Paul Buchholz’s Cookson 50 Extasea is on track to claim line honours and smash the 22-year-old race record in the Melbourne to Devonport yacht race.
Extasea hit the front just 1600m into the race, which kicked off in Portsea on Sunday morning, and was the first yacht to turn south through the Port Phillip Heads.
Travelling at more than 10 knots, Extasea took a substantial lead after less than an hour then lifted her speed towards 15 knots.
The race record of 19 hours 32 minutes and 56 seconds was set by Prowler in 1998 but Extasea could beat that mark by hours.
If the westerlies continue to build, Extasea should claim line hours shortly after first light on Monday morning.
Extasea came back to the pack slightly as the day progressed and at 3pm AEDT, Lord Jiminy and RMS were second and third respectively, with the three boats less than five nautical miles apart.
Blue Water Tracks, owned by ORCV Commodore Grant Dunoon, headed further out to sea in a bid to pick up the westerly early and have a better angle of attack.
Favourites for the Rudder Cup, Australia’s oldest ocean race trophy which is presented to the winner of the AMS handicap category, aren’t expected to emerge until early Monday morning, but RMS was leading at 3pm.
The Melbourne to Devonport is the only interstate yacht race on the sailing calendar over the Christmas period, following the cancellation of this year’s Sydney to Hobart because of the coronavirus cluster on Sydney’s northern beaches.