With the countdown to the Rolex Sydney Hobart Yacht Race looming, international and local skippers have been looking to this weekend's Rolex Trophy Series as a last chance to fine tune their boats and crew.
But on Saturday, day one of the three day eight race series, the wind gods were anything but helpful.
On a blazing hot morning the fleet bobbed around and in flat seas waiting for some breeze, any breeze at all, to get going. Eventually, an hour and a half later than the scheduled start time a light breeze from the northeast kicked up just enough to allow the fleet to race over a shortened course.
As a somewhat strung out fleet charged toward the line Matt ALLEN'S Ichi Ban, Grant WHARINGTON'S Skandia and George SNOW'S Brindabella headed for the leeward end, with Ichi Ban ultimately enjoying an almost perfect start.
At the 1st mark the 52-footer Ichi Ban was less than a minute behind the 98-foot super maxi Skandia, and that was the way it stayed for the whole race, Skandia crossing the line eventually just 3 minutes 45 seconds in front. The time difference was not enough for the maxi, with Ichi Ban taking first place in both the IMS and IRC divisions.
As the rest of the fleet struggled home in a dying breeze Ichi Ban appeared to have demonstrated the cardinal lesson of the day. In these light breezes over a shortened course a good start was everything.
The fleet certainly appeared to heed that lesson for the start of the second race.
As Skandia raced towards the windward end of the start line she found herself in a knot of yachts, with no one willing to give an inch. In a chaotic start, boats were called back to restart or wheeled around in a penalty 360 degree turn as Skandia charged away.
At the leeward end Ichi Ban and George SNOW'S Brindabella seemed to have all the space in the world, but then disaster struck. Both were recalled for false starts, and in the light wind, the long sail back to restart robbed them of time they could never hope to recover.
This time Skandia would cross the finish line first, and far enough ahead of Andrew Short Marine (Andrew SHORT) and Ichi Ban to win the IRC division on corrected time as well, with Yendys (Geoff ROSS) winning the IMS division on corrected time.
Yendys won the IMS division again in race three, and with a 4th placing in race one, this was enough to put her at the top of the division's point score, with 164 points. Ragamuffin (Syd FISCHER) with 2 seconds and a third enjoyed another day of consistent, high quality racing to finish the day jus t 3 points adrift, on 161, with Ichi Ban in third place in the division on 158 points.
In the IRC division though Ichi Ban leads Skandia, with just 3 points separating the two yachts, 162 to 159.
Shifty conditions tests some of the best in the Farr 40 fleet
A few miles to the north the Farr 40 Division of the Rolex trophy Series were having their own private tussle, but the wind was no more co-operative.
Today's conditions off North Head outside Sydney Harbour had the seven boat Farr 40 fleet waiting for over and hour and a half under postponement before getting race one of the series under way. The 8-knot breeze eventually settled in the North East but spent the day shifting within a 70-degree span.
With a lot of old and new faces within the crews race one had the fleet fighting for the boat end of the line but Steve O'ROURKE'S Panther at the pin end of the line convincingly won the start. Lang WALKER'S Kokomo led at the first mark rounding and held this position for the remainder of the race. Panther, after her sensational start followed in Kokomo's wake and finished third over the line behind Rob SKINNER'S Weapon who had caught them at the second top mark rounding.
Race two had the race committee resetting the course after the light breeze swung to the Sou 'east. Dick VOORDERHAKE'S Rapscallion had a fantastic start coming out of the blocks with pace at the boat end of the line. Rapscallion sailed high with Neville CRICHTON'S Team Shockwave, who took the lead early on and stayed there to the finish line.
The race committee abandoned the third race after the breeze shifted 40 degrees and they decided that the breeze wasn't going to maintain a consistent direction. With this in mind they abandoned racing for the day and sent a tired and sunburnt fleet home.
Full results are available on the event website at the address below.