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Rolex Sydney Hobart: Super-maxi battle headlines the first 24 hours

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Comanche
Comanche, owned by Jim Cooney and Samantha Grant

In a tussle that has seen the lead in the 628nm race change several times between the remaining four maxi yachts since it began at 1pm in Sydney Harbour on Wednesday, Boxing Day, last year’s winner Comanche, owned by Jim Cooney and Samantha Grant, was in front and travelling at 14.5 knots well into the the crossing of Bass Strait.

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In second place was Peter Harburg’s Black Jack at 3.4nm, followed by Christian Beck’s InfoTrack and then the eight times winner Wild Oats XI, skippered by Mark Richards – all sailing at about 14 knots. All were close to the rhumbline, bar Wild Oats XI that was further east.

Meanwhile, in the race for the Tattersall Cup and handicap honours, the Rolex Sydney Hobart was just as much on edge, as the entire fleet continued to make best of the lighter 15-20 knot nor ‘easterlies. But on latest standings, the conditions were suiting the smaller boats.

At the 12.50pm standings, Rob Aldis’ Kayimai led on handicap from Midnight Rambler, followed by Zoe Taylor’s Grace O’Malley.

The biggest positional shift was that of defending champion Ichi Ban, owned and skippered by Matt Allen that had dropped back to 32nd place; reminding how hard it is to claim back-to-back handicap wins.

As the outcome of the race hangs tantalisingly in the balance, there is no doubt that crews are enjoying their journeys south to Hobart.

On board the Tasmanian yacht Black Sheep, that was placed sixth overall and is owned by Matthew Pilkington and Rob Gourlay, crew member George Peacock said: “Conditions are really good at the moment. We have about 18 to 20 knots out of the north.

“We’ve been sailing along at 10 – 13 knots boat speed. It’s beautiful conditions out here, we’re on deck in shorts and t-shirts, so life’s good!

“We can’t see many other boats around us at the moment. We had a whale breaching next to us this morning which was beautiful.

“This morning’s breakfast was egg and bacon wraps so we’re getting along nicely!”

Meanwhile, at the start of this afternoon’s 1700 hours scheduled fleet radio report, the race will pay homage to the six sailors lost at sea in the 1998 race that was stricken by horrendous conditions.

David Kellett who sailed in the 1998 Sydney Hobart and is now head of the Sydney Hobart radio relay vessel will read out to the fleet the words originally spoken by Hugo Van Krashmare, the CYCA Commodore at the memorial service at Constitution Dock in Hobart.

That message was:

Mike Bannister, John Dean, Jim Lawler, Glyn Charles, Bruce Guy, Phil Skeggs.

May the everlasting voyage you have now embarked on be blessed with calm seas and gentle breezes.

May you never have to reef or change a headsail at night.

May your bunk be always warm and dry.

Asked about the gesture, the current Commodore, Paul Billingham said: “Our view is that is the appropriate way to recognise and remember what happened.

“The families have moved on. There is closure but there is also remembrance.”

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