Line honours favourite Nicorette early Wednesday evening took the lead in the 57th CYCA Sydney Hobart Yacht Race, sailing around a group of 15 yachts becalmed off Stanwell Park and picking up a freshening westerly breeze.
An hour later the Swedish 80-footer was off Port Kembla, just south of Wollongong, with skipper Ludde Ingvall reporting that he was three miles ahead after passing Grant Wharington's 83-footer, Australian Skandia Wild Thing, and George Snow's 80-footer Brindabella. Close astern, and the first of the Volvo Ocean 60s, came the German yacht illbruck, winner of the first two legs of the Volvo Ocean Race around the world, followed closely by Sweden's VO60, Assa Abloy which, like Nicorette sailed around the becalmed yachts to move from eighth to third place in the fleet. Assa Abloy's navigator, Mark Rudiger, confirmed that Nicorette had taken the lead, reporting that she was three miles ahead of the first two VO60s, illbruck and Assa Abloy. He said the Australian maxis, Australian Skandia Wild Thing and Brindabella were astern of the two Volvo 60s. 'We are sailing in a 25 knot sou'wester, gusting to 28 knots,' he told The Australians' Bruce Montgomery. 'Nicorette has reef in her mainsail; we are sailing with a full main and number three headsail.'' The latest forecast from the Bureau of Meteorology says a southerly change moving up the NSW South Coast had passed through Moruya Heads at six o'clock this evening and was due at Ulladulla at 8pm, and at Port Hacking south of Sydney about 10pm. A strong wind warning predicted 20-30 knots of gusty south to south-westerly winds with the change, with winds easing overnight behind the change. However, south westerly winds of 29 to 30 knots are expected to persist south of Merimbula tomorrow, with seas of two to three metres on a two to three metre swell in the south.