Champagne sailing has greeted the fleets as they make progress across Bass Strait but where are the Northerlies?
Victorian sailors have a lot of experience with Bass Strait; most ocean racers would take a trip through the heads at least four times a year. It is not often that they are greeted or is that gifted with the weather they have seen since the start of the races yesterday.
(Photo courtesy of Teri Dodds)
Whilst the preference would be for the promised northerlies to kick in, they have enjoyed the flat seas and 15 knot southerlies. Overnight the wind speed dropped, particularly for the more eastern fleets headed to Launceston and the east coast of Tasmania.
Matt Short and his crew of mostly family members have continued to consolidate their lead as they come abeam of King Island. With the progress they are exhibiting the TP52 is still on track for a record run but they will be looking for the northerlies to kick in as soon as possible.
Ninety Seven, skippered by Alan Saunders, with sailing master Noel May has not quite reached King Island and is closely followed by Tevake II and Spirit of Downunder. Interestingly Alex – Team MacAdie have taken a more westerly course, presumably this is a tactical step in anticipation of the promised northerly change.
The leaders in the Launceston fleet could be covered, if not by a blanket, certainly by a large spinnaker. With five boats in the pack they could almost think they were match racing on The Bay.
George Shaw’s The Secretary has a slight lead which may be some compensation for Shaw who had to abandon his Hobart quest. Shaw, the current commodore of the Ocean Racing Club of Victoria, had intended to take his new J44 down to Hobart on the easterly route but insurance issues meant he found himself unable to do that. Most of the fleet has been affected by dramatically increased insurance in just the last few months.
David Bingham’s Mirrabooka is tracking slightly to the west of Shaw but in line with William Feore’s Turbo, Aaron Drummond’s Midnight Rambler and Rob Tanner’s Alegria 2. This race is anyone’s but the race record now looks in doubt due to the southerly pattern they have been experiencing.
The east coast bound fleet is likewise a tight affair. Tony Donnellan’s Shamrock stamped its authority on the race right from the gun being fired. They were second around the first mark and second out of the heads yesterday to Shortwave. Donnellan currently has a slight lead over the next four boats but will not be able to relax for a second with the South Australian Helsal II ready to pounce. Chris Riggs has recently taken possession of this beautiful yacht which has an amazing history in ocean racing circles under previous owner Bill Rawson. Under Rawson the yacht covered many ocean miles all across the world as he campaigned it in some of the more exotic places. In the 2005 Melbourne to Hobart race, then with current ORCV Race Director Simon Dryden on board as sailing master, they took line honours narrowly missing the race record at the time.
Tony Fowler’s Ocean Skins and Paul Buchholz’s eXtasea both Geelong boats join with Jeff Otter’s Icefire to round out the group. As they head towards Flinders Island the tacticians will be earning their keep.
In the dark of Bass Strait it is impossible to see where the pressure (wind) is but come first light this fleet will be looking for every advantage possible.