LawConnect has capitalised on a sail issue for supermaxi rival SHK Scallywag to take over the lead early in the Sydney to Hobart race.
Hong Kong boat Scallywag, skippered by David Witt, was first out of Sydney Heads after the 1pm start on Sydney Harbour. It was followed by big rivals Black Jack and LawConnect in conditions of close to 15 knots.
However her time in front was brief as she had problems with her headsail after passing the Heads and rounding the sea mark a few minutes later, forcing the use of a much smaller and less powerful storm jib.
Sydney-based LawConnect, under skipper Christian Beck, seized on her rival’s misfortune to surge to the lead and put some distance between herself and the other two supermaxis by the end of the first hour.
Scallywag’s social media team reported that their yacht suffered a technical issue with its J2 foresail tack fitting.
“The team managed to successfully get the sail down safely and get the orange sail jib up in their air while they work to repair the problem,” they wrote.
It was a spinnaker start for the fleet, which was spread across four start lines and watched by a significantly smaller spectator fleet than usual.
After the supermaxis, the next boat out of the heads was Grant Wharington’s 80-footer Stefan Racing.
Race officials reported all boats made a clean start with none crossing the line prematurely.
The fleet was reduced to 88 shortly before the race when 49-foot Vamp withdrew because a crew member had close contact with someone who tested positive for COVID-19. Two other boats pulled out earlier on Sunday.
Two-Handed boat Min River withdrew after owner Jiang Hui Lin injured a hand, and the 40-foot Protagonist pulled out after reporting a positive COVID test.
With Min River out, 17 boats are left in the Two-Handed division, which has been included in the race for the first time.
LDV Comanche’s 2017 race record of one day nine hours 15 minutes 24 seconds won’t be threatened, with the Bureau of Meteorology forecasting the fleet will confront predominantly south to south-easterly winds throughout the event.
In the battle for overall honours the smaller boats are more likely to be favoured by the forecast, according to Matt Allen, whose TP52 Ichi Ban is trying to become the first boat in 57 years to win the main handicap prize in consecutive races.