|SYDNEY, AUSTRALIA-(27-12-2005) Leading maxi in the Rolex Sydney Hobart Yacht Race Wild Oats XI has regained record pace as she closes on the Tasmanian coast with nightfall expected to bring gale force following winds.
Those winds, predicted to strengthen from the north-east to 30 knots tonight but veer westerly at 30 to 40 knots tomorrow, should ensure Wild Oats XI of taking the race record set by Nokia in 1999 of one day 19 hours 48 minutes and two seconds. Needing to maintain 15 knots, she has consistently been reaching speeds of 18 and 19 knots.
It means Wild Oats XI has to cross the finish line at Castray Esplanade in Hobart by eight minutes past nine tomorrow morning.
At 7.30 pm tonight, Wild Oats XI was off St Helens and had sustained a 15 nautical mile lead over Alfa Romeo, both 30 metre Reichel-Pugh designs. Grant Wharington’s rebuilt maxi Skandia was about 50 miles behind Wild Oats XI. The winds overnight will determine fortunes in this year’s race.
While the leaders are being driven down the Tasmanian east coast, at the other end of the fleet slower boats still approaching Bass Strait are sailing into gale force winds that are tending westerly, then south-westerly and then southerly. That means battening down for a bash into the Strait.
That will come as a change of scene on Quantum Racing, the leading of the three DK46s where navigator Brian Northcote this afternoon was describing the trip so far as a “glamour ride”.
“We’ve had no water on the boat, no salt on it,” Northcote said, describing the flat conditions.
While Wild Oats XI is also the leading boat in the IRC division, the Canberra yacht Namadgi is leading the Performance Handicap division.
The only retirement so far in the Rolex Sydney Hobart race is the German entry Conergy, which retired this morning with a leak in the stern which eventually took out her radio. They fixed the leak but retired and headed back to Sydney.
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.