Matt ALLEN'S Sydney-based Farr 52 Ichi Ban has become the boat to beat in the IRC championship of the Hayman Regatta after claiming a convincing win in the 35-mile race around a series of islands at the northern end of the Whitsunday Passage yesterday.
With the final two races - short windward-leeward tests - scheduled for today Ichi Ban needs only one solid result over Steve and Mary CHIODO'S Melbourne entry, the new Sydney 47 cruiser-racer Gomez, to take the magnificent crystal championship trophy.
The windward-leeward races were originally scheduled to be decided yesterday but with the day promising the best sailing conditions seen at this year's regatta - a 15-18 knot south-easterly tradewind, warm temperatures and a clear tropical sky - skippers approached Race Director Bob Brenac and proposed that the final two days of racing be reversed.
The request was agreed to, so the yachts set off on a triangular course that took them across the Whitsunday Passage then past Double Cone, Armit and Rattray Islands before returning to Hayman.
But the weather system that promised so much failed to deliver and by the time the racing was complete the smaller yachts in particular were battling a wildly fluctuating and fading wind and a fast flowing adverse current. Not that the Ichi Ban team got it easy on the 10nm beat back to Hayman. They made four headsail changes en route and always stood the chance of finding themselves on the wrong side of a major windshift.
The spinnaker run from the start suited Andrew Short's Volvo 60, Andrew Short Marine. Sailing under an asymmetrical spinnaker the big yacht surfed away at 18 knots and soon established an insurmountable lead over Ichi Ban in the race for line honours. However ASM's race was not without its moments. The crew's effort to furl the Code Zero headsail at Rattray Island went horribly wrong and the blown-out sail was eventually recovered over the stern after they were forced to lower the halyard to get it down.
Wayne Millar's 41-footer Zoe, the smallest yacht in the fleet, hurt the most on the beat home and came in third on corrected time behind Ichi ban and Gomez.
While the IRC championship looks all but decided it's a different story in the PHS division where only five points separates five boats. Don Algie's 62ft Warwick designed cruiser-racer Storm 2 won PHS yesterday and is now just two points in arrears to Andrew Short Marine with today's races remaining. Ichi Ban, Zoe and Gomez follow them.
The Hayman Regatta is a unique regatta experience both on and off the water and tonight will be no exception. The Trophy Presentation Dinner will be a spectacular Five Star barbecue set amongst palm trees on lawns adjacent to the resort.