One of Australia's greatest ocean racing yachtsmen, Syd Fisher, has provisionally won the grand prix IMS division of the British Trophy series.
The Cup is the Hobart Race's premier trophy, awarded to the boat that wins the race on corrected time under the IMS rating system. The Sydney Hobart starts at 1pm next Thursday, 26 December.
In 20 knot winds and lumpy seas Ragamuffin entered the final day of racing off Sydney Heads just one point adrift of Nips N Tux, Howard de Torres' IMX 40 cruiser racer.
However, a first place in race seven and a second in the final race, combined with a disappointing day for de Torres, pushed Ragamuffin four points ahead of Nips N Tux in the final point score.
Despite blowing a winch and not competing in the final race, third place in the IMS division was taken by Terry Mullens on his Farr 49, Sting, the 1999 Sydney Hobart Race winner, then sailing as Yendys.
The final results of the British Trophy regatta are provisional, pending the hearing of protests, but the final top placings are not expected to change.
These three boats dominated the IMS division throughout the British Trophy series, dominating the top three placings in the first six races. It wasn't until the final day of the series that Ray Roberts broke their stranglehold with his Farr 52, Hollywood Boulevard, placing second in race seven and winning the final race.
The British Trophy series is the last opportunity for the grand prix boats to look at each other closely before Hobart. Given Fisher's record, Ragamuffin's performance comes as no surprise, but the strength of the combination on Nips N Tux has been something of a revelation.
De Torres has assembled an extremely experienced crew under sailing master Bob Fraser, and if conditions are a bit heavy this comfortable cruiser-racer could just be the dark horse that upsets the more fancied pure racers.
After six first in six races, Neville Crichton merely had to show up in Alfa Romeo at the start of the seventh of the eight race British Trophy series to be sure of winning the IRC Division, and that's precisely what he did today.
Once she had crossed the starting line, assuring her of an extra 45 points in the overall pointscore, Alfa Romeo peeled off the course so that her crew could spend the rest of the day practicing maneuvers and sail changes for the main event on Boxing Day.
With Alfa Romeo so dominant in this series and the big British maxi Canon also absent today the final races of the Trophy proved something of an anticlimax, but as a guide to line honours prospects in the big races a number points became clearer over the series.
Alfa Romeo remains the boat to beat. Upwind she has the legs on her rivals and she is fast downwind. Crichton will be happy if there is a lot of wind from the south as he sails to Hobart.
But Canon has surprised everyone with her speed downwind in even light airs, and if she can get good wind for a substantial part if the trip from the north, so that she can crack her sails and take full advantage of her longer waterline length she is likely to be a bit faster than her rivals. Alfa Romeo has a real race on her hands, and the weather during the first two days of the Rolex Sydney Hobart will be critical.
Among the other IRC boats in this series Ray Roberts will be very pleased with how his Farr 52 Hollywood Boulevard is sailing. Hollywood Boulevard has been consistently fast around the course throughout the series, edging out Matt Allen's new Farr 52, Ichi Ban and taking 2nd place behind Alfa Romeo in the IRC division and 4th in IMS.
In the Farr 40's, American champion Jim Richardson won the British trophy and the NSW State Championships with seven wins from eight starts on Barking Mad while Lang Walker will be delighted with his second placing in the championship in this, his first season in Farr 40s.
In other divisions, South Australian Chris Tillett matched Richardson's dominance in the Farr 40s by winning seven races in the Mumm 30 On The Edge. Tillett has won the Australian Mumm 30 Championship title as well the British Trophy while veteran Sydney yachtsman Hugo van Kretschmer won the Sydney 38 British Trophy series on Bashful.