by Richard Crockett
The start of the 70th Sydney Hobart classic saw Comanche storm into the lead, leaving her rivals breathless and in awe of the raw power she generated. Watching the video of the start one heard “Look at that thing go!,” screamed Wild Oats XI skipper Mark Richards.
And fast she was, but now that the boats have settled into the rhythm of the race and have been at sea for 27 hours, all eyes are no longer on Comanche as Wild Oats XI has the lead and has taken 16 nautical miles out of here rival.
Comanche had an incredible start reaching the first course mark at record speed. Race record holder Wild Oats XI gallantly tried to keep pace, watching in awe as Comanche laid down an early indicator of her potential. “Look at that thing go!,” screamed Wild Oats XI skipper Mark Richards.
“We couldn’t be more ready at this stage,” admitted Comanche skipper Ken Read shortly before the race start. “The team has done a Herculean effort to get the boat ready. We are here to compete, it’s the fun part of our job.”
Chasing a record eighth line honours win, Wild Oats XI overtook the early pacesetter, Jim Clark’s brand new supermaxi from the US, Comanche, as they passed Gabo Island at the eastern approach to Bass Strait,
The other major news of the morning was the retirement of the fancied supermaxi Perpetual Loyal. She retired with a delaminated hull, damage that occurred last night when she either fell off a wave or hit something, according to crewman Tom Slingsby.
“We’re not exactly sure what happened, we were coming off some big waves, but we also could have hit something during the night when we were falling off these waves,” he said.
The battle at the front threatens to escalate as conditions change in Bass Strait with westerlies strengthening this afternoon, suiting Comanche’s reaching abilities.
Wild Oats XI’s navigator Juan Vila said they were sailing in about six knots of breeze
That would last another three hours, through to about 1500, then build from the west, which would suit Comanche, then tonight, rough north-west or north, 20 to 25 knots.
That would suit Wild Oats, according to Vila, because of the angle, not so much because of the strength.
The two frontrunners have opened a 40-mile lead over Syd Fischer’s Ragamuffin 100 and the Queensland Volvo 70 Black Jack.
This is a tough and challenging race where anything is possible, so keep a close eye on the race tracker as there will undoubtedly be a massive duel between the front runners – and it will be fascinating to watch it unfold.
Follow the race at: http://www.rolexsydneyhobart.com/