Regarded as one of the toughest yacht races in the world, the 628-nautical mile bluewater classic kicked off in Sydney Harbour yesterday (Dec 26), with 102 competitors sailing down the east coast of Australia.
The four 100-footer supermaxis, led by LDV Comanche, were benefiting from a strong north-easterly wind in the Bass Strait early today.
Comanche was sailing at a consistent speed of 20-25 knots and 48 miles ahead of the position of last year’s record breaker Perpetual Loyal (renamed InfoTrack this year) at this time of the race.
“In fact the leading six yachts are all ahead of the record pace, including last year’s overall winner, Giacomo, now racing as Wizard," organisers said.
“This is an astonishingly fast race.”
Comanche's supermaxi rivals Wild Oats XI and Black Jack were keeping pace with the leader, with Hong Kong businessman Karl Kwok’s 80-footer Beau Geste fourth ahead of InfoTrack.
In the race for the Tattersall Cup (overall winner) – the handicap honour for the vessel that performs best according to size – Craig Carter’s 46-footer Indian was leading the charge.
Celestial, Quest, Ichi Ban and Rockall, all TP52s, are also in the hunt.
Organisers said the boats would get more wind the further south they sail, with the breeze across Bass Strait throughout the day expected to be in the 25-35 knot range.
The annual dash down the coast has not been without drama this year, with Comanche and Wild Oats almost colliding near the exit to Sydney Heads after the later vessel appeared to tack too close to its rival.
Comanche, helmed by Jim Cooney, is set to lodge a formal protest against the Mark Richards-skippered Wild Oats.
Under the race rules, the protest must be filed within six hours of the finishing time of the protesting boat.
Perpetual Loyal set the current record time of one day 13hr 31min 20sec last year, and some commentators are tipping this year’s leaders to easily beat the timing.