Overnight in the 384 nautical mile Race, Grant WHARINGTON'S Skandia has extended her lead by more than eight miles as the 75-strong fleet line the coast between Newcastle and north of Port Stephens, providing a wonderful sight for early morning beach jogg
As forecast, a consistent land breeze filled in overnight and this morning the fleet is heading into a north nor'westerly breeze, which makes for difficult sailing as the fleet has to tack directly into the wind to make any ground northwards.
Earlier this morning the sailing master on the Lyons 52 NRMA Insurance Phil Thompson reported. "It is very hard going, we work up then have to slide offshore but not many in our size range thought we'd be off Seal Rocks by now so we are delighted."
The forecast for this afternoon is for a 10-15 knot north nor'easter but even with this increased pressure, Skandia's navigator Will Oxley is still predicting an ETA of 11am Monday across the finish line, just an hour before the first heat of the Etchells World Championship at Mooloolaba.
"The Etchells sailors on board are relaxed when the speedo shows 11 knots but start to get a bit tense if we drop much below 9 knots,"
said Oxley this morning.
On the conditions overnight, he reported. "We managed to hold pressure all night so that has got to be good. We 'spent' some of our lead around Seal Rocks last night by tacking into the beach and making sure there was no possibility to be passed on the inside".
Should they decide to make a dash for the finish, a helicopter is on standby to take the four crew, including Victorian skipper Grant WHARINGTON, straight from the deck of the 98-footer to the 30-foot Etchells that await them at Mooloolaba on Queensland's Sunshine Coast.
Astern of Skandia is Stewart THWAITES' Konica Minolta and a further six miles back is George SNOW'S Brindabella and Sean LANGMAN'S AAPT, which look close enough on the Yacht Tracker to be sharing a pot of morning coffee.
For Thwaites and his crew, who have sailed the boat 1,200 nautical miles from Auckland to the start line of this annual mid-winter race, there will be plenty of deliberation over the chart table today as they try to work out how to pull back so many miles from the lead boat.
This exercise could be made a lot easier should Skandia retire from the race in order to get the crew to their next regatta, a decision that will be made later this afternoon.
On handicap, the mid-sized boats are dominating with Julian Farren-Price's 40-footer About Time, who made heads turn yesterday as one of the lead boats following the 1.00pm start from Sydney Harbour, leading on IRC.
Two Sydney 38s, Yeah Baby (Hinchey/Hume) and Eleni (Tony Levett) have commandeered second and third places on current IRC Overall results.
On PHS handicap John CAMERON'S More Witchcraft is leading Geoff Hill's Strewth and Russel Pieters' Sting while in the Sydney 38 division Yeah Baby is leading Easy Tiger (Chris Way) and Estate Master (Lisa & Martin Hill).