Wild Oats XI has fallen off race record pace in the Sydney to Hobart but still has a strong lead over British maxi City Index Leopard in the Bass Strait.
The maxi yachts have hit a southerly in the middle of the strait which has slowed them down slightly after setting a cracking pace overnight.
Wild Oat's lead over Leopard is out to almost 13 nautical miles, with Skandia in third, well ahead of the rest of the fleet headed by Ichi ban.
After leading the charge out of Sydney heads yesterday, super-maxi Wild Oats XI gradually increased its lead throughout the night and had pulled more than 11 nautical miles clear of second-placed City Index Leopard by the time the boats entered Bass Straight at 5am this morning.
Victorian maxi Skandia, travelling closer to shore, remained in third place with Ichi Ban and Rosebud heading the rest of the fleet.
The leading boats were on race record pace for most of the night travelling winds of up to 20 knots before the southerly hit.
Earlier today Leopard skipper Mike Slade said even a slight increase in conditions could put Wild Oats XI's 2005 race record under threat and also declared this year's contest was far from over.
“Were trying hard to pull back Wild Oats XI after her splendid downhill run,” Mr Slade said.
“The 10-hour downhill run was not our best suit but we quite like this.
“We are trying to get some separation from Wild Oats XI by going east looking for stronger wind and at the moment we are getting it,” he said earlier this morning.
“We have the whole of Bass Strait ahead of us and these are conditions we like so we must make the most of it.”
Slade said he hoped to reel Wild Oats back to within around five nautical miles by the time they reached Flinders Island so he could take advantage of any opportunities that might come from the unpredictable winds off the Tasmanian coast.
The comfortable race conditions so far has seen only two boats retire from the race – Mr Kite (broken rudder) and Berrimilla, which wrapped a spinnaker around its mast.
Capriccio of Rhu was set to resume racing this morning after it was forced to stop in Wollongong last night to allow a crew member to go to hospital after he severed the top of a finger.
Bruce Taylor's Chutzpah led the early IRC handicap standings this morning, from Spirit of Koomooloo and Wedgetail, while Namadgi led the PHS division.
Wild Oats XI is aiming to become only the second boat after Morna and the first in almost sixty years to claim three straight line honours wins.