The 2022 Noakes Sydney Gold Coast Yacht Race got underway on Sydney Harbour at 1300hrs today in extremely light conditions.
A fickle 2-3kt sou'easter that disappeared at times kept tacticians and navigators on their toes as the fleet of 61 boats slowly made their way out from the start line just east of Clark Island.
The RP100 Black Jack accelerated from the line, pulling away from the other maxis, RP100 Hamilton Island Wild Oats and VPLP100 Andoo Comanche, which both started at the committee boat-end of the line, throwing up a significant wind shadow for much of the fleet in the initial minutes.
Thirty minutes or so into the race, most were struggling to hold foresails as the wind progressively eased.
Black Jack hugged Nielsen Park and sent a man up the mast to check for breeze before sticking her nose into Vaucluse Bay chasing the promise of new lines.
Hamilton Island Wild Oats played it safe in the central channel, tapping into the outgoing tide and keeping her options open.
Sailing on the western shore, it was David Griffith's JV62 Whisper and Gordon Ketelbey's TP52 Zen who made the best of the light conditions.
Behind them, it was a constant game of snakes and ladders between boats of all shapes and sizes.
The lead boats left the Heads over an hour after the gun with the 100-foot Black Jack the first to feel the sea breeze, marginally ahead of Hamilton Island Wild Oats.
In pursuit were race sponsor Noakes Group's Sean Langman on the RP69 Moneypenny and Andoo Comanche. In the chasing pack were Patrice, No Limit, Zen, Whisper, Gweilo and Pretty Woman.
Guido Belgiorno-Nettis' stunning Frers 57 Shearwater was the first two-handed entrant out the Heads ahead of Avalanche, Rum Rebellion and Disko Trooper_Contender Sailcloth.
Michael Martin's TP52 Frantic had been late for the start by almost 50 minutes as they waited for their storm jib to arrive. Otherwise, it was an uneventful start to the 384nm race but a beautiful day nonetheless, enjoyed by a myriad of spectator boats.
It promises to be a great tussle between the leaders over the next 40 or so hours with the majority of boats probably not likely to see Southport until Tuesday or Wednesday.
With the breeze building slightly and swinging through the east into the north later today it will likely be a long and chilly evening ahead.