It was smiles all round as the crew of AdvantEDGE crossed the finish line first in the Launceston to Hobart yacht race.
Finishing at 12.50pm on Wednesday, Launceston-based skipper Andrew Jones snatched the lead from Fork in the Road (Gary Smith) as they turned the corner at Tasman Island and headed across Storm Bay.
Maintaining a nervous lead as they entered the River Derwent, there was only minutes between the boats before the breeze increased to a fresh 15-18-knot south-easterly allowing both to build speed and have a spectacular match race to the finish.
Finishing only minutes behind AdvantEDGE, Fork in the Road tried every trick in the book to overtake, but to no avail.
Filepro (Tim Gadsby) and Jazz Player (Brent McKay) were next to hit the finish line, with Filepro finishing just over four minutes ahead. It will be a long wait for the crew of Filepro as they await the finish of the rest of the fleet to determine if they can hold their position of first on IRC.
With the wind forecast to ease overnight the podium for all handicap categories is still up for grabs.
The Royal Yacht Club of Victoria's Tim Olding sailed his Summit 35 Vertigo over the finish line at 5:08am on Wednesday to win the Melbourne to Devonport yacht race.
The smallest boat in the fleet with a crew of six managed through good tactics and excellent light weather sailing skills to beat double handed sailors Brian Pattinson and his son Tristan on Jones 42 yacht Gusto Solo by five hours.
The two boats had adopted similar tactics at the beginning of the race when they both tacked east after exiting Port Phillip Heads.
"We had studied the models closely before we left but when we were off Cape Schanck we were able to update the model," Olding said.
"We ended up not going as far east as originally planned and started heading south. Gusto went further east and it didn't really help them."
Originally from Hobart, Olding learned to sail dinghies on the Derwent River, adding: "the dinghy sailing helps with the light wind stuff."
As they neared the coast the two yachts were tied together when a shift came through. Olding made the decision to jib on the shift. They had good sailing until a 180 degree shift left them in light fickle breezes which was followed by the harbourmaster's instruction to stand aside for The Spirit of Tasmania to come through.
"We couldn't have been happier with the way we sailed," Olding added. "With some experienced and some new people on board it was a good team."
Vertigo will win The Rudder Cup for the handicap win and the Line Honours trophy double.
Gusto Solo will receive the double-handed trophy. Scaramouche claimed the performance handicap and ORC handicap prize.
Seven of the Melbourne to Hobart fleet made the unusual choice to round King Island to the west, and most of them have since made it back to the rhumbline.
Only after the results come in will organisers know whether east versus west was the correct decision.
For at least one yacht, Audere, sticking to the traditional route does seem to have worked well.
Skipper Josh Thring's Beneteau First 45 is leading from some of its larger and faster rivals. Yachts Lord Jiminy, Tevake ll and Faster Forward are in pursuit and working hard to find which side of the rhumbline will give them the best air.
The double-handed crew of Alex-Team Macadie have good boat speed and seem ahead of the other double-handed crew on Blue Water Tracks.
All yachts had a tough night trying to find the best path to Hobart with little light and a confused sea state.
The crew of Vagabond reported to race director Jeremy Walton : "It's pitch black and to call the winds fickle is a kindness."
Walton remarked: "If they think last night was bad, they are now sailing into worse. The weather hole off Strahan means boats have about five knots from the west and it's going to be like that all day."
The Bureau of Meteorology's MetEye shows the light wind 'hole' extending from Granville Harbour to Elliot Bay. Importantly it doesn't show any change to that pattern until the early hours of Thursday morning. Those that can make enough progress to get past Point Hibbs will pick up that new breeze, while anyone left near Cape Sorrell may find that the hole just gets deeper into Thursday morning.
This could be disadvantageous to the smaller boats in the fleet and affect handicap places.
Walton added: "It's those light wind sailing skills that are at the fore again. Looking for the lifts and zephyrs and keeping the boat moving is all important. I have been informed by Blue Water Tracks that they will take the opportunity to make a decent meal while they are in calm seas."
Enjoying 20-knot westerlies should help the fleet around the rugged South West Cape and Maatsuyker Island. For most Westcoaster aficionados this is the most exciting part of the race for both beauty and exhilaration.
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