Rolex Sydney Hobart race start

Start of the Rolex Sydney to Hobart 2007

Coming up to the five minute gun and to the start of the Rolex Sydney to Hobart yacht race, the Big Boats were milling close to the start line, looking like they would start on the northern channel.

The breeze was a nor'easter, blowing eight to nine knots with clouds appearing low on the horizon. Eight to ten choppers hovered expectantly above the fleet.

The smaller boats were 400 metres further back in the second row and the fear of many of the skippers was the danger of a start line collision.

As the start time approached crews were still deciding which side of the harbour might be favoured - the western shore seemed to get the majority vote.

As the tension built to the all important gun, skippers and crews were concentrating and the large spectator fleet jostled for position.

As the Big Boat division approached the line, the Volvo 60 DHL Daily Telegraph, helmed by Mitch Booth tacked to avoid being over early. But was she over?

The starting cannon was fired and Bob Oatley's Wild Oats X1 had a great start, a perfect start, with skipper Mark Richards (Ricko) winning yet again.

Grant Wharington's Skandia was badly positioned at the gun, boxed in behind the smaller boat fleet.

Mike Slade's City Index Leopard was fourth down the line from Wild Oats XI and took second place, four boats lengths behind Wild Oats.

At that point, Skandia still had a fair bit of traffic to negotiate.

DHL Daily Telegraph was in fact deemed to be over early and took their penalty turn.

Wild Oats XI tacked and crossed ahead of City Index Leopard, heading towards the eastern channel. Half the front of the fleet had tacked to the eastern channel as Wild Oats came to the middle of the channel and tacked again, heading to Sow and Pigs. City Index Leopard was in the western channel, ahead of Wild Oats with Skandia 250 metres further back behind City Index.

Wild Oats hardened up and was just behind City Index Leopard, but Wild Oats looked faster and harder on the breeze.

Roger Sturgeon's Rosebud was back behind Skandia, and as the yachts headed up the Harbour it was City Index Leopard leading Wild Oats, followed by Skandia and Rosebud. Toyota Aurion V6 was in fifth place.

Wild Oats X1 was winning the race to the Heads just ahead of City Index Leopard and Skandia.

Wild Oats was sailing well with good speed and seemed to accelerating. City Index Leopard was getting her dirty air and was being forced down into the spectator fleet. Skandia was back in third place after a forgetable start.

Large spectator crowds lined the Harbour at every vantage point, the day perfect for the start of this great race.

Soon Skandia and City Index Leopard had large spinnakers up and filled and both stayed close to the coast, while Wild Oats went for a Code 0 and headed seaward.

The next group round the weather mark included Geoff Ross' Reichel Pugh 55 Yendys with Graham Wood's TP52 Wot Yot and Syd Fischer's TP52 Ragamuffin with Andrew Short's Toyota Aurion V6, the former Brindabell ahead of Michael Hiatt's Cookson 50 Living Doll and Alan Witley's Cookson built TP52 Cougar 11 and Ray Robert's Cookson 50 Quantum Racing. Colourful spinnakers appeared across the Harbour.

Two Volvo 60's followed; George Gregan Foundation led DHL Daily Telegraph, Goldfinger was having trouble putting up the spinnaker, then came Knee Deep, Jazz and Hugo Boss 11. Onboard Hugo Boss 11 everyone was working hard and behind that group Chutzpah popped their spinnaker.

Wild Oats X1 was the only boat that chose to go wide and to sea, the rest of the fleet were running down the coast.

Limit, skippered by Roger Hickman, was sixth last boat out of the Heads after a delayed airline flight caused owner Alan Brierty to miss the start. Scarlett Runner was second last to leave, but no doubt skipper Robert Date was pleased to just make the start line after Scarlett Runner's recent collision and damage in the Rolex Trophy.

There is a southerly forecast for later on this evening and it will be interesting to see how it tactically affects the fleet.

Stay tuned to Sail-World, more reports to follow.