Clement conditions remain

As Victorian yacht takes the handicap lead in the Rolex Sydney Hobart race

Saturday December 27th 2008, Author: Lisa Ratcliff, Location: United Kingdom
For the true believers, the Rolex Sydney Hobart Yacht Race 2008 is not the heavyweight contest at the front of the fleet. This year it’s the tight competition among the 50-footers for the ultimate prize, the Tattersall’s Cup, for the winner on corrected time.

Two TP52s lead the race on corrected time. The Victorian yacht Cougar II is the new leader in the IRC division with a 45-minute margin over the boat which has led for most of the day, Bob Steel’s Quest. The winner of the IRC division, the biggest grouping in the race, wins the Tattersall’s Cup.

Cougar II’s margin over Quest just after 2pm this afternoon was about 46 minutes as they cleared Bass Strait, well east of the northern tip of Flinders Island off the north east corner of Tasmania. For Cougar II’s owner/skipper Alan Whiteley this is unfinished business. The boat was forced to retire in the 2007 race from a winning position after suffering rig damage.

Whiteley scored the IRC division 1 win at Audi Hamilton Island Race Week this year, beating Bob Steel’s Quest by two points. Now the two sisterships are at it again, with the same ferocity but this time over a 628 nautical mile stretch.

For Steel, this is an attempt at a second win but in a different boat. He won the 2002 Rolex Sydney Hobart on his previous Quest.

They lead three other NSW 50-footers - Yendys, Quantum Racing and Syd Fischer’s new TP52 Ragamuffin.

The Queensland yacht Wedgetail is in sixth place, revelling in ideal sailing conditions according to sailing master Kevin Costin. “We’re in the middle of Bass Strait in 21 knots of wind and making 12 knots,” he told the Rolex Sydney Hobart media centre in Hobart this afternoon. “If the wind goes west tonight we’ll be in reasonable shape.”

The ACT boat Inca leads the Performance Handicap System (PHS) division from Flying Fish Arctos and Lloyds Brokers Too Impetuous.

The Sydney 38s are having their usual intense competition in the second half of the fleet. Because they are one design boats, they race on the same handicap. Morris Finance Cinquante reported an intriguing battle with J Steel Yeah Baby off Green Cape.

“We are having a cracking time,” Cinquante crew member Darren Pickering told
the media centre. “We have had nothing less than 15 knots of wind. We haven’t parked up like the
bigger boats. We are just barrelling along.”

Mitchell Gordon’s much-decorated Sydney 38 The SubZero Goat was holding
down third place on corrected time in that division. The Victorian Northshore 46 Somoya leads the Cruising Division from Pippin and Charlie’s Dream.

Tonight’s forecast is for NNE 5-15 knot winds tending NW in the evening and 20
knots offshore. Tomorrow, 10-20 knot NW winds increasing to 15-25 knots are
forecast for the morning with 30 knots expected offshore.

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