Following a spectacular start in front of millions of TV viewers, the Clipper Race fleet has endured a challenging first night which claimed victims of many of the super maxi frontrunners in Race 5, the famous Australian bluewater classic Rolex Sydney Hobart Yacht Race (RSHYR).

The forecasted southerly buster storm arrived suddenly at around 2300 AEDT, bringing with it gusting winds of more than 50 knots and a change in direction of 135 degrees.

Whilst a close to record-breaking 19 race contenders, including eight consecutive time winner Wild Oats XI, retired overnight in the tough conditions after suffering damage including ripped mainsails, damaged rudders and a dismasting, the Clipper Race crews battled on relatively unphased.

Adept at dealing with such conditions, the teams managed to quickly take down their spinnakers and put reefs in the mainsail in preparation for worsening conditions to come.

Sydney Skipper Wendy Tuck, the first female Australian Skipper in the history of the Clipper Race, is still leading the fleet on board Da Nang - Viet Nam. Mission Performance is in second place, and LMAX Exchange is third in the beat to Tasmania.

Wendo reports: “What better way to leave Sydney than starting in the Sydney to Hobart Race. It makes for a very exciting start when there are more than just our twelve Clipper Race boats on a start line. I was pretty happy to show the other Clipper 70s the way out of the Heads!”

Darren Ladd, Skipper of IchorCoal, in twelfth, described the conditions faced during his team’s first night:

“As predicted, the infamous 'southerly buster’ arrived suddenly, without fanfare or warning. The spinnaker soon came down, wind assisted, and due to reefing issues we took the main down fully and lashed it to the boom.

“The good ship IchorCoal is now making respectable speed to windward under deep reefed main, staysail and storm jib. The crew had an eventful night, little sleep and a good soaking for their troubles, but otherwise are coping well. The RSHYR is proving to be every bit as challenging as the hype that surrounds it,” Darren added.

Qingdao Skipper Bob Beggs explains: “So here we are again heeled over on our ear pushing on towards Hobart to see the New Year in. It was a great start out of Sydney Harbour and through the Heads into the ocean. A great spinnaker run until the southerly buster came on with vengeance. The fleet is being dispersed as each yacht looks for better angles and current to assist them towards Bass Strait and fairer winds.

“The watches are settling down on Qingdao and some crew are bravely battling through Mal de Mer. This is the shortest leg we will have completed since the fleet left the UK, and the weather is putting up a great battle to hinder us on the way to Hobart. The Rolex Sydney Hobart Yacht Race is certainly living up to expectations.”

Clipper Race leader Da Nang - Viet Nam is sixth (of 22) in the IRC 2 class, and 37th in the overall line honours rankings.

Clipper Ventures 10, with Sir Robin Knox-Johnston aboard as Navigator, is currently twelfth in the IRC 2 class, and the other Clipper 68 yacht Clipper Ventures 5 is 22nd.

For the Clipper Race Viewer and standings, click here.

For the overall RSHYR rankings, click here.

All the Skipper reports can be read on each team’s page on our website.

All positions correct as of 1000 AEDT.

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