Bob Oatley’s Wild Oats XI with Mark Richards at the helm continues to lead Anthony Bell’s Investec Loyal by around 3 nautical miles with Grant Wharington’s Wild Thing from Queensland giving chase a further 3nm astern.
Wild Oats XI reported just before 1800 hours that Ian Smith and John Hildebrand had repaired their main winch and the super maxi was sailing along at 15-16 knots under spinnaker in pleasant conditions around 45nm off Nowra on the NSW South Coast.
According to Mark Richards, the biggest challenge was to fix the winch before the southerly hit the fleet later this evening. Repairing bashing into the wind and squalls would have made the job almost impossible.
Richards said that with no moon out tonight and a lot of cloud cover, the crew would keep their heads out of the boat and keep a look out.
Tactician, Grant Simmer, said that if Wild Oats XI could get around the change and the next low, he feels they could win the race overall.
Further back in the fleet, the fight is also on for the overall win. Tony Kirby reported from his X-41, Patrice Six: “We had a great start at the pin end and a few tacks later we were sailing in clear air. The sea state is good now, it’s relatively flat and we’re happy with our lot,” he said.
Meanwhile, on the Sydney 38 Dodo, skipper Adrian Dunphy said they had also got a great start near Patrice Six and the only mishap they had suffered was to blow up one of their Dodo bird spinnakers. “It’s now an extinct Dodo,” he quipped.
Aboard the Beneteau 45, Balance, owner/skipper Paul Clitheroe reported: “All quiet as the southerly approaches. Balance had a very nice start, avoided trouble (for a change) and made the rounding mark third behind Victoire (Balance’s near sistership and race favourite) and a Volvo 60 (Merit from Queensland).
“We and Victoire have pushed out to sea more than most of our division. It does not look so great now, but we hope to get leverage as the southerly hits. We are bumbling along together at around 9 to 10 knots,” he said.
“The crew are eating early; some taking sea sickness tablets and donning wet weather gear and PFD's. We know what is to come; we did the bashing into the wind thing for three days going to Lord Howe last year. Shortly we will get a big drop in pressure which will give us a chance to get the kite down and prepare a small headsail and our reefing lines.
“It will look a little odd being all reefed down before the southerly hits, but better to be ready early, I destroyed two sails in one night a few Hobarts ago, and that is a bad plan. We and the Beneteau 45 love hard on the nose conditions and we hope to be looking in good shape as tomorrow unfolds.....and not in Eden,” said the Money Man who has been renamed the ‘Funny Man’.
There have been no retirements to-date and no major damage reported, but that could turn around if the predicted southerly hits as hard as some skippers think.
By Di Pearson, Rolex Sydney Hobart media team