From the Wild Oats team as of 4 pm, PST…
Bass Strait, the stretch of water between the Australian mainland and the island state of Tasmania, is so often a cauldron that brews savage storms, but this morning it is at the opposite end of the spectrum for the leaders in the 628 nautical mile Rolex Sydney Hobart yacht race.
Wild Oats XI navigator, Adrienne Cahalan, has just reported that the three leaders – Alfa Romeo (Neville Crichton, NZ), Indec Leopard (Mike Slade, UK) and Australia’s Wild Oats XI (owned by Bob Oatley and skippered by Mark Richards), were parked on a glassy sea within four miles of each other. They were approximately 17 nautical miles north of Green Cape, at the entrance to Bass Strait, and it was still anyone’s race.
‘The wind is very soft and variable,’ Cahalan said. ‘We don’t have a lot of choice right now when it comes to where we go, or want to go, because the winds are so fickle. Bass Strait looks like it’s going to be very tricky later today, and there won’t be many passing lanes. That means it’s extremely important for us to stay in touch with the two other yachts. Now is not the time for anyone to take a flyer because there’s still a long way to go.’
Australia’s, and one of the world’s, leading yachting meteorologist, Roger Badham, said this morning that the best long term strategy for supermaxis at the head of the fleet was to try to get to the west of the rhumb line (the direct track between Sydney and Tasmania’s Storm Bay) because that was where there would probably be more wind. But it was possible they would strike little or no wind as they approach Flinders Island and the Tasmanian coast.
Badham added that the two yachts that were more to the east of the leaders, Ichi Ban, owned by Cruising Yacht Club of Australia’s commodore, Matt Allen, and the UK entry RAN (Niklas Zennstrom), would close on the leaders during the day as they were in a slightly stronger vein of breeze offshore. This pair might also emerge as the leading contenders for handicap honours in the race.
For the Wild Oats XI crew there was only one thing that was absolutely certain at this stage of the race – that Wild Oats XI’s course record time of one day, 18 hours, 40 minutes, 10 seconds would stand for another year.