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Conditions, heavy seas retire half of fleet, Black Jack leads, maxi LawConnect

Monaco Yacht Club super maxi Black Jack held a 3-nautical-mile lead over fellow maxi LawConnect this morning as another thrilling finish to the annual Sydney to Hobart yacht race was in store.

The leading boats were expected to finish this evening in a race hit hard by the retirements of nearly half the fleet due to heavy seas after its Sunday start.

The leaders had passed through the heavy weather and were now battling much lighter conditions which were providing drama of their own.

The third super-maxi, SHK Scallywag, was in third place, a further 16 miles back, with Stefan Racing in fourth.

From the 88 yachts that started on Boxing Day, 34 had withdrawn for various reasons, leaving 54 in the race, including 11 two-handed boats.

Cruising Yacht Club of Australia Commodore, Noel Cornish was expecting a tight finish.

“They are neck and neck at the moment,” he said of the leaders, but anticipating some challenging times for the smaller boats behind in the thick of the diminished fleet.

“This is a race that’s going to be pretty tricky because by the time they get further down into the Tasmanian coast, these medium-sized boats and smaller boats will be into a ridge.

“There will be a big high system down there, and they’ll be much lighter winds and there will unfortunately be times when there’s no wind. It’s going to be a race of very varying conditions.”

Sailors returning to Sydney said it was heavy seas that caused most of the problems rather the southerly winds they were pushing into over the opening 24 hours.

Conditions force retirements of 21 vessels during Sydney to Hobart

“The breeze was 33, 34 knots, which is not that bad,” said No Limit crew member Declan Brennan, whose boat retired after one of the crew sustained a dislocated shoulder.

“It’s curious, it wasn’t angry conditions it was a just a very short, sharp seaway. The seaway was so inconsistent we were just bouncing around all over the place.”

There were no other reports of injuries to crew members on other boats.

Last year’s race was cancelled the week before it was due to start because of coronavirus-related quarantine issues, but the 2021 edition is proceeding with mass virus-testing protocols in place. Skippers have been told boats must immediately retire from the race if a crew member receives a message from health authorities saying they have tested positive for Covid-19.

The 628 nautical-mile race sails from Sydney down the south coast of New South Wales state and across to Hobart.

In 2017, Comanche set the race record after finishing in 1 day, 9 hours, 15 minutes and 24 seconds.

This article was originally published on stuff.co.nz and is reproduced with permission

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