Seven hours into the 2014 Rolex Sydney Hobart Yacht Race, Jim Clark’s 100-ft Maxi Comanche (USA) leads the fleet. A memorable edition of the 628-nm race appears certain, with the contest between the fleet’s five Maxi yachts living up to the pre-race hype.
At 8:00pm local time, Comanche leads seven-time line honours winner Wild Oats XI by one nautical mile, with Anthony Bell’s Perpetual Loyal and Syd Fischer’s Ragamuffin 100 just a few miles behind the leading duo. Overnight the breeze is forecast to lighten as a high pressure system approaches. How the frontrunners navigate this transition could be a critical factor in their race.
Comanche makes mark
A fleet of 117 international yachts graced today’s Rolex Sydney Hobart Yacht Race start. The thousands of spectators lining the shoreline in Sydney were treated to a dramatic start as the leading yachts powered their way out of Sydney Harbour and began the famous 628-nautical mile offshore race to Hobart.
Celebrations for the 70th edition of the race commenced with a Parade of Sail of historic Rolex Sydney Hobart competitors before the race start. A fitting tribute to the race, which has become an international icon since its inauguration in 1945.
Comanche had an incredible start reaching the first course mark at record speed. Race record holder Wild Oats XI gallantly tried to keep pace, watching in awe as Comanche laid down an early indicator of her potential. “Look at that thing go!,” screamed Wild Oats XI skipper Mark Richards.
“We couldn’t be more ready at this stage,” admitted Comanche skipper Ken Read shortly before the race start. “The team has done a Herculean effort to get the boat ready. We are here to compete, it’s the fun part of our job.”
“Going into a southerly the first night is always a bit of a challenge,” said Mark Richards going into the race. “(The boat) being ten years old though is a little bit of an advantage for us as we know the boat very well.”
Shortly after the start, Peter Isler, navigator on Manouch Moshayedi’s RIO 100 reported: “We are definitely learning our boat in these conditions. It’s very rough, sailing upwind in 25-27 knots, pounding hard into short, steep waves.”
The rough conditions have proved demanding for a number of the fleet with four retirements already recorded.
The race record for leading yachts to beat is 1 day, 18 hours, 23 minutes and 12 seconds, set by Bob Oatley’s Wild Oats XI in 2012.
The Rolex Sydney Hobart is organised by the Cruising Yacht Club of Australia (CYCA) and has been sponsored by Rolex since 2002.
Follow the progress of the 2014 Rolex Sydney Hobart Yacht fleet at: http://www.rolexsydneyhobart.com/tracker/