|1:56:00 PM AEDT-(27-12-2004) The southerly change that hit the lead boats in the 60th Anniversary Rolex Sydney Hobart Yacht Race early this morning is beginning to work its way through the main body of the fleet, which is still racing down the New South Wales coast.
The race that had been an exciting downhill sleigh ride for the first 23 hours has suddenly become a test of endurance, with the double whammy for the small boats that, aside from the discomfort, the longer the storm goes on the less likely the overall winner will be one of their own.
Yet for the first day, while the supermaxis hogged the limelight, the smaller and older boats hogged the handicap lead.
At various stages the race has been led by the smallest boat in the fleet, the 31-foot Grasshopper, and one of the old veterans, Ray White Unlimited Koomooloo, which won the race on handicap way back in 1968, and is currently third in IRC handicap behind Skandia and Konica Minolta.
After almost a day at sea Michael Spies, the overall winner of the 2003 Rolex Sydney Hobart is also doing well on IRC handicap in his latest First National Real Estate, a Beneteau 44.7.
While the new boat loves reaching and running she is a more tender boat to windward than her predecessor, and the crew have been preparing themselves for the looming change. “We had a good run last night but we have been expecting the change and now it’s really come,” laments crewmember Carl Craaford. “Michael is at the wheel and he is very busy at the moment. We are being hammered with 35 knots (of wind).”
Craaford said the change reached First National Real Estate around 11:30am, and while the seas haven’t built up too much yet, they are about to. Life on board has become markedly more uncomfortable. “We should be on a bigger boat,” he laughs.
For the next two or three days that may well be a common joke in the back half of this 2004 Rolex Sydney Hobart Yacht Race fleet. Gary Ticehurst, the pilot of the ABC news helicopter following the boats south reports that the while the lead boats are doing it pretty tough the worst conditions are around Green Cape, where the seas and wind are tumultuous.
Green Cape is pretty much where the middle of the fleet is right now.
It is going to be a long couple of day