night moves

Based on some of the responses, y’all seem to be enjoying our Sydney to Hobart coverage, so we’ll keep ’em coming…

The second night of the Sydney-Hobart race is much like Round Three of a major golf tournament. It’s when the seasoned pros make their charge and the early front-runners begin to falter under the pressure. Moving Day.

By midnight the ‘Big Four’ supermaxis had stretched their lead over the chasing pack to 100 miles but the real contest was being fought out in IRC, the division that decides the overall winner of the race. After slipping a long way down the rankings yesterday, Matt Allen’s Ichi Ban, a Botin 52, has sailed a blinding 12-hour stretch to be back at the top of the handicap leaderboard.

Remarkably, at one point they had passed the 69-foot Naval Group and were abeam of Allen’s “other” boat Winning Appliances, a Carkeek 61 he has lent to some friends for this year’s race. But it might be worrying Allen – last year’s winner – that his previous boat, a TP52 now called Envy Scooters, is only 10 miles behind. Indeed, the TPs have relished the light following breeze and are prominent among the current IRC top 20.

The big loser through the night has been the Ker 46 Patrice, falling from first at one stage to 27th place having found a private “hole” East of the rhumbline.   

Up front the slow-motion battle for line honours continues to be incredibly close. Technically, Comanche is about three miles ahead of Wild Oats XI and Black Jack but the yachts are on opposite tacks so the true margins could be much closer. Infotrack – a much heavier machine – is doing an outstanding job to stick with the leaders in the light conditions, just a mile behind.

Meanwhile, evidence that interest in sailing is booming in China is demonstrated by the teams of Chinese media who have journeyed down to Australia to report the race. But this small army of writers and TV crews have just two boats on which to concentrate their coverage: the Volvo veteran now named Noahs II and the luxurious new 80-foot cruiser/racer (but more “cruiser”) Apsaras. Both are doing their country proud.

Volvo nerds may remember Noahs II in its original iteration as Brunel, the 70-footer that came a rather distant last in the 2005-06 round-the-world event. Now with a new mast and rig and sailing with a Chinese crew the boat is holding its own in the Sydney-Hobart, currently in 13th place.

Having a far more comfortable ride South is the crew on Apsaras (pictured above with the unbelievably shitty sail graphics. The sailmaker should be shot). Built in Italy in 2015 this Reichel-Pugh is a big, high-sided sloop with plenty of dry accommodation for its mixed but predominantly Chinese crew. Apsaras won the 2015 Atlantic Rally for Cruisers but is up against much stiffer competition for the 628-mile dash to Hobart. She is running 31st in the line-honours contest.

Both the boats would recognize the irony of competing against the crack TP52 Gweilo. In the Cantonese language, “gweilo” is slang for “Westerner” or even the more pejorative “foreign devil”. Its more literal meaning is “white ghost” and the Judel/Vrolijk flyer has a small white ghost painted on its topsides.

And for those who treasure the history of this event, Kialoa II, the big aluminium S&S yawl that set a long-standing line honours record for the Sydney-Hobart back in 1971 when owned by the legendary Jim Kilroy is trundling along quite well in 37th place. Forty-five tons take a bit of shifting. Track the fleet here.

– Anarchist David