Bob OATLEY'S 65-footer Wild Oats today came within 60 metres of causing the biggest upset in a decade of racing for the Canon Big Boat Challenge on Sydney Harbour.
The massive 98-footer Skandia, overtook Wild Oats only that distance from the finish line and finished a mere two boat lengths in front as violent lightning strikes hit the harbour, thunder claps almost out-doing the roar of cannon fire as the race finished off historic Fort Dennison.
Despite a valiant effort by Mark RICHARDS at the helm of Wild Oats, including a sharp luff near the finish, Skandia's Grant Wharington just managed to squeeze through to windward and finish two boats lengths in front.
"Ricko was kind to let us through,"
Wharington said facetiously at the post-race press conference, referring to Wild Oats' helmsman Mark RICHARDS.
Wharington stressed that he and the crew are still breaking in the brand new boat, but said he was happy with its performance in today's difficult weather.
Third place went to George SNOW'S 80-footer Brindabella in a race that saw many major windshifts, calms and gusts, with the wind only occasionally reaching about 10 knots, more often only 5 knots.
Then came Grundig, which fell back from second to fourth in the fleet after initially missing a rounding mark, followed by the two Volvo 60s, Seriously TEN and Andrew Short Marine.
Former tennis star Pat RAFTER went sailing for the first time ever when he sailed as a guest aboard Ludde INGVALL'S Nicorette, the 80-footer which laboured in the light breeze and was on the wrong side of several major wind shifts.
"He really enjoyed the race, and has said he would like to sail with us again, but on a day when there is more wind and less rain,"
said a Nicorette spokesperson.
Nicorette finished 12th among the 14 boats that completed the course, with four retiring in the frustratingly light winds.
Line honours - Skandia (Grant Wharington)
1st - Wild Oats (Bob Oatley)
2nd - Skandia
3rd - Brindabella
1st - Seriously TEN (Woodruff/Robinson/James)
2nd - UBS Wild Thing (Geoff Lavis)
3rd - B3 (David Fuller)