Rolex Sydney Hobart 2013 - Wild Oats XI is looking unbeatable at the front the pack, barring a mishap and at present is on track to equal the race record of seven line honours wins, set by the Kurrewa IV- Morna.
Roger Hickman’s Wild Rose
Behind her the other supermaxis are set for an exciting battle but then comes the the real race, the overall IRC win that will be decided after the front comes through.
The defending champion holds almost a 40 nautical mile lead over Perpetual Loyal as they finally throttle-down with speeds in excess of 20 knots on a racecourse riddled with gale force warnings.
Just four nautical miles behind in third place is Ragamuffin 100, which has held an iron-grip on Loyal's stern s since gaining major ground overnight.
But it’s the fight for the Tattersall’s Cup in the Cruising Yacht Club of Australia’s famous race that matters most to the sailors and keeps skippers coming back even after the beating they’ll endure in the next 24-hours.
Just who will get their hands on the coveted silverware in this, the 69th edition of the race, remains anyone’s guess.
The 50 and 60-foot yachts including Ichi Ban, Patrice and Chutzpah are major contenders, along with the Beneteau's including 2013 Sydney Gold Coast Yacht Race winner Brannew and the new boat owning brothers on Black Sheep, but even the stalwarts of the fleet including Blue Water Pointscore leader, Wild Rose, are in with a chance.
The 28-year-old yacht, the original Wild Oats, skippered by Roger Hickman, competing in his 37th Sydney Hobart, is currently sitting atop the IRC leaderboard, but he’s been there before, even last year, and it’s a precarious pedestal, as he has already found out numerous times.
Wild Rose navigator Jennifer Wells said the Farr 43’s crew was soaking up the sun and enjoying some rare shorts and t-shirt sailing in Bass Strait.
But they’re under no illusion that some true Sydney Hobart weather is in store and they’ll have their work cut out to remain on top.
'We’re hoping we’ll be a little bit further south so we don’t get the full brunt of that, but that’s going to depend on how we go with the current,' she said.
'Some of the crew are relaxing on deck and some are sleeping, because when that front does hit, we’re going to need fresh crew and we’re trying to rest up the helmsmen as much as we can to deal with that front.'
For days now navigators have been sweating over the exact direction of the front and when it will hit.
Ichi Ban navigator Will Oxley says it’s the make or break for Matt Allan’s Carkeek 60-footer in its debut ocean race.
'Our success in the race looks like it will depend on how much south is in the change,' he explained.
'If it’s more west then the fleet behind will just reach into Tasman (Island) and that won’t be so good for us.
'If it’s more south-west well then that will help us out with the chasing pack.'
Multiple liner honours and handicap winning navigator Adrienne Cahalan spent hours yesterday plotting where to best position Bill Wild's Reichel/Pugh 55 Wedgetail for today’s changing conditions.
'Today it is about planning our approach to Tasman Island and setting ourselves up to make the most of the strong northerlies before being in a good position to pick up the westerlies when the front arrives this evening,’’ she said.
'It’s great sailing out here - 18 knots of wind under spinnaker and clear skies - but we know the fleet is in for a beating tonight!'
Gale force wind warnings remain in place for large areas of the racecourse as the northerlies strengthen this afternoon, before making a dramatic swing to the west possibly around midnight tonight – after the super maxis are tucked up safely in Hobart.
NSW yacht Canute has retired from Rolex Sydney Hobart with rudder bearing problem. Heading to Flinders Island. ETA midnight. (That will be interesting timing if she is on the leads into Lady Baron, when the front hits, with rudder issues) Canute is the fourth retiree from the 2013 race. There are now 90 boats still racing.