SYDNEY: Australian supermaxi Andoo Comanche was barrelling towards a line honours victory in the Sydney-Hobart yacht race Tuesday, but its hopes of smashing the course record have faded. The boat, skippered by owner John Winning, pulled clear of its competitors in fast downwind conditions in the blue water classic. Andoo Comanche was more than 20 nautical miles ahead of second-placed LawConnect on Tuesday evening, 30 hours after the 109-strong fleet set sail from Sydney Harbour. Just seven nautical miles separated the other 100-foot supermaxis — LawConnect, Black Jack and Wild Oats — in a tight scramble for second place. With less than 100 nautical miles remaining, Andoo Comanche was poised to reach the Tasmanian state capital late on Tuesday evening. “We always think we’re going to be the best boat out there and do as well as we can,” Winning said ahead of the race. “We’ll just try and outsail the others and win it on that.” The gruelling Sydney-Hobart course has been a happy hunting ground for the Comanche boat, which set the current race record under a different skipper in 2017. Favourable weather early in the race raised the prospect of toppling that mark, which sits at one day, 9 hours, 15min and 24sec. While north-to-northeasterly gusts pushed the fleet quickly through treacherous Bass Strait, it was unlikely to be enough for any boat to go under the best time for the 628-nautical mile event. Although there are only four yachts in the supermaxi class this year, the competition for line honours is fierce. Black Jack is the defending champion, and Wild Oats is a perennial favourite that has won the race nine times. While the supermaxis can hit high downwind speeds, they must balance it with the need to avoid breakages and sail damage. Bass Strait, which separates Tasmania from the mainland, can unleash perilous conditions. A deep depression proved catastrophic for the fleet in 1998, when six sailors were killed and 55 more were rescued after five boats sank. Depending on weather patterns, it will likely take about two to three more days for the smaller boats in the fleet to finish. Race officials said only three of the original starting line-up had been forced to retire to date. One of them, 40-foot yacht Yeah Baby, was forced to withdraw less than four hours into the race after reportedly colliding with a sunfish. International boats returned this year after the race was cancelled in 2020 due to the Covid-19 pandemic. Overseas entrants come from Germany (Orione), Hong Kong (Antipodes), Hungary (Cassiopeia 68), New Caledonia (Eye Candy and Poulpito), New Zealand (Caro), Britain (Sunrise) and the United States (Warrior Won. However, it was another Australian boat, Chutzpah, that was best placed to win the race handicap prize, which takes into account the yachts’ sizes.