Wild Oats XI appears on the cusp of a remarkable repeat of her 2005 triple-crown success: first boat home, new course record and overall win. Well in front of her rivals and the record on the water, all day long she has been trading the top handicap position with Peter Harburg's Black Jack, according to the Cruising Yacht Club of Australia's position tracker. Harburg has his own history making in mind: to become the first yacht from Queensland to lift the Tattersalls' Cup. He will not be getting over-excited. This being a yacht race, the organizers are a long way from inscribing names onto silverware.
Wild Oats XI's dream run will come to an end as the second weather transition kicks in during the night. The wind is forecast to die and to gradually back to the west, before steadily building into an, at times, strong southwesterly. The timing of this change, and the ability of skipper Mark Richards' tactical team to get though it with minimum disruption, will determine the eventual outcome. Wild Oats XI must finish before 07:40 AEDT tomorrow to break the record of one day, 18 hours, 40 minutes and 10 seconds.
For the smaller yachts yet to enter Bass Strait, the northeasterly looks likely to hang in until around midnight on 27 December. From then on the expected series of fronts moving through the Strait and across Tasmania will dramatically affect progress; buffeting the fleet north and south of island's land mass, and at other times beguiling it with lighter, more fickle breeze, particularly in its lee.
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