63 yachts are still at sea and many parked in very little breeze 29/12/17 © Rolex / Carlo Borlenghi
63 yachts are still at sea and many parked in very little breeze 29/12/17 © Rolex / Carlo Borlenghi

Sydney Hobart

This 2017 Rolex Sydney Hobart may have been a spectacularly fast one for the quick yachts at the front of the fleet, but there is still a long way to go for the rest of the fleet – at dawn this morning, three were struggling up a completely windless Derwent River while the remaining 63 competing yachts were strung along the Tasmanian coast.

The tailenders have only just left Bass Strait in the Cruising Yacht Club of Australia’s 73rd running of the 628 nautical mile race. Line Honours may have at last been decided, and no doubt the crew of Ichi Ban is somewhere in Hobart celebrating their overall win, to be officially recognised in the presentation of the Tattersall Cup at the Race Village in Hobart today.

The winners of every division and ORCi are nailed down. Only the PHS and Clipper divisions remain up for grabs. But you can guarantee that for a multitude of little races within the race, it is definitely still game on. The British and Australian Invictus yachts have not finished glaring at each other across the waves, nor have the Clipper round the world boats, and the year’s bragging rights for dozens of club rivals, who have waged friendly battle around the cans every weekend since the year dot, remain in the balance.

The great news for all these boats is that, while there was a mild southerly change yesterday, except for the guys wallowing in the Derwent, they will be back in a moderate easterly, then nor-easterly breeze as today wears on. There is no sign any of them will get hammered by the traditional southerly front that so often is the lot of the backmarkers.

For a lot of these boats, the overnight work into a modest southerly will have come as a relief. The old IOR rating boats especially are in their element upwind, but very difficult to drive with the breeze over the helmsman’s shoulder. The unkind sometimes refer to them as pigs. When they do get to Hobart, the bars will no doubt be echoing with tales of broaches and out of control and torn spinnakers.

Yet the attrition rate has been exceptionally low in 2017. The number of retirements remains at just five, with Opt2Go Scamp still very much in the race, sailing 40 miles south of Flinders Island after putting into Eden yesterday for running repairs.

It is always a robust topic for speculation at the Cruising Yacht Club of Australia in Sydney, prior to the race: ‘Will any of the stragglers miss the New Year fireworks off Constitution Dock?’ Alas, it is not looking good for Gun Runner, Charlie’s Dream, and Euphoria II, and very tight for Freyja, Opt2Go Scamp and Chancellor. Fortunately they are all heavy enough yachts to carry an emergency supply of champagne.

by Jim Gale/RSHYR Media

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