|SYDNEY, AUSTRALIA - 9:45 PM -(26-12-2005) As the 85 yachts settle in for the night off the New South Wales coast, the competing sailors have described the first day of the race as close to perfect.
`This is champagne sailing,` said Andrew Short, a veteran of 13 previous races and skipper of the Volvo 60 ABN Amro.
`I have never had such a great start to the race.`
Steve McConaghy on Quantum Racing said `Ive never known the seas to be so flat. It's incredible out here.`
Not everyone has been happy though. One of the smallest boats in the fleet, the Mumm30 Tow Truck is much further back in the pack than expected.
`We would like to be up with the Sydney 38s and the Beneteau 44s,` said crewman Brett Filby.
`We are desperately waiting for breeze and looking forward to getting the spinnaker up tomorrow and getting ahead.`
Certainly the tight reach of the first hours of the race has not suited the pure downwind boats like Tow Truck. It has been manna though for the bigger 50 and 60 footers, which have been contesting the early handicap lead and especially the big 30 metre maxis.
However, as the wind has eased as night settles in, the advantage has been swinging to the frontrunners. With their long waterline length and massive sail areas Alfa Romeo, Wild Oats XI and Skandia have been able to maintain most of their early speed despite the softening breeze. They have been able to extend their lead, with Alfa Romeo moving into first place on handicap as well as maintaining her position at the front of the fleet.
Alfa Romeo is two miles ahead of Wild Oats XI, with Skandia a further four miles astern.
In the race to break the record, the three lead yachts are still ahead of Nokias 1999 schedule, but the softening breeze is steadily working against them. The forecast is for good northerly winds tomorrow. The leaders will be sweating on the wind coming sooner rather than later to keep their record hopes alive.