Supermaxis Andoo Comanche and LawConnect are in a two-way battle for Sydney to Hobart line honours as more unpredictable weather looms for a storm-weary fleet.
Reigning line honours champion Comanche held a six-nautical-mile lead over fellow 100-footer LawConnect as the pair tracked off Tasmania’s east coast late on Wednesday afternoon.
LawConnect navigator Chris Lewis said the crew had experienced “a little bit of everything” on Boxing Day night.
“The wildest (weather) was literally 180-degree wind shifts,” he said in a video posted on the yacht’s Facebook.
“It’s been pretty wild.”
The race casualty list grew to 11 on Wednesday, with Shane Connelly – skipper of Rum Rebellion – describing the moment he was briefly thrown overboard off the NSW coast.
Connelly and crewmate Tony Sutton retired on Tuesday night after concerns the skipper may have suffered concussion.
Connelly said a “micro-burst” of wind hit his two-handed yacht during a ferocious storm, throwing him off the port side.
He managed to attach his tether and was lifted back on board as the yacht righted.
Comanche and LawConnect, runner-up at the past three Sydney to Hobart events, have both had turns in the lead since the duo crossed Bass Strait.
Cruising Yacht Club of Australia commodore Arthur Lane said it was a two-horse race and a likely post-sunrise finish – some time short of Comanche’s record of one day, nine hours, 15 minutes and 24 seconds set in 2017.
“They are watching each other very, very carefully,” he said.
“Each is tweaking and doing all the little adjustments needed. They know each other’s boats so well.”
Lane said a lot of unease remained about the weather forecast, with a stiff breeze building off Australia’s southeast.
A strong wind warning has been issued for waters off Tasmania’s east coast on Thursday.
In-form URM Group, a contender for overall honours which is decided on handicap, was more than 100 nautical miles behind the leading supermaxis in third place, despite suffering jib damage and losing her code zero spinnaker.
Navigator Alice Parker said the wind and rain had been inconsistent.
“I had a good few moments with a bucket between my legs but otherwise everyone is fighting fit and in good spirits,” she said.
“We’re all a bit wet and have been sliding around.”
Wild Thing 100, the race’s third remaining supermaxi, was further afield in sixth position.
Fellow supermaxi, and one of the pre-race favourites, SHK Scallywag sensationally withdrew on Boxing Day evening after suffering a broken bow sprit.
Maritimo 52, one of eight TP52s starting the race, was an early withdrawal on Wednesday after breaking a fitting on her forestay and ripping her mainsail.
Veteran Sydney to Hobart competitor and crew member Peter Jones said there had been as much lightning as he’d ever seen.
“We’re shattered,” Jones said.
“We were trying to work a million ways around it, but at best we were going to be at 50 per cent.”
Popular two-hander Currawong, the race’s equal-smallest boat, was forced to limp back to Sydney after reporting multiple issues.
Co-skippers Kathy Veel and Bridget Canham were last year the race’s first all-female two-handed entry and were greeted by thousands of New Year’s Eve revellers when they arrived at Hobart’s Constitution Dock.