Six-time line honours winner Wild Oats XI snatched the lead from Perpetual LOYAL as the two supermaxis eyeballed each other in the Sydney to Hobart yacht race.
Looking for a record-equalling seventh victory, Oats passed Anthony Bell’s new boat early on Friday afternoon as the frontrunners headed for Bass Strait.
The rivals were neck and neck around 50 nautical miles southeast of Gabo Island in light northeasterly winds.
Wild Oats was managing 12 knots after running down the 10nm lead LOYAL had held overnight.
Veteran Syd Fischer’s Ragamuffin was taking a stranglehold on third place, 12nm back from the leader.
New Zealand boat Giacomo (23nm back) was fourth, followed by Black Jack (32nm) and Wild Thing (35nm).
Giacomo led overall on handicap.
The leaders were facing tricky variable conditions across Bass Strait and southerly winds along the Tasmanian coast.
LOYAL skipper Bell said his crew were hoping for stronger winds that would better suit his 100-footer.
We are sailing as well as we can in really light winds that don’t suit our boat,” he said.
We’re looking hard for more wind.”
Owner Bob Oatley’s Wild Oats XI is trying to equal Morna/Kurrewa IV’s race record of seven line honours wins.
In her eight years of racing, Wild Oats XI has been beaten to Hobart by just two boats.
Her run of four straight wins was ended in 2009 by Alfa Romeo.
She was also trumped in 2011 by Investec LOYAL, Bell’s previous boat.
With light and shifting winds persisting through Friday, the tactical brains trust on each boat was being kept busy looking for any extra breeze.
“This is the amazing thing about this race so far, tiny differences in tactics and positions have led to significant gains and losses,” said Olly Cotterell, skipper of OneDLL, one of the 12 Clipper Round the World boats competing in the race.