Winds gusting to 42 knots provide a tough start for the 16 boats in the 29th Gosford to Lord Howe Island fleet yesterday.
Early in the morning a southerly change swept up the coast, reaching Seal Rocks by 3am. During the morning the winds built from the forecast 25 knots to 40 knots as the fleet lined up for the starters gun off Barrenjoey Light at 1pm.
Over the last six hours the winds had begun to swing from the south west around to the southeast and the expected spinnaker start, turned into a windward beat.
Assistant race director Tony Evans reported that most of the fleet was carrying one or two reefs and small code 3 or 4 headsails. In the heavy winds, the fleet approached the line conservatively.
Bob Robertson's Sydney 60 Eureka II, the line honours winner in 2000 had the best of the start with Wayne Millar's Zoe close behind.
Merit, last years winner when racing as Line 7 was third last across the line but she was soon moving forward in the fleet. However these conditions do not suit the Volvo 60, designed as a down-wind flier and her earlier race record aspirations are likely to be dashed.
Terry Mullen's Sting, 1999 Hobart handicap winner should be well suited to these conditions along with the Sydney 41 Zoe.
In the PHS fleet Alex Whitworth's Berimilla and Hugh O'Neill's Mark Twain will no doubt find the conditions to their liking.
Most of the fleet has punched straight east, seeking to cross the southern flowing East Australian current.
The first radio sked at 1505 will no doubt prove interesting as the 16-boat fleet prepares for a tough night at sea.