A light 8-10 knot easterly breeze got racing started under clearing skies. There was no sign of the forecast showers as the biggest show on the Harbour since the Sydney 2000 Games went off with a bang.
The Middle Harbour Yacht Club organised event made spectacular viewing for those on boats and the various vantage points on shore, all the way from the Opera House and down to the Heads. The Sydney 38 One Design Class, conducting their National Championship as part of the Regatta, sailed their windward/leeward courses just off Sydney Heads.
Although it was a massive job, Middle Harbour, with help from seven major Sydney yacht clubs did a superb job in organising their various boats and courses - it all went of without a single hitch and the many boats involved had a fantastic day's sail.
Adding to the excitement of the day, competitors came ashore to music and a beach party, which was in full swing when Audi managing director, Joerg HOFMANN announced the company had signed long term agreements with high-profile yachting events, Hamilton Island Race Week and Skandia Geelong Week.
Audi will become the official car partner to both events and come 2007, will be principle sponsor for Hamilton Island Race Week. Mr. HOFMANN also announced that the winners of each of the 17 divisions participating in the regatta will then have to drive an Audi to decide the winner of the sleek looking Audi A4 Avant. 'The best skipper who is also the best driver will win our car,' he said.
Mr HOFMANN, who was on the water for the Audi Sydney Harbour Regatta today commented: 'I saw boats losing their spinnaker sheets and boats nearly crashing; it was very exciting,' telling the assembled throng, 'Audi is committed to sailing in Australia. Audi and sailing are a perfect match.'
PHS yacht Divisions 1 and 2 started their race just off Middle Harbour Yacht Club and David KELLETT, steering the 60ft Sydney got off best at the pin end, with Damien FORD'S Fordified and Ed PSALTIS' AFR Midnight Rambler in pursuit.
On the course next door, the three IRC divisions got away quickly, with Bob OATLEY'S 66ft canting keeler, Wild Oats leading the way from Loki (Stephen AINSWORTH) and Queensland entry Wedgetail (Bill WILD) with Vanessa DUDLEY at the helm.
In Division 2, it was a battle as the yachts stacked at the boat end of the line. Despite being pushed out of the start and then having problems setting a spinnaker at the windward mark the second time, Nigel HOLMAN'S new Sydney 39 racer/cruiser managed a third place after clawing his way back to respectability.
'We had a great day, despite our screw-ups,' Middle Harbour YC member HOLMAN said this afternoon. 'Yep, we got squeezed out of Race 1 and then started early in Race 2, so had to do a penalty turn, but we still finished well; we found a gap where there wasn't one. The boat is just wonderful and we had fun,' he said.
Middle Harbour YC's Commodore, Ian BOX, was not so lucky. Getting off the start well, he approached the windward mark on port tack and had the misfortune of having to give way to the starboard tackers. In doing so, Toybox stalled, then hit the mark. The resultant penalty turn left him last in the fleet, but he, too, managed to fight back to 10th place.
'Short course racing doesn't suit my boat; its heavier and older,' said a circumspect Commodore.
'I tried to tack inside the starboard boats, but there was disturbance on the water and the tide got us and then we had to do a penalty turn to exonerate ourselves - we were well and truly hoodwinked. But I was proud of my crew, who fought back to finish in a better place,' the Commodore said.
Of the Regatta, Commodore BOX said: 'We are delighted with the entry level. We exceeded our target level of 200. Everyone entered has enjoyed good competition in their various divisions and are happy sailors at the end of the day.'
The Yngling and J24's sailed their course with the Harbour Bridge as the backdrop as breezes reached as much as 12 knots under increasingly sunny skies. Double Olympians Nicky BETHWAITE and Karyn GOJNICH with Helen IMPEY sailed well clear of their nearest rival and former world champion, Nev WITTEY steering Good Question.
The J24 competition was extremely close at the top end of the fleet and mark roundings on the windward/leeward course was fraught with yells from the various boats as they battled for position and it was a similar situation on the Adams 10 course, as Mitchell MILLER'S Rock Solid, was just that - taking first place in the opening race.
Again, on the Sydney 32 course, the racing fast, furious and so close, only seconds separated the top players in racing today. And going with the adage: 'old age and treachery beats youth every time', veteran yachtsman Ray STONE (Razors Edge) took the first race from Dave and Zorana BULL'S Jester.
On the Dragon course it was a different story as former America's Cup skipper and Dragon champion, Gordon INGATE, now into his late seventies, led from go to whoa and scored an easy win in his opening race.
In the Super 30's, sailed in and around Rose Bay, Peter SORENSEN steered his new Julian BETHWAITE designed Vivace to a huge line honours win over the rest of the fleet. 'Fabulous boat - a real gem - everything about it - it's the fastest boat in the world,' SORENSEN enthused. Already two other boats have been built from Vivace's mould and SORENSEN says it will be a great day when he can race others of the same design.
Classes contested three windward/leeward courses today, excepting the PHS classes which sailed on regular club courses using YA marks.
Sailed in conjunction with Sydney Harbour Week, the Audi Sydney Harbour Regatta continues tomorrow.
Full results will be updated to the official website in due course.