The first four races of the International 14 Australian nationals are currently taking place in Botany Bay, Sydney. The first race was sailed in a typical Sydney north-easterly sea breeze of approximately 15-20 knots with occasional gusts to 25 knots.

The race started after a short postponement and one general recall. Speed Freak, Ben Austin and Mark Hayes at the start boat end appeared to win the start with height and speed, and rounded the top mark in third position behind Irwin Sails and Grant Geddes.

The leaders then appeared to favour the right-hand side of the course for subsequent upwind legs.

Reaching legs, set at approx. 45, were found to be tight for most to carry spinnakers for the full distance.

A total of 24 boats finished out of the 33 entries. Bullet, David Lugg and Dave Clueth, retired with a broken mast after a top spreader collapsed, Black and Blue, Mark Kristic and Phil Chadwick, Invitation Race winners, retired with batten and mainsail damage.

Race two was postponed for approximately two hours hours after a strong southerly change at approx. At 1100 it strengthened to 20-25 knots with sustained wind gusts at 30 knots. During this period wind reports from a variety of sources indicated moderating winds of 17-24 knots around the Sydney coastal area. Bureau of Meteorology forecasts also indicated rapidly moderating conditions. The race was eventually started without recalls in approx. 20-25 knots of wind on a short course in relatively flat water.

The early leader Irwin Sails, Lindsay Irwin and Adrian Perry, led throughout and finished two minutes in front of Black and Blue. October Sky, Grant Geddes and Graig Watkin lost third place after a capsize at the wing mark. Capsize of the day went to Passing Show, Sean and Brett Stevens, while two-sail reaching to the gybe mark. Both recovered with minor injuries. Only two boats were recorded DNF, Speed Freak with a broken mast and Magic, Phillip Strong and Jeffry Klemm, with rudder damage. Another six boats elected to stay onshore. Despite the conditions, 25 boats finished the largest number so far in the regatta.

Race three took place on 31 December and started after two general recalls in a freshening 20-25 knot north-easterly under skies once again blackened by Sydney bushfires.

First to the top mark was Paddy Wagon, Craig Padman and guest crew Daryl Everett. More Grunt, Greg Coutts and Micheal Woodroffe, took the lead on the first wild downhill run and led all the way to finish 12 minutes in front of Irwin Sails, with another minute to October Sky.

After the first lap the wind freshened to 30 knots and only a few boats elected to carry spinnakers on the reaching legs. The remainder of the race was sailed in winds fluctuating between 12 and 30 knots. Only 18 of the 30 starters finished, two boats broke masts.

A strong outgoing tide in the vicinity of the top mark caused many approaching on starboard tack to overlay the mark considerably.

Despite the four laps and one nautical mile windward legs, More Grunt took only 73 minutes to complete the course.

First on handicap was Wedge 4, with 22-year-old skipper James Moor and 20-year -old crew Ben Stephens, new comers to the class. Wedge 4 finished sixth across the line with reefed down sails and a shortened mast. James and Ben are previous Cherub and 12ft skiff national champions.

After four very windy races most grateful for today’s rest day before Race 4.

Results (after 4 races)

1st 616 Irwin Sails, Lindsay Irwin and Adrian Parry

2nd 612 More Grunt, Greg Coutts and Michael Woodroffe

3rd 617 October Sky, Grant Geddes and Craig Watkin

4th 553 Divine Madness, Brad and Luke Divine

5th 242 Wedge IV, James Moor and Ben Stephens

6th 603 Yeah Baby, Peter Uscinski and Anthony Kenway

7th 366 Wam, Alan Vickery and Andrew Wilson

8th 608 Urban Space Capsule, Warren Sare and Rob Murdoch

9th 11 Target, Ray Hancock and Adam Green