Following a colourful spinnaker start from Portsea the fleet is now nearly half way across Bass Strait on their way to Devonport. Overnight, northerly winds kept the 10 strong fleet heading southeast and near the rhumb line for the 195 mile race that finishes at the Mersey River. Should these conditions prevail as expected, leading yacht Dream (Robert Green) is currently 56 miles from Finish Line and is predicted to arrive mid-afternoon today, well outside the record of 19h 32m 56s set by Prowler in 1998.
Last night the fleet experienced changeable conditions, including rain fronts and no wind ‘holes’ that have been predicted to plague the race. How you manage low wind is often the difference of winning and losing the handicap prizes. Sail selection becomes crucial and even keeping movement around the boat to a minimum can make a big difference to the outcome.
Overnight, the ORCV tracker showed the fleet spread out to the west of the rhumb line to benefit from the morning's westerly winds, with the two chasing boats Merlion (Eddie Mackevicius's) and Afrayed Knot (Bruce Early) doing 5-7 knots boat speeds as they chased leader, the Pacific 50 Dream that was running at 8.8 knots with its bow aiming at Devonport.
The multihull entry Plan Four (Peter Newman) Simpson 11m cat is battling with the double-handed Under Capricorn (Bruno Carreto and Brian Patterson). According to BOM light winds becoming north-westerly 20 to 30 km/h in the middle of the day then tending northerly 15 to 20 km/h in the late evening will make a close finish, especially for the posse of 38 footers – Rogue (David Philips) Dehler 38 who is currently lying in fifth but well ahead of Michael Culhane's Northshore 38 Weekend Option.
The prestige of winning the The Rudder Cup is at stake. The Rudder Cup is Australia's longest standing ocean race and the fifth oldest organised ocean yacht race in the world, pre-dating the Fastnet by nearly 20 years and the Sydney to Hobart race by nearly four decades.