The smallest boat in the fleet, Zephyr Hamilton Elevators, was as of this evening, still well in the running to win the IRC overall handicap division of the 2009 Rolex Sydney Hobart Race.
Zephyr is a Sea Nymph 33 co-owned by James Connell and Alex Braddon from the Cruising Yacht Club of Australia. She won division E in the 2007 Rolex Sydney Hobart Race.
The Sea Nymph 33 design is extremely fast downwind and is well-suited to the strong northerly wind prevailing on the lower Tasmanian east coast, forecast to reach 20-30 knots by evening.
The final 40 nautical miles of the 628nm course, with the northerly forecast to blow at 15-25 knots with gusts to 30 knots, which will put Zephyr on the wind, and will certainly slow and may end her chances of winning the Tattersall's Cup for IRC overall handicap.
At 1550, Zephyr had 46 miles to go, and was doing 9.7 knots for an estimated finish at 2311, well inside the time she needed to take first place (0131 on Dec 31).
Second and third on corrected time standings were two of Beneteau's new First 40s, which have already finished: Two True (Andrew Saies) from the Cruising Yacht Club of South Australia and Wicked (Mike Welsh) from Sandringham Yacht Club.
The Farr-designed First 40 is a replacement for the successful Beneteau 40.7. First National Real Estate, a Beneteau 40.7, skippered by Michael Spies, was the overall handicap winner of the 2003 Rolex Sydney Hobart Race.
Two True, in second spot, still has to face a protest by the Tasmanian Inglis 39, She's the Culprit (Todd Leary), which was badly damaged after the race start in a jam of boats converging on the first rounding mark at Sydney Heads and had to retire.
With some of the boats named in the protest documents still racing, the International Jury has deferred the protest until tomorrow morning (Dec 31).
Zephyr has also signaled by radio to the race committee that she will lodge protests against three boats, without specifying who they are, after finishing. That protest could also arise from the crush of boats in the 100-boat fleet converging to leave Sydney Harbour.
Two True and Wicked finished fast under spinnakers before a moderate southeasterly sea breeze early this afternoon, with Two True crossing 22 minutes ahead of Wicked.
Saies said: "It was a very difficult and frustrating race. Having had a couple of light patches on the way down, we thought we were through it and then we got a third one, 25 miles from Tasman Light last night; around 3:00am we were flapping around for three hours."
Tactician Brett Young said Two True had followed a strategy of always being well east of the rhumbline and had received a favourable push from the current in two major eddies.
"Our routing was always east of the rhumbline," said Young. "It's the first time I've ever done that. And we had really good competition from Wicked. They sailed hard, but we got through them. We really stuck to our game plan, even with the weather not being anything like what it was originally forecast. We only came into Tasmania when we could lay Tasman Island."
Young said the First 40 had performed well in the bumpy seaway following the southerly front. "Last night was a tough night, but that's when this boat comes into its own. In a seaway, it just goes faster."
Mark Welsh, boat manager and tactician on Wicked for his owner-skipper father Mike Welsh, said: "We chose the design after a lot of searching around the world for one that would be very competitive in IRC racing and it looks like we might have chosen successfully."
A third new First 40 was racing, Paca (Philippe Mengual) from the Cruising Yacht Club of Australia. "So our race really depended on watching the other two boats, said Mark. "All credit to Two True, they sailed an absolutely sensational race.
"On the second night out, even though we were with them off Gabo Island, we couldn't hold them. They sailed very, very well that night, got through us and from there we were just playing catch-up and we couldn't catch them. They did a great job."
The only IRC division decided, with all boats finished, is Division 0 for canting-keeled boats. The line honours winner Alfa Romeo (Neville Crichton), a Reichel Pugh100, won from the Cookson 50 Evolution Racing (Ray Roberts), with the modified Jones Volvo 70 Ichi Ban (Matt Allen) third.
With 48 yachts finished, and five yachts retired, there are 47 yachts still racing to the finish in Hobart.
The Rolex Sydney Hobart Yacht Race has entries representing the USA, UK, New Zealand, Spain, the Netherlands, and New Caledonia as well as every Australian state.
Official race website
For more information about the Rolex Sydney Hobart 2009 including the entry list, yacht tracker and standings, please visit the event website at www.rolexsydneyhobart.com
Fans of social networking can follow the race via Twitter at twitter.com/rshyr
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