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Battered and bruised, Sydney-Hobart also-rans limp towards finish line

Whisper almost becomes airborne ploughing through heavy seas on her way to Constitution Dock.

Whisper almost becomes airborne ploughing through heavy seas on her way to Constitution Dock. Photo: AAP

Squally weather and inconsistent winds have played havoc with the Sydney to Hobart fleet, with beaten-up equipment and broken ribs among the damage.

There were 77 boats still at sea at 4pm (AEDT) on Friday, some 32 hours after supermaxi LawConnect claimed a nail-biting first-past-the-post line honours victory.

Tasmanian yacht Alive, which finished on Thursday afternoon, is primed to take out overall honours with a time that appears unbeatable.

An official announcement is likely to be made on Saturday.

Four more yachts made it to the safety of Hobart on Friday afternoon, taking the finishing tally to 10, including 12-year-old luxury cruiser Whisper.

NSW entrant Salt Lines, veteran of 22 Sydney to Hobart races She, and 52-footer Gunshot pulled the pin overnight because of damage to their sails.

Fleet’s heavy toll

The retirement tally stands at 16 from 103 starters.

A strong wind warning is in place for waters off Tasmania’s east coast, where a chunk of the fleet is tracking south.

Robbie Fisher, skipper of 66-footer Helsal 3, reported a broken mainsail rope, torn sail and “other little things”.

“We have a minor injury to a crew … our navigator was on deck, slipped, and cracked a couple of ribs,” he said.

“We copped a beating across (Bass) Strait. We had over 30 knots and it was pretty bad. We have persevered though.”

Cruising Yacht Club of Australia commodore Arthur Lane said winds of 35 knots and 4.5-metre seas were expected later on Friday.

“It is certainly slower than the last few years and that is because of the wind. It is an uphill race,” he told AAP.

“It’s going to be a very uncomfortable night.”

Hong Kong entrant Antipodes, crewed by Lindsay May in his 50th race, is among about a dozen yachts slated to finish on Friday.

“We’ve had some down time … with breeze holes that our competitors didn’t get,” crew member Brad Kellett said.

Alive and kicking

“We’ve got a tear in the new mainsail to repair. We blew out our J2 headsail.”

The Darren Hine-skippered Alive, overall winner in 2018, arrived in Constitution Dock on Thursday afternoon as clubhouse leader on handicap time.

The overall winner, which is awarded the Tattersall Cup, is judged on handicap which takes into account factors including the size of the boat.

“It’s a waiting game. We’re looking good though,” Hine said.

LawConnect won line honours on Thursday morning, coming from behind to beat fellow 100-footer and 2022 winner Andoo Comanche by just 51 seconds in the second-closest finish in Sydney to Hobart history.

Skipper and owner Christian Beck, who took out line honours for the first time, said it was a dream finish aided by a breeze at the right moment.

There was added drama when a spectator boat passed close to Comanche near the finish line.

Police subsequently said action would be taken against a 57-year-old male skipper of a private vessel for allegedly encroaching into an exclusion zone against safety regulations.

-AAP

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