After three laps of the course, there was less than a boat length, a Skandia size boat length that is, between first and second as Loki was forced to duck the 30m Melbourne maxi's stern right on the finish line.
With Tony KIRBY at the wheel and Gordon MAGUIRE weaving his magic as tactician, Loki sailed a text book race to score their first handicap win of the series. MAGUIRE has done a lot of work with the crew recently and AINSWORTH with the help of America's Cup sailor and sail maker Michael COXON has made some changes to the rig for better upwind performance.
After a short postponement of the start of race one, the IRC Big Boat fleet got away, Loki winning the start and never giving up her advantage. Mark RICHARDS at the helm of Wild Oats found himself in unfamiliar territory, forced up and over the line by Skandia before the starting signal had fired.
Having to do a U turn and start again put Wild Oats well back and although by the final downwind run the Reichel/Pugh 66 had pegged back Dick CAWSE's Vanguard, she never recovered, the crew sombre at the finish knowing their loss was another's gain in the all important pointscore.
Dick CAWSE's Cawse/Lyons 60 Vanguard, Loki's closest rival when it comes to size and boat speed, placed second on handicap in race one and third across the finish line and third on handicap was Steven DAVID's Wild Joe.
In the IRC Racing Division, Eoin FEHSENFELD's Cookson 50 Aero from Melbourne won the start and lead around the course only to make a crucial error which was coined 'Aero's error'.
Contrary to the Sailing Instructions, Aero began to follow the IRC Big Boats for a third leg which allowed Pussy Galore to slip through and grab the win. Geoff BOETTCHER's Hardys Secret Mens Business from South Australia followed Pussy Galore to the finish while Aero, which realised its mistake when the crew heard the finish gun fire behind them, turned back to cross in third place, the crew obviously disappointed they gave away a line honours win.
Geoff BOETTCHER scored his second IRC Racing win in this morning's race which gave him a comfortable pointscore lead heading into the afternoon's race and despite a fourth in Race 2, his worst result so far, he still leads this division.
'We haven't sailed in light airs since we modified the boat,' said BOETTCHER this afternoon. 'We've added 450 kilos to the keel bulb to help us upwind and it has.' BOETTCHER, who will have to shout his crew another dinner tonight as per their agreement, realises there is a long way to go.
'We are only half way in, we're not getting too excited yet,' he said this afternoon.
In the Performance Handicap division, CYCA Commodore Geoff LAVIS sailed a good race to finish first over the line with his Inglis/Murray 50 USB Wild Thing but it was the little Mumm 30 Rumbo, owned by Guy and Clark HOLBERT who stole the show in the handicap stakes, scoring its first win in race one today and following this up with another win in race two to be five points clear in the pointscore.
Race one was sailed in a light and patchy sea breeze, all crews moving slowly and quietly across the decks in the tacks before settling in on the leeward rail to keep the weight down and the boats moving.
As the afternoon progressed, the breeze filled in slightly, hovering between 6-8 knots under a cloudless blue sky before it began to fade in and out in places.
Race two got underway at 14:20, Grant WHARINGTON'S Skandia, Steven DAVID'S Wild Joe and Bob OATLEY'S Wild Oats all hitting the line at pace. Wild Oats' helmsman Mark RICHARDS wasn't going to make the same mistake at the start twice then, when Skandia went a little too close to the top turning mark and became ensnared, Wild Oats X slipped into first place in the IRC Big Boat fleet.
Skandia, stopped dead in its tracks, was skewing from side to side as the crew tried to free the buoy and tackle from underneath the hull. A nearby committee vessel spotted the drama and quickly moved in to replace the missing mark before Wild Oats arrived at the scene. In the end Skandia's crew wasn't able to free the buoy and were forced to cut the rope, taking the buoy with them on deck. As they freed themselves the crew gave WHARINGTON a cheer which he saluted as they called it a day and headed back to the marina.
Steven DAVID'S Reichel/Pugh 60 Wild Joe scored its second win of the series in race two this afternoon, race four of the series, to be just two points ahead of Loki in the IRC Big Boat Division.
In the IRC Racing fleet, Ray ROBERTS' DK46 Quantum Racing collected its first win in race two this afternoon, beating the Reichel/Pugh 48 XLR8 on corrected time.
Full results for the windward/leewards and the today's 20 mile race for the Premier Cruising, IRC Cruising and Cruising divisions are available from the event website.