North of Port Stephens, the crew of the 83 foot maxi Nicorette continue to work the narrow band between the surf and the southern flowing current, as she edges away from her Strathfield Pittwater to Coffs Rivals.
As he spoke by satellite phone this evening Skipper Ludde INGVALL was guiding his charge, "Into every cove, every little bay. We are really working hard to maintain the lead we have over Wild Oats. Last time we could see her, which was a couple of hours ago, she was more than three miles back. Over the last few hours, the wind has stayed in the 20-25 knot range and has been very stable, shifting only in a ten degree band and we've been making good progress."
Asked how competitive Nicorette would be if the winds lightened as predicted overnight the skipper responded. "Upwind speed is all about stability. We are limited to a 10 degree of cant, while Wild Oats can use 20 or 30 degrees, so the stronger the winds the more she is favoured."
"If the winds ease to under 10 knots, then we should be able to climb away from her."
"Right now, all we can tell is that we are making good upwind gains with our brand new canard (the retractable bow rudder) but there is still another 135 miles to go, so anything could happen."
It will only need a quiet patch for a trailing rival to sail right up to a stalled leader and then the race will start all over again.
If conditions continue as they have for the race so far, then the first boat should reach Coffs Harbour by 2-3pm tomorrow. That race time of 25 to 26 hours would be well outside Wild Oats race record of 18 hours 18 minutes for the 224 miles from Boken Bay to Coffs Harbour.
While the leaders are in solid northerly pressure, the boats behind then are expected to struggle in lighter north westerlies overnight.
At the 6pm radio sked, the third boat on the race track, was the 60 footer Coffs Harbour Challenger with the two 45 footers Joe and Pretty Woman sailing shoulder to shoulder.
Laurence FREEDMAN'S elegant 50 foot cruiser-racer, Espresso Forte was less than a mile behind them in sixth place while the PHS division leader Strewth was seventh, less than a mile behind her.
Behind them the 13 Sydney 38's are having a furious tussle along the breaker line. It will be dawn before the One Design fleet begins to sort into pecking order.