Yacht­ing clas­sic gets off to a flyer

Townsville Bulletin - - Sport -

THE highly an­tic­i­pated spin­naker start may have failed to ma­te­ri­alise but a mass of on­look­ers were none­the­less treated to a spec­tac­u­lar start to the 2006 Syd­ney to Ho­bart yacht race.

Thou­sands gath­ered in and around the har­bour and were blessed with both a glo­ri­ous Syd­ney day and one of the fastest starts in the race’s his­tory.

A swarm of spec­ta­tor craft flooded the har­bour as 2005 line hon­ours win­ner and race record holder WildOat­sXI pow­ered out to sea ahead of fel­low su­per maxis Skan­di­aand Max­imus.

Boats big and small flanked the fleet in search of the clos­est pos­si­ble view, cre­at­ing a some­times chaotic scene.

They also added an­other chal­lenge for many of the race’s smaller en­trants with a num­ber of near misses as the back­end of the fleet left the heads.

Mean­while, there was barely a spare sec­tion of open space on the har­bour’s fore­shore as many, keen to take ad­van­tage of the sun­shine that had de­serted Syd­ney for most of the past week, packed van­tage points from early this morn­ing.

The first spin­naker start to the race since 2003 had been an­tic­i­pated but the big­ger yachts chose not to bring them out, al­though some of the smaller boats tookad­van­tage of the south­east­erly breeze so the crowd was not to­tally de­prived of the colour­ful sails.

The boats be­gan to as­sem­ble as five-time race win­ner Trygve Halvorsen fired the 10 minute warn­ing sig­nal be­fore South Aus­tralia’s John Pow­ell, who won the race in 1950, sig­nalled the fi­nal five min­utes of jostling for po­si­tion.

On the stroke of 1pm, as no fewer than 13 he­li­copters hov­ered above, 90-year-old 1947 Syd­ney to Ho­bart crew­man Den­nis Ma­son fired the can­non to send the fleet on its way south for the 62nd time.

Aided by slightly stronger than ex­pected winds, the en­tire 78-strong fleet had cleared the heads within half an hour in a tightly-bunched field, and the spec­ta­tor craft seem­ingly cleared the har­bour with equal speed as the yachts trailed off down the coast.

Al­though David Kent’s Gillawawas the last boat out of the heads, BSG’On Tap’was tech­ni­cally last when it was forced to the backof the field af­ter miss­ing the sec­ond sea marker on the way out to sea.

This year’s fleet in­cludes eight in­ter­na­tional en­tries rep­re­sent­ing the Nether­lands, New Zealand, Italy, Canada and the United King­dom and has at­tracted 26 yachts that are first-time en­trants.

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