Rolex Sydney Hobart 2013 - As predicted for the first time in a long time, Wild Oats XI is being given a real run for her money by not just one challenger, but a bunch of big boats.
At 18.00hrs this afternoon, had just a single nautical mile lead over Wild Thing and Beau Geste, with Ragamuffin 100 a further mile away as the two VOR 70’s, Black Jack and Giacomo along with Perpetual LOYAL gave chase aother nautical mile behind Ragamuffin 100.
Skippered by Mark Richards, Bob Oatley’s line honours and overall defending champion Wild Oats XI was off Kiama, sailing east of the rhumbline and on pace with her record of last year, travelling at 15 knots in a south-easterly breeze with six boats snapping at her transom.
Sailing just west of the rhumbline, all were happy campers aboard Wild Thing from Queensland. Navigator, David Turton, commented shortly before 6.00pm: 'We’ve got four boats abeam; Wild Oats, Beau Geste, Perpetual LOYAL and Ragamuffin – we’re inshore of them and they’re sailing in a bunch.
'We’re in a sou-easter in the early teens and we’re going as far south as we can as soon as we can. We’re just getting into our watch system – and we can see a bit of a rain cell which should hit us in the next half hour,' Turton said.
'We’re pretty happy to be in touch the other big boats and we’re doing our best to stay in touch with them so we can get into the next breeze transition with them. Hopefully the rain cell won’t affect us too much,' Turton ended.
Karl Kwok’s Beau Geste is living up to owner Karl Kwok and sailing master Gavin Brady’s promise. The dark horse of the fleet,brand new and only arriving from New Zealand four days ago, is 80 feet and keeping pace with the 100 footers in what is shaping up to be one of the most fascinating races since the 50th anniversary race in 1994.
So too the newly purchased VOR 70’s are up with the 100 footers; Peter Harburg’s Black Jack(Qld) in the bunch, while Jim Delegat’s Giacomo from New Zealand is level pegging, but further to sea.
Further down the track, the game is just as strong, with the bulk of the fleet just south of Wollongong.
Aboard the Beneteau 45, Balance, owner Paul Clitheroe said: 'Bumping along in a very nice 13 knots. After such a peaceful start, we had time to be entertained by a boat on the eastern side of the Harbour which seemed to be using their kite to trawl for prawns.
'In the third miracle of our day, the kite came down intact and off to sea we went, as far as we could tell, we were leading the boats from our line. Can we finish now? It can only get worse!'
Aboard a second Beneteau 45, brothers Martin and Derek Sheppard and crew aboard their tongue-in-cheek named Black Sheep, were happy campers. 'We’re sailing along in 10-12 knots and we’ve got Colortile in our sights. All’s going well- we’re enjoying the conditions,' tactician Mike Kennedy reported.
Two boats retired in the early stages of the race; Rod Jones’ Welbourn 50, Audi Sunshine Coast was first to go when a masthead fitting failed. Shortly after, Adrian Dunphy retired his Andrews 52, Dodo after sustaining mainsail damage. Ninety two boats remain in the race.