Comeback Kids?

Comeback Kids?

Meanwhile, Wild Oats who has trailed badly throughout the race, looks to be making a move…

Wild Oats XI co-navigator, Ian ‘Fresh’ Burns, had an unexpected message for the yacht’s loyal band of supporters late today: “We can now see Alfa Romeo ahead of us. We’ve got them in our sights.’

During the day the 30.48 metre long supermaxi owned by Bob Oatley carved into the seemingly insurmountable lead  that near sistership Alfa Romeo (sailed by kiwi Neville Crichton), had held when the frontrunners exited Bass Strait and reached the north-east corner of Tasmania soon after sunrise.

Now that’s changed. Wild Oats XI has made a spectacular recovery and moved into a position where she now has at least a slim chance of claiming her fifth consecutive line honours in the classic.

‘We thought we’d lost everything when Alfa Romeo got her nose into a new breeze yesterday and disappeared over the horizon,’ said Wild Oats XI’s tactician and world champion yachtsman, Iain Murray, this afternoon. ‘They put more than 20 miles on us in no time at all. But today we’ve managed to reclaim most of that distance. We are now back in the hunt.’

With the yachts having less than 70 miles to go to the finish, yachting meteorologist Roger Badham says that the leaders should carry a steady breeze south to the turning point at Tasman Island and for much of the passage across Storm Bay to the entrance of the Derwent River. But it’s possible that during that period they will have to contend with two transition zones where the wind will change direction – and this is where Wild Oats XI will get her best chances to once again close on the leader.

‘Much will depend on what time they get to the entrance of the Derwent River tonight,’ said Badham. ‘On current projections, If they get to the river mouth much after 11pm it is likely that the wind will die completely and the race will become a drifting match. It’s all making for an interesting finish.’

If the wind does fade to nothing then there’s a possibility this 628 nautical mile race will start all over again just 11 miles from the finish line off the Hobart waterfront.

The third placed yacht, the British supermaxi ICAP Leopard (Mike Slade), lost considerable ground today when they elected to sail an offshore course. It was a move that saw them sail into much lighter winds than their rivals and lose speed.