by Jim Gale
As the front runners pass Montague Island they are sailing into a lighter southerly breeze and quite likely very soft winds in the top half of Bass Strait.
At 6:30am Neville’s Crichton Alfa Romeo was just leading the fleet with ICAP Leopard beside her a further three miles out to sea and Wild Oats XI five miles astern. “They actually look quite nice from this angle,” Alfa Romeo’s navigator Tom Addis said tongue in cheek early this morning. “Right now we are dribbling along under our upwind code zero (an oversize, lightweight furling headsail), in 6kts of breeze.”
The easing conditions are unlikely to please Mike Slade and his crew on the heavier UK 100 footer ICAP Leopard, which so far has sailed an exceptional race, while Ian ‘Fresh’ Burns, co-navigator on Wild Oats XI is hoping it will turn their race around. “Alfa was going really well upwind in the stronger stuff. The fact we will head back into the light stuff gives us a bit of a chance,” Burns said. “It's pretty light, between 6 and 10 knots and quite variable. The seas are flatter now - it was a little rough at times last night.
“We had quite a few wind shifts and some big lulls, and at one stage the guys behind, RÁN and Lahana, ran almost up to us.
“Leopard is doing a great job for a big boat in the lighter wind, but the race hasn't really started yet…the hard part….that will be today.”
Matt Allen’s Volvo 70 Ichi Ban has also had a very good night, keeping in touch with the highly fancied RÁN in conditions that have better suited the British boat. Ichi Ban is currently sitting behind RÁN both on line and on the current IRC handicap score sheet. “Ichi Ban had a good night, we managed to keep pace with RÁN and gain some height offshore,” said navigator Conrad Humphreys this morning. “We’re well placed in the current. Bass Strait looking very light ahead of us though.”
Addis summarised, “plenty of comments going around the crew to the effect of ‘it’s not normally like this."
For the crew of YuuZoo, everything is going to plan. “We knew that the heavy conditions we experienced yesterday suited the 100 footers better. Our plan was to stay in the top five so that when the lighter conditions come through today we can try to claw back some of the lead of the top three (Alfa Romeo, ICAP Leopard and Wild Oats XI),” said Ludde Ingvall, skipper of YuuZoo.
“It will be a very tactical day for us today in the lighter conditions. Our crew work needs to be perfect to ensure minimal mistakes. We will try to overtake Ichi Ban first and then we will work on catching the top three,” added Ingvall.
Rolex Sydney Hobart Yacht Race