After a terrible start in the 72nd edition of the Rolex Sydney Hobart race, line honours favourite, Wild Oats XI, had clawed her way back to a narrow lead in the 88 yacht fleet late this afternoon.
The latest indications from the race tracker indicated that the 30-metre long supermaxi, which is going for her ninth line honours in 12 starts in the classic, was holding a one nautical mile advantage on latitude over arch rivals Scallywag (Seng Huang Lee) and Perpetual LOYAL (Anthony Bell). However, Wild Oats XI held the advantage of sailing directly down the rhumb line (the shortest course) while her rivals were on a more easterly track. All three yachts were averaging between 23 and 25 knots in a strong north easterly wind..
At that stage Wild Oats XI – owned by the Oatley family and skippered by Mark Richards – was already some 90 minutes ahead of the race record pace she set in 2012.
Regardless, much will depend on what happens when a southerly change crosses the 628 nautical mile course around midnight tonight. Current indications are that this change will have less influence on the frontrunners than the remainder of the fleet.