Rolex Sydney Hobart Yacht Race leaders, Investec Loyal and multiple line honours winner Wild Oats XI, were engaged in an enthralling match race 90 miles east of Flinders Island late tonight.
The yachting chess game - Rolex Sydney Hobart Yacht Race 2011
It is a contest of wills and tactics that is likely to decide which will be the first to Hobart, not before late tomorrow. If it is Anthony Bell’s Investec Loyal, it will be only the second time in seven Hobart races that Wild Oats XI will have been beaten across the line. She lost to Neville Crichton’s Alfa Romeo in 2009.
Bell’s maxi, crammed with sporting and media personalities as well as seasoned Rolex Sydney Hobart veterans, is seeking revenge for her second place to Wild Oats XI in last year’s race.
Throughout today, she pegged back the lead that Oats’ skipper Mark Richards had established since the start in Sydney Harbour on Boxing Day. Loyal reeled in a lead of 20 nautical miles and went to the front this evening.
However, what tomorrow will reveal is whether Wild Oats XI is playing a tactical game, given that both crews know a wind hole of 50 to 60 nautical miles is forecast for the Tasmanian north-east coast in the early hours of the morning (Wednesday).
To use a pacing analogy, it is often useful to be one out and one back when approaching the final lap. The fate of the first of the maxis into the wind hole will determine the strategy and the course of the second.
Late last night Ray Sweeney’s Queensland-based Sydney 38 Mondo was leading the fleet on handicap.
There had been seven retirements – Celestial, Accenture Yeah Baby, Wild Thing, Duende, Ffreefire, Alacrity and llusion – leaving 81 boats at sea.
Rolex Sydney Hobart Yacht Race website