Optimum easterly/north easterly conditions for many of the boats in the 55-strong Rolex Sydney Hobart Race fleet will give crews a comfortable night's sail as the race leaders pass the half way mark to Hobart.
With spinnakers flying, and enjoying favourable conditions for reaching and running, the race has become a tactician's race as boats search for the best sailing angle to Tasman Island.
Victorian owner-skipper Grant Wharington, acknowledged tonight that Grundig's move closer to the front of the fleet is a result of this afternoon's freshening northeasterly breezes, ideal conditions for the 66-foot skiff.
"Grundig has got exactly the angle they want, while we were looking for a more 'typical' Hobart race with conditions on the nose," he said.
Wharington has his boat Australian Skandia Wild Thing in fourth place, behind Canon (Mike Slade), Grundig (Sean Langman) and the 90-footer, Alfa Romeo which has led the fleet since the 1 pm start on Sydney Harbour yesterday afternoon.
Losers in the lighter inshore conditions this afternoon were George Snow's Brindabella, a previous line honours winner in this event, and the 2000 line honours winner Nicorette (Ludde Ingvall), which were both becalmed for more than three hours close to shore late today.
Yachts this evening were reporting variable conditions across the racetrack and 47 boats had now passed Green Cape, the checkpoint for each skipper to reassess the condition of their yacht and crew.
For the American entry Dreamland (Brook Lenfest), a luxurious Swan 86, the reaching conditions provided an opportunity to enjoy a good meal.
"We're doing 11-12 knots in 17-20 knots of breeze and we're expecting it to stay in overnight," said crewman Jeff Hanlan. "It's all very pleasant, which makes our beef curry dinner even more enjoyable", he said.
The forecast conditions - tending east to northeasterly at 15 to 25 knots and increasing to 20 to 30 knots by the afternoon - will assist the smaller boats at the back of the fleet with a chance of taking handicap honours.
Leading the fleet on IMS handicap at this afternoon's position report was the NSW entry Fitness First Sting (Terry Mullens), the most easterly boat in the fleet which was more than 100 miles offshore, with another Farr 50, Ragamuffin (Syd Fischer) in second place and David Taylor's 37-footer Pippin in third place.
On IRC handicap, the 31-footer Toecutter, skippered by Robert Hick, of Victoria, leads from Pippin and Fitness First Sting.
First on handicap in the Sydney 38 Divison is Andrew Short Marina Mercury. Owner /skipper Andrew Short said this evening, "It's been absolutely beautiful out here but right this minute we are heading towards a big black rain cloud and not looking forward to it.
Anteater (Phil Hearse) is leading PHS Division ahead of Brian Emerson's Wahoo and Rod Skellet's Young 31 Krakatoa.
Another race within a race is between the two Volvo 60s, Merit Navigator (Ian Treleaven) and Magnavox 2UE (Hodder/Gray/Zemanek/Sorrensen). "We are having the best race ever with Magnavox. Ragamuffin also looks like she's having a great race. Everyone is fine and everything is going well," said Treleaven as he approached the rainsquall also.
Race officials confirmed tonight that two protests have been lodged - Valheru against Peugeot Racing, and Trumpcard against Loki following incidents soon after the start.
An international jury representing three countries will hear the protests after the race has concluded.