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The Mark Richards-skippered yacht has picked up speed and is now expected at Constitution Dock around 20 minutes ahead of its 2005 record time.
The crew had all but given up on breaking the record of one day, 18 hours, 40 minutes and 10 seconds after rounding Tasman Island at 3.30am (AEDT) on Friday.
Westerlies of 10-15 knots late last night replaced the strong northerlies that had powered the five-time line honours winner to a position hours ahead of record pace.
But, as tactician Iain Murray had predicted, Oats was picking up the forecast south westerlies as it headed into the River Derwent.
It was leading Ragamuffin Loyal by 46 nautical miles with third maxi Lahana a further 50nm back.
NSW yacht Jazz led the handicap standings ahead of Calm and Secret Men's Business.
Two boats retired on Thursday, the first casualties of the race, leaving 74 of the fleet still competing.
Last year's handicap runner-up Living Doll pulled out with a broken rudder and was expected in Eden in southern NSW around midday.
Victorian boat Primitive Cool quit with a damaged mainsail and was also heading to Eden.
Meanwhile, Ragamuffin's time could be affected by an international jury hearing after the 2011 line honours victor jumped the start in Sydney.
Its crew will front an international jury at 4pm in Hobart.