Despite her electric mainsail winch failing just 11 minutes before the start of the 2011 Rolex Sydney Hobart, Bob Oatley's Wild Oats XI led the rest of the 88 boat fleet through Sydney Heads.
In the final minutes before the start, Wild Oats XI's
mainsheet was led through headsail winches as crew frantically worked below decks on the winch's electronic drive. The pressure didn't prevent Wild Oats XI
skipper Mark Richards winning the start at his favourite pin, or western end of the start line.
Just metres behind the five-time Rolex Sydney Hobart honours line winner was Anthony Bell's Investec Loyal,
the biggest threat to Richard's ambition of a sixth line honours victory on the silver grey racer.
Bell declared before the race that he would go for broke, putting as much pressure on the race favourite as possible, and he began the race the way he intends to sail it, forcing Wild Oats XI
to tack back to the west as she tried to get away from the tightly packed spectator fleet under Clifton Gardens.
Eventually, with all her winches back on line as they approached Sydney Heads and after slam dunking Investec Loyal as the two boats tacked towards the turning mark, Wild Oats X
I seemed to hit her stride at last and began inching away from her rival.
Once around the seaward mark Wild Oats XI
was the first to set her spinnaker as she turned towards Hobart, scything through a confused and difficult seaway in around 15 knots of nor'easterly breeze.
Third out of the harbour was Grant Wharington's super maxi Wild Thing
, ahead of Stephen Ainsworth's 63 footer Loki
had by far the best start of the grand prix yachts in the 50 to 60 foot range, which in recent years have been the most fancied for the coveted trophy in Australian yachting, the Tattersall's Cup, awarded to the handicap winner.
While the biggest boats enjoyed a thrilling start, the early minutes were not quite so smooth for the smallest boat in the fleet, Sean Langman's 30 foot, 79 year-old Maluka of Kermandie. Maluka and Jarrod and Catrina Ritchie's luxurious Beneteau 57 cruiser, Alchemy III,
were a little too enthusiastic at the start and had to return for a second start after crossing the line early.
Another of the littlies, the 34-foot Illusion, a former overall winner, put herself a shade too close to the turning mark and had to perform a 360 degree revolution in penance, while the veteran American Carina was seen completing a 720 degree pirouette after her own indiscretion.
At 14:35, Patrice Six
skipper Tony Kirby said, "we have gone out to sea with a few others. Rain's on the way the sea state has really settled down. We were very happy with our pin end start and after a few tacks we got away well."