Calm before the storm? The fleets had good winds at the start of the race yesterday before experiencing some light stuff overnight. The breeze has picked up now and is coming from the north east creating some exciting opportunities to make ground before the forecast cold front comes through.
In the Melbourne to Hobart West Coast race, Paul Buchholz has made good progress and has taken the lead for Line Honours on eXtasea. This DK46 is a well-rounded performer taking advantage of most weather conditions; the skipper and crew are familiar with the West Coast and have previously held aloft the silverware. They are not having it all their own way though with the downwind flyer Spirit of Downunder currently revelling in the north easterlies, this is as close to ideal as it comes for Laurie Ford and he is taking advantage currently enjoying more boat speed than eXtasea. Tevake II and Whistler are also bearing down on the leaders having taken a route that is a little further from the rhumbline but closer to King Island.
Across in the East Coast fleet, Ray Shaw on XLR8 has shown a clean stern to the rest of the fleet. They are not enjoying as much breeze as the West Coast fleet which is reflected in their boat speed. Shaw is followed by Samskara and Cartouche with Escapade looking strong for Handicap Honours. The whole fleet is tracking close to the rhumbline and with 350 nautical miles still to cover the handicap crowns may change places several times.
The Launceston race is playing out as a very competitive one. Brian Pattinson on his Open 66, Gusto has previously had it all his own way to Line Honours in this race. This year he has chosen to take the big blue boat down just double handed, the effect of this is that you simply can’t be as agile around tactics and sail changes. Add to this some new boats on the scene and a battle is ensuing. Phil Coombs showed his new boat, Simply Fun is not to be taken lightly in the Boxing Day Dash race where he crossed the line ahead of Gusto. He led yesterday’s fleet from the start to the first turning mark and has stayed ahead of Gusto and Shamrock overnight. They are all enjoying favourable winds with the north easterly pointing them directly at the finish line at the mouth of the Tamar. With an estimated finish time for early afternoon the question is when will the forecast wind change hit?
So all three fleets are making the best of these favourable conditions before the forecast Gale Force winds come through with the change. Particularly the West Coast fleet has been warned to expect squalls up to 45 knots with the south westerly change and swells to 4 metres. This West Coast fleet will bear the brunt of the weather but they are well prepared and nothing that is forecast is unmanageable. Yesterday after the weather forecast was discussed two boats changed races from the Hobart races to Launceston. These sensible decisions were based on crew experience, numbers and competency for these particular weather conditions.
Still at the moment all three fleets will be enjoying the conditions, this is what they go sailing for to watch the sunrise in Bass Strait with the wind at your back and your destination on track.