Rolex Sydney Hobart - Parking lots, light winds, in many places no wind at all, it has been a day of frustration for the 92 remaining yachts in the Rolex Sydney Hobart Yacht Race fleet. There just isn’t a lot of wind, especially out in Bass Strait.
A frustrated Anthony Bell, skipper of Perpetual Loyal summed it up dryly: 'We’re just bobbing around here. We have four knots across the deck. I’ve seen it windier in my two-year-old daughter’s indoor swimming lessons.'
The super maxi had been in front of six-time line honours winner Wild Oats XI for the best part of the morning despite the light conditions being more suited to the race favourite.
However, as the two 100 footers led a tightly-knit group of seven into Bass Strait – the others being Ragamuffin 100, Wild Thing, Giacomo, Beau Geste and Black Jack – the narrow beam of Wild Oats XI and her enforced pre-race diet to drop weight from the standing rigging began to bear fruit this afternoon.
At 5.00pm Wild Oats XI had opened up a five-nautical mile lead on Perpetual Loyal halfway across the Strait in the Cruising Yacht Club of Australia’s 628 nautical mile race.
'The wind started to peter out before dawn,' Bell complained, 'and it’s been astonishing. We just have to keep the boat going and stay in contact for when the wind does come up.'
Perpetual Loyal has two problems at the moment: the boat in front and the lightweight Ragamuffin 100, Beau Geste and Giacomo behind.
'This uncharacteristic Hobart suits anything that is light,' Bell says. 'On paper we should be behind the light boats, so we’re pleasantly surprised to be coming second.'
What Perpetual Loyal needs, Bell says, is 12 to 14 knots of wind to come into her own, but he has little expectation of more wind until late tomorrow.
'It’ll be pretty light until midday. Maybe we’ll get something tomorrow, at the back end of the day.'
The Bureau of Meteorology is a little more optimistic, predicting the leading seven should have favourable winds tomorrow morning. The Bureau expects strengthening north-easterlies will push them down the Tasmanian north-east coast, and a possible race finish tomorrow evening.
The Bureau is also forecasting a weather change late tomorrow evening in Bass Strait and off the Tasmanian south-east coast. It is forecasting west to south-westerly winds of 30 to 40 knots. So in contrast to the frontrunners today, on Saturday night and throughout Sunday the smaller boats will have a traditional Rolex Sydney Hobart slog across Bass Strait.
Bell dearly wishes it were the other way round. - 'We wish the race had started two days later so that we could actually get into that weather,' Bell says.
He is hoping that the front will come sooner than forecast, before the frontrunners reach Tasman Island.
'Our best chance is just to be there, to stay in contact. Anything more than 12 to 14 knots we will make profit on. We just need more than four.'
Retired: Wilaprina, the race's smallest competitor has retired. Heading to Jervis Bay. Fleet stands at 91. Website