Black Jack, LawConnect in close battle for Sydney to Hobart

·2-min read
The Sydney to Hobart yacht race is one of the most challenging ocean events in the world (AFP/DAVID GRAY)

There was a tight tussle for line honours in the Sydney to Hobart yacht race Tuesday as Black Jack and LawConnect headed toward a possible "neck and neck" finish on the River Derwent.

SHK Scallywag trailed in third place as further retirements cut the original fleet of 88 yachts to 52, with harsh conditions forcing withdrawals due to damage or minor crew injuries -- most coming on the first day.

Super maxis Black Jack and LawConnect were vying for the top spot heading down Tasmania's east coast with the possibility of the duel continuing right up to Hobart.

On Tuesday morning, Black Jack had regained a six nautical mile lead on LawConnect.

"They are neck and neck at the moment," Cruising Yacht Club of Australia Commodore Noel Cornish told media in Hobart.

Calmer weather was expected for most of the competitors, but it was still tough to predict when the first of the fleet would arrive with light conditions making an arrival late Tuesday possible.

"We are looking forward to a good day, and to where we will end up this afternoon and evening," said Black Jack navigator Alex Nolan.

"Everyone is very well on board. Everyone is very happy. We are pushing it very hard."

Weather is critical in the 628-nautical-mile (1,200-km) race down Australia's east coast to Hobart, one of the world's most challenging ocean events.

Six men died, five boats sank, and 55 sailors were rescued during the 1998 event when a deep depression exploded over the fleet in the Bass Strait.

But this year, organisers also faced the trials of a global pandemic, which already nixed last year's edition -- cancelling the event for the first time since it began in 1945.

Before the start, four yachts were forced to retire, leaving 88 entrants at the starting line, including 17 two-handed crafts, which are allowed to take part for the first time.

It was a sharp reduction from the 157 boats that set out in 2019.

Though the first yacht to reach the finishing line grabs most public attention, the main prize for sailors is regarded as the handicap honours, which take account of the size of the yachts.

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