Unlikely Syd-Hob handicap win on the cards

·2-min read

A 34-foot yacht has battled through rough seas that cruelled much of the Sydney to Hobart fleet to be on track for an upset handicap victory.

NSW's White Bay 6 Azzurro was atop the overall standings on Thursday evening and needs to arrive before exactly 7.04am (AEDT) on Friday to claim the sought-after Tattersall Cup.

"We are on course to Tasman Island and doing seven knots," skipper Shane Kearns said on Thursday.

"We are very confident of reaching the finish line by 7.04am (Friday) morning."

The 88-strong starting fleet was battered by bad seas and wind during the race's early stages, forcing 37 competitors to retire with a range of problems.

White Bay 6 Azzurro's drive home comes as NSW yacht Celestial, which finished on Wednesday afternoon and is in second place on the handicap standings, faces two protests.

Both refer to race sailing instruction 31.4 which states "all boats shall maintain a continuous listening watch on VHF Channel 16 for the duration of their race".

One was lodged by the race committee and another by rival Ichi Ban, which is a close third on the handicap standings having finished virtually alongside Celestial across the line.

The protests were scheduled to be heard before an international jury at the Royal Yacht Club of Tasmania on Thursday evening.

The race committee's protest identifies a 90-minute period on the night of December 27 when Celestial was unable to be contacted by VHF channel 16 despite numerous attempts via different means.

It is alleged contact was eventually made after flares were used to get the crew's attention.

"Of particular concern was the lack of response on CH16 (VHF) by Celestial throughout the incident," the protest reads.

Ichi Ban, the 2019 handicap winner, arrived in Hobart with its red protest flag raised, although skipper Matt Allen did not initially indicate whether one would be lodged.

In 2017, a successful protest over a near collision resulted in supermaxi Wild Oats XI copping a one-hour penalty and losing line honours to LDV Comanche.

Monaco-flagged Black Jack claimed line honours this year ahead of LawConnect and Hong Kong's SHK Scallywag 100 in the slowest winning time since 2004.

Tasmanian yacht Sidewinder is on track to win the new two-handed category for yachts crewed by just two people and is expected to reach constitution dock among a flurry of boats on Friday night.

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