Perfect wind conditions over choppy seas greeted the 19 starters in the Ocean Racing Club of Victoria’s “Rudder Cup” Melbourne to Devonport Yacht Race.
Paul Buchholz’s Cookson 50 Extasea started towards the back of the fleet, allowing a short-handed entry, RMS, the honour of leading across the line. How Bizarre and Faster Forward were close behind.
But it didn’t take the big Cookson long to make her mark.
Fresh from a line honours win in yesterday’s Cock of the Bay, Extasea hit the lead only 1600 metres into the race and was first to turn south through the Heads.
Travelling at more than 10 knots, after less than an hour of racing her lead was substantial over the following pack.
Extasea immediately began to lift her speed towards 15 knots, which could see her break Prowler’s race record of 19 hours, 32 minutes and 56 seconds, set in 1998 – by hours rather than minutes.
Northerlies blowing 25 to 35 knots allowed for a fast reach from Portsea to Port Phillip Heads under cloudy skies with a threat of rain. Here the fleet turned south, awaiting the forecast south-westerly of up to 30 knots to propel them very quickly towards their destination on the northern coast of Tasmania.
As the remainder of the fleet exited Port Phillip, two chasing packs formed. Arcadia was in second place, marginally ahead of Lord Jiminy. Audere was the third of this group which had gone further west in pursuit of the wind shift.
With tactics and positioning vital in the first 24 hours of the race, favourites for the Rudder Cup, Australia’s oldest ocean race trophy, will probably not emerge until Monday morning at the earliest.
If the westerlies continue to build, Extasea should reach Devonport shortly after first light.
The fleet can be tracked at https://race.bluewatertracks.com/2020-orcv-melbourne-to-devonport.