Britain's Rob Greenhalgh leads the field after two races and, as the top ranked skipper in the world, is nominally the hardest man to beat

Anyone who is familiar with Sydney Harbour as an 18 foot Skiff venue will be aware that the direction of the wind has a huge bearing on the nature of the racing. As a generalisation the best direction, and the best racing, is when the sea breeze comes in from the north-east. Not only does it come in at 15 knots plus (sometimes plus quite a lot), but it is by far the steadiest in terms of strength and bearing. The course for the sea breeze is also the most enjoyable. It is what the 18 footer sailors crave.

Southerly winds tend to be blustery and difficult, and the course is very demanding on the crews – especially in judgement of when to hoist and lower the spinnaker on the very shy reaches.

For south-easterly winds the course zigs-zags all over the place, which is quite good fun, but the fickleness of the breeze can be frustrating.

Anything from a westerly direction, coming over the land mass, can drive strong men insane. It is commonplace for the fleet to become completely becalmed until one or two boats suddenly pick up a private bit of pressure and zoom past the rest. OK for the zoomers, but very frustrating to those who can only sit and wait.

Finally we have the easterly, which is what we have enjoyed (or endured) in this regatta so far. It is probably no coincidence that the winners of the two heats sailed to date have been wily campaigners with years of experience on the harbour. John Winning, who took Saturday’s race, knows the place like the back of his hand, and he put that knowledge to very good use when the won this event three years ago. Trevor Barnabas, who won yesterday, has lifted the JJ Giltinan Trophy on no less than five occasions.

So does this mean that anyone without this depth of experience is wasting their time and need not apply? Certainly not, as Tim Robinson from the UK showed in 1998 and the USA’s Howie Hamlin proved last year. These two skippers are the only ones from the northern hemisphere who have pulled it off so far, but at least they have shown that it can be done.

Britain’s Rob Greenhalgh leads the field after two races and, as the top ranked skipper in the world, is nominally the hardest man to beat. Then there are a number of young Australian skippers like Michael Coxon and Hugh Stodart who have the skills to sail their 18 footers very fast, and the intuition to handle the difficult breezes referred to above, despite lacking the depth of experience of the likes of Trevor and John.

So who will lift the JJ Giltinan Trophy next Sunday afternoon? We must wait and see, because you never know, which is what makes sailboat racing so fascinating. It also explains why hundreds of Sydneysiders come down to Double Bay and buy their tickets for the spectator ferries – considered to be the best afternoon out in Sydney for twelve dollars (just over four pounds).

Positions (after two heats)

1. RMW Marine, Rob Greenhalgh, GBR, 13 points

2. Omega Smeg, Trevor Barnabas, AUS, 14 points

3. Yandoo, John Winning, AUS, 15 points

4. Express Post, Hugh Stodart, AUS, 16 points

5. Total Recall, Tony Hannan, AUS, 18 points

6. General Electric, Howard Hamlin, USA, 24.7 points

7. Casio Seapathfinder, Michael Coxon, AUS, 25.7 points

8. Aristocrat, Gary Phillips, AUS, 26 points

9. Computer Associates, Jack Young, AUS, 28.7 points

10= Asko Appliances, David Lumb, AUS, 30 points

10= Flawless, Pablo Soldano, ITA, 30 points

12. Fisher & Paykel, Grant Rollerson, AUS, 35.7 points

13= Terry Hogan Prestige Cars, Chris Dixon, AUS, 39 points

13= Radii, Andy Richards, GBR, 39 points

15. Avaya, Peter Morrison, AUS, 46 points

16. Ovington Boats, Dave Ovington, 48 points

17= Rag & Famish Hotel, Warwick Rooklyn, AUS, 49 points

17= Ernst & Young, Jarrod Simpson, GBR, 49 points

19= Link Associates, Tim Penfold, GBR, 50 points

Computacenter, Neale Fitzgerald, GBR, 50 points

21= Sunday Telegraph, Clynton Wade-Lehman, RSA, 51 points

21= New Zealand, Chris Skinner, NZL, 51 points

23. Churchill’s Sports Bar, Ben Austin, AUS, 56 points

24. Rosemount, Micah Lane, AUS, 58 points

25. Ronstan, Geoff Carveth, GBR, 59 points

26. Hermes, Ed Browne, GBR, 62 points

27. Base 1, Rob Dulson, GBR, 63 points

28. Team Canada, Fred Eaton, CDN, 66 points