Rolex Sydney Hobart: Can Loki break through the flat spot ahead?

LOKI, Stephen Ainsworth - Rolex Sydney Hobart Yacht Race 2011
Whilst the ding dong battle at the front of the fleet continues, with Wild Oats XI and Investec Loyal swapping leads every hour as they've been moving at glacial pace towards Tasman Light, behind them Loki, the current overall handicap leader, and Hugo Boss have been enjoying some swift downwind sailing just south of the Freycinet Peninsula. Loki has been showing 18 knots on Yacht Tracker in what appears to be a 10-15 knot north/northeasterly according to Predict Wind (see image for 3pm).

1500 Wed 28th Dec (image adapted from Predict Wind forecast) - Rolex Sydney Hobart Yacht Race 2011

Shortly however, they too seem likely to come to a grinding halt as the images from Predict Wind below show. Loki is already hitting the brakes (speed down to 10 knots) as the patch of light airs moves north up the Tasmanian Coast the new breeze will be coming from a southerly quarter (see image for 7pm).

1900 Wed 28th Dec (image adapted from Predict Wind forecast) - Rolex Sydney Hobart Yacht Race 2011

When the big boats get to Storm Bay Predict Wind shows a relatively steady westerly, which may potentially suit Wild Oats XI well. (Wild Oats and Loyal have both just passed Tasman Light seven minutes apart with Loyal leading as this is written and boat speeds back to 14 knots with estimated ETAs of 7.30pm).

Michael Bellingham, navigator on board Loki said earlier this afternoon that in the current weather patterns it’s possible that the breeze may hold up overnight in the Derwent River.

Whether they’ll be there in time to enjoy it if it does remains to be seen.

Meantime further back a very compressed fleet is producing some interesting positions. While there’s a long way to go yet, Victoire is leading IRC Division 3 from Balance and Patrice 6 and Wild Rose leads Division 4 from Not Negotiable and Two True (overall handicap winner in 2009).

Southern Excellence leads PHS Division 1 from NSC Mahligai and Wasabi., while She leads PHS Div 2 from Quetzalcoatl and Flying Fish Arctos.

In the Sydney 38 Division TSA Management leads from DoDo and The Goat. Ella Bache is fifth, only one position behind Jessica Watsons’ coach Chris Lewin aboard Deloitte As One.