Bob Oatley's super maxi Wild Oats XI still leads the Rolex Sydney Hobart fleet and moved into first place on handicap as conditions started to take their toll late this morning
Grant Wharington's Queensland 98 footer, Wild Thing, which has had a chequered Rolex Sydney Hobart history including a line honours win in 2003, is the latest to retire from racing, bringing the total number to three from 88 starters.
Wild Oats XI is trucking south across eastern Bass Strait at close to 20 knots of boat speed in a 22 knot south westerly. The mid-sized boats which were, this morning, in top shape on handicap, have slipped back as they travel a third of the speed of the front runners.
There is now a 14 nautical mile stretch between Wild Oats XI and Anthony Bell's Investec Loyal.
At 1255hrs this afternoon, Investec Loyal's navigator Stan Honey reported comfortable 2.5 metre seas and a 24 knot SW breeze.
Investec Loyal is further west of the rhumbline as they look for a tactical advantage by skirting around the light patch which lies ahead, and taking a different path to Wild Oats XI. When it comes to a drag race between the two 100 footers, Bell knows all too well that Mark Richards and his crew can't be chased down. Richards has to make a mistake or the team on Investec Loyal has to outthink him tonight.
"Tonight is going to be mentally tough for everyone on the boat as we track through the light weather and cover Loyal. They are probably going to try and sail us into a flat spot," said Wild Oats XI's co-navigator Ian 'Fresh' Burns as they were barrelling south.
Burns reported they were sailing with three reefs in the mainsail and a number 4 headsail.
Anthony Bell has reported seasickness among the crew, which includes a number of high profile sporting and entertainment personalities as well as A-list America's Cup and Volvo Ocean Race sailors, but not severe enough to stop anyone getting out of their bunk.
"We are just trying to stay in contact with Oats," said Bell who also reported a broken reef line that has meant they can only go to two reefs in the mainsail and has cost them some time. With conditions expected to abate it won't be long before reefs are shaken out.
Winds are expected to go light and variable off the north east Tasmanian coast this afternoon as a high pressure system that is moving across the state starts to affect the fleet.
Marc and Louis' GP42 Accenture Yeah Baby was the second retirement, this morning just after 10am when they reported gear failure.
Official race website: www.rolexsydneyhobart.com