Blue water racing has made a triumphant return to the Cruising Yacht Club of Australia’s (CYCA) Sailing Program with the Bird Island Race setting off this morning.

After the first few races of the Audi Centre Sydney Blue Water Pointscore (Audi Centre Sydney BWPS) were abandoned due to COVID-19 safety measures, it was wonderful to see so many teams out on the water once again.

A technical, 6-8 knot south-westerly greeted competitors for the 1000hrs start in Sydney Harbour, giving the fleet plenty of time to size each other up for their first hit-out of the season. With 37 teams on the line, ranging in size from Sean Langman’s new-look RP 69 Moneypenny to Shane Kearns’ plucky S&S 34 White Bay 6 Azzurro, it was a sight to behold as spinnakers were set and the starters gun sounded.

Matt Allen’s Botin 52 Ichi Ban and Sebastian Bohm’s TP52 Smuggler made the most of the conditions, shooting off the line for an early lead. It was Gordon Ketelbey’s TP52 Zen, however, who put on a stellar show of light-wind racing down Sydney Harbour to lead the fleet out of the heads and claim first bragging rights of the race.

Behind the leading pack of grand-prix racers, Richard Hudson & David Beak’s IC 45 MOD Pretty Woman also rose to the light-wind challenge with a great sail down Sydney Harbour, closely followed by Rob Aldis’ DK 46 Khaleesi.

For the first time in history, three teams are taking on the Bird Island challenge two-handed after the division’s inclusion this year in the Audi Centre Sydney BWPS. Current two-handed Melbourne Osaka Cup champion Rupert Henry and his J/65 Burning Palms were first out of the heads for the division with Jiang Lin’s X 43 Min River and James Murchison’s Tripp 47 Abracadabra behind.

With the southerly forecast to build to 25 knots just as boats are rounding Bird Island, it will be a hard slog home back to the Rushcutters bay finish line.

Stay locked on to keep up to date with the tracker, results, photos and video of the race. You can also head over to CYCA’s Facebook or Instagram and join the conversation with #AudiCentreSydneyBWPS.

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The ever-competitive TP52s fleet led out of Sydney Harbour before turning north for Bird Island. Credit – CYCA/Hamish Hardy.