SYDNEY: New Zealand’s Giacomo was set on Thursday (Dec 29) to win handicap honours in the record-breaking Sydney-Hobart yacht race as rivals were becalmed on Hobart’s breathless River Derwent.
The Volvo 70 came in second fastest in line honours on Wednesday, just two hours behind triumphant Australian supermaxi Perpetual LOYAL.
Both yachts sped into Hobart and easily broke the old record by hours with a time of one day 15 hours 27 minutes 5 seconds for Giacomo.
But soon after third-placed and Hong Kong-owned Scallywag finished the race rain began to fall and the wind dropped on the fickle Derwent river leading to Hobart.
With other leading handicap contenders tied up in the doldrums for much of Wednesday, Giacomo was sitting pretty on corrected time.
“Giacomo … remains the leader of the race overall,” the organisers said on Thursday, “and her hold on the Tattersall’s Cup is becoming more of a grip.”
The Cup rewards the vessel that performs best according to size, whereas line honours are for the fastest boats.
New Zealand winemaker and Giacomo owner Jim Delegat admitted the downwind conditions suited his 70-footer, allowing it to split the 100-foot Perpetual LOYAL and Scallywag.
“Still, we’re pretty surprised, it’s not often that a 70-footer can do this, get second over the line,” he said.
The lack of wind on the last leg seemed to have taken care of Giacomo’s rival 70-footers and most probably the smaller boats too.
Last year’s overall winner Balance, a 52-footer owned by Australian Paul Clitheroe, had been running close for a second successive handicap crown before falling into the wind trap for much of Wednesday.
When Scallywag docked before dawn at Hobart’s Constitution Dock, the first three home were well inside the 2012 record of one day 18 hours 23 minutes 12 seconds for the 628-nautical-mile (1,163-kilometre) event.
At one stage on Tuesday morning 24 yachts were running ahead of the record. But the change from the fastest times to a virtual standstill came suddenly.
The race organisers, the Cruising Yacht Club of Australia, described the Derwent shutdown as “a tortuous 11 miles of drifting and clawing to the finish line.
“And it is unlikely there’ll be much breeze in the river until after midday today (Thursday),” the yacht club added.
In such conditions only five more boats limped to the finish overnight to make a total of just 18 out of 88 starters tied up in Hobart on Thursday morning.
Other contenders who have seen their handicap chances disappear up the Derwent are the mixed French-Chinese crew on UBOX, local hope Ichi Ban and German Jens Kellinghusen’s Varuna VI.