The Swedish maxi yacht Nicorette has opened up an eight mile lead from the Melbourne 83-footer Wild Thing as the two leaders in the Telstra Sydney to Hobart Yacht Race near the north-east coast of Tasmania.
Both boats are still sailing in strong west to south-westerly headwinds that continue to sweep Bass Strait. The galeforce winds and rough seas of the past 36 hours have now forced 13 boats out of the 82 boat fleet that set sail from Sydney on Boxing Day, among them early race leaders Shockwave and Xena.
The hot favourite for line honours, Shockwave, skippered by Sydney-based New Zealand businessman Neville Crichton, retired from the race after leading the fleet into Bass Strait. Shockwave, a brand new turbo charged 80-footer was the first yacht past the compulsory safety check-in point abeam of Green Cape on the New South Coast at 8.20am on Wednesday. Just over one and a half hours later, the skipper advised the Cruising Yacht Club of Australia's Race Committee that he was "apprehensive about the forecast and how they might fare." Shockwave went into the 630 nautical mile ocean classic untested in heavy seas and owner Crichton had expressed concern before the race started.
At the 2.05am position report from the fleet, Nicorette, an 80-footer owned and skippered by Ludde Ingvall, was 29 nautical miles north of Eddystone Point and 200 miles from the finish. Wild Thing, owned and skippered by Grant Wharington, was 23 miles south of Flinders Island, having slipped astern of Nicorette during the night as the two power-reached across Bass Strait. Royal Yacht Club of Tasmania officials predict that the leading yacht will not reach Storm Bay until the early hours of Friday morning, possibly setting the scene for a spectacular dawn sail up the River Derwent.
At the morning position report, the Volvo 60s, led by News Corp, the Australian entrant in the 2001-2002 Volvo Ocean Race around the world were some 40 to 50 miles astern of the two water-ballasted maxis. News Corp was less than a mile ahead of TYCO from Bermuda, which was followed by illbruck from Germany and Assa Abloy, with last year's record-breaking line honours winner, Nokia, failing to report her position to Telstra Radio aboard the Young Endeavour.
The retirements overnight have included Loco, one of the favoured yachts in the IMS handicap division, bringing the total to 13 while several boats have put into Eden to effect repairs and then resume racing. Meanwhile 50 boats are now crossing Bass Strait with the latest forecast indicating continuing west to south-westerly winds of 20 to 30 knots and seas of two to three metres.
On handicap, the Overall leader in the IMS division is Graham Gibson's Ninety Seven, the Farr 47 which took line honours in the galeswept 1993 race. Holding second place is the tiny 30-footer Zeus II, skippered by Jim Dunston, which won the race on handicap in 1981. The maxi yacht Nicorette is holding her time in the IRC handicap division from Wild Thing and the Volvo 60, Assa Abloy from Hong Kong. The Sydney yacht Delta Wing (William Koppe) is heading the progressive placings in the PHS division from the little Berrimilla (Alex Whitworth) and Hogsbreath Witchdoctor (Rum Consortium).
Nice pictures from Thiery Martinez