A thrilling ride south is currently being experienced by the Melbourne to Hobart fleet as they run down the Tasmania's west coast powered by 25 north westerlies, with race leader Oskana (Michael Pritchard) nearly in sight of the SW Cape near Port Davey. Nearest rival is Tevake II (Angus Fletcher) that is 20 miles behind, while the rest of the fleet are spread along the rhumb line that runs inshore along Tasmania's barren west coast.

The 11 boat fleet has had to contend with varying conditions during this 435 mile race after departing Port Phillip heads on 27 December. The 125 mile crossing of Bass Strait included light and varying conditions before they approached King Island on Tasmania's north west corner.

whistler credit orcv david hewison med resLast night until around 10pm they were still chasing wisps but getting themselves ready for a night of exhilaration knowing that the northerlies were coming. Sure enough it built giving 20-25 knots from the north, perfect conditions for the run down the west coast. These are the days and nights sailors dream of. They will be closely monitoring the wind as they continue south and will be fully aware that the next 12 hours provides a significant window of opportunity for the all important handicap positions. 

The BOM site shows for the west coast of Tasmania the north westerly continuing to move more westerly by around mid-morning before becoming westerly early afternoon. It will also continue to build in intensity as they near the South West Cape.With the stronger winds they will reduce sail and be more conservative with spinnakers, some may break out their storm spinnaker, others will be reefing or reducing sail depending on where they sit in the weather system. The tactical decisions made today will affect how much silverware they are carrying away at presentation time.

Tasmanian boat Oskana looks a sure bet for line honours but the story is very different for the coveted handicap honours. This is a more tense affair with just minutes on corrected time between Whistler(David Aplin), Alien(Justin Brenan) and Addiction(Richard McGarvie).

Tasmanian David Aplin skipper of Whistler is known to be a fierce competitor on his home waters of the Derwent for handicap honours. His Mbd 36 rates well and is sailed by a slick crew but Justin Brennan on his Lidgard 36 has tasted handicap victory previously and is keen to back-up on previous victories. Richard McGarvie skipper of Addiction is competing in his 13th Melbourne to Hobart and has never as yet stood in the top podium position. When interviewed prior to the start he was clear that this was unfinished business.

Ironically as the weather system moves to the south they will all be relying on the sea breeze to bring them home up the ever fickle Derwent River. Oskana ETA is currently late evening tonight. 

Follow the fleet on Blue Water Race Tracker: https://race.bluewatertracks.com/2018-melbourne-to-hobart-yacht-race