6 oclock this evening, were still in the hunt.
As the wind eases into the evening the fleet is slowing down, the leaders dropping to a more prosaic 13 knots, Alfa Romeo enjoys a 10 mile lead over the schedule set by Nokia when she set the record in 1999.
For more information about the Rolex Sydney Hobart Yacht Race 2005, visit www.rolexsydneyhobart.com where you can follow progress of yachts (once the race has begun) at Yacht Tracker yacht positions are updated approx every 10min.