Just how close the battle for overall IMS handicap honours will be in the Rolex Sydney Hobart Yacht Race is being clearly demonstrated in this week's British Trophy Regatta, the final lead-up series to next week's bluewater classic.
Halfway through the eight race series there have been three different winners but the significance is in the close racing between the Grand Prix yachts, both boat for boat and on corrected time results.
Nips N Tux, the whimsically named IMX 40 owned and skippered by Sydney plastic surgeon Howard de Torres, has won two races whilst Terry Mullens' Farr 49, Sting, and veteran Syd Fischer's Ragamuffin have had one win on corrected time.
Overall, Ragamuffin, steered by Sean Kirkjian, and Nips N Tux, which has sailmaker Bob Fraser on board, are equal on 218 points after four races, with Ragamuffin having a scoreboard of 2-2-1-2 and Nips N Tux placing 3-1-3-1.
Third overall on 215 points is Sting from placings of 1-3-2-4.
The combined IMS and IRC divisions raced inshore today, with the one design classes, the Sydney 38s, Farr 40s and Mumm 30s offshore.
Light and varying breezes on Sydney Harbour today made sailing difficult for many of the grand prix yachts, but a couple of boats made it even more difficult for themselves by hooking their rudders and keels around the anchor line of the leeward mark of the short, 10 nautical mile windwind/leeward course.
George Snow's 80-footer Brindabella, in pursuit of race leaders Alfa Romeo (Neville Crichton) and Canon (Michael Slade) took the leeward mark in tow; then the Farr 52, Ichi Ban (Matt Allen) wrapped the slack line around her deep bulb keel.
Both boats finally got clear and went on to finish the race, but placed second last and last on corrected time.
Under IMS handicap, Syd Fischer's Farr 50, Ragamuffin, scored a narrow 38 seconds win from Terry Mullens' former Sydney Hobart Race winner, the Farr 49, Sting. Nips N Tux, which won race two under IMS rating, placed third.
Alfa Romeo, Neville Crichton's state-of-the-art super maxi, again dominated the race, clearing out to take line honours by 10 minutes from Canon, with Brindabella another 11 minutes further astern, after at least a couple of minutes were spent disentangling from the anchor line.
Alfa Romeo also won the IRC handicap division by the big margin of nearly six minutes from Ichi Ban's arch-rival Hollywood Boulevard (Ray Roberts), third place going to Nips N Tux (Howard de Torres).
In Race four, with the breeze freshening a little, Ragamuffin won narrowly on IMS from Sting, with Nips N Tux third, while Alfa Romeo again took the double of line honours and first in IRC. Hollywood Boulevard again placed second, with Nips N Tux third.