The smaller boats at the back of the Rolex Sydney Hobart Race, after surviving frustrating light air and calms off the southeastern coast of New South Wales, are blowing home fast today.
A light but steady nor’easter in Hobart this morning, has been giving the yachts finishing a comfortable one-leg day over the last 11 nautical miles of the course up the Derwent River.
The Bureau of Meteorology forecast for the lower east coast of Tasmania has a light east-northeast breeze this morning tending northeast-north during the morning and increasing to reach 20-30 knots by this evening.
But the winner of the race’s most prized trophy, the Tattersall’s Cup for the first boat on IRC overall corrected, may still be in doubt after the finish.
At 1200, Andrew Saies’ Beneteau First 40 Too True, from the Cruising Yacht Club of Australia, was leading the IRC corrected time calculations from another First 40, Wicked (Mike Welsh) from Sandringham YC.
Seventh was the British Judel/Vrolijk 72 Ran (Niklas Zennstrom), moored since finishing yesterday, at the Kings Pier Marina.
Two True was 7.6nm from the finish doing 7 knots, looking set to cross over two hours inside the time needed to win.
But, after finishing she still has to survive a protest lodged against her by the Inglis 39 She’s the Culprit (Todd Leary) over an incident soon after the start in Sydney Harbour. She’s the Culprit, holed in a collision had to retire immediately.
The weather pattern, with its heavy mix of calms and light air before the northerly flow bringing the small boats home fast, has not suited the 50-72 footers that were most fancied in pre-race predictions.
Aboard one of smaller boats in this group, the Corby 49 Audi Centre Melbourne (formerly Flirt), was Roger Hickman who has sailed in 33 Hobart races, twice aboard Tattersall’s Cup winners.
Hickman described how the mid-fleet boats were finally slowed by the southerly change, the final nail in the coffin for their overall handicap chances. “We were off Schouten Island, (102nm) from the finish, when it went hard south with a good 28-30 knots of breeze for four or five hours. Then it lightened up, but it got very bumpy off Maria Island.
“It was a tough night, cold but within the realms of acceptability. It went straight south so we had to tack into Maria, tack out, and back into Eaglehawk Neck and chipped our way up to Tasman.
“Half an hour before we got to Tasman the wind went a bit left. We just got to Tasman and then it was just soft, five knots, six knots, and then halfway across Storm Bay this little north-easterly came in, which I guess was the saving grace because we could well still be out there for another couple of hours.”
The after-race beers with crew mates on the dock this morning evoked sad memories for Hickman … of his partner and crewmate Sally Gordon who, along with the yacht’s skipper Andrew Short, died in the wreck of Short’s Shockwave on Flinders Islet during a Cruising Yacht Club of Australia overnight coastal race in October.
“This is my 33rd Sydney Hobart; the first one in 15 years without my mate Sal,” he said. “And it’s a piss-off because you get so used to relying on people. It’s all about the camaraderie. It’s not which Hobart you do; it’s whom you do it with. And you make some wonderful, wonderful friends.”
With 35 yachts finished, and five yachts retired, there are 60 yachts still racing to the finish in Hobart.
The Rolex Sydney Hobart Yacht Race has entries representing the USA, UK, New Zealand, Spain, the Netherlands, and New Caledonia as well as every Australian state.
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