XS Moment racing in close quarters with her 40-foot rivals after the Audi Centre Sydney Cabbage Tree Island Race start Credit - CYCA/Hamish Hardy

If the events of 2020 dampened any memories of grand-prix yacht racing on Sydney Harbour, the Cruising Yacht Club of Australia’s (CYCA) Audi Centre Sydney Blue Water Pointscore Cabbage Tree Island Race start has brought them flying back in truly spectacular style.

With the sun setting behind the Sydney skyline, the 51 teams had champagne sailing conditions with a fresh 12-14 knot nor-nor-easterly and the mercury topping nearly 30 degrees Celsius before the 1900hrs start off Point Piper.

Rising to the occasion, the two super maxis, Peter Harburg’s Black Jack and Christian Beck’s InfoTrack, were first off the line. InfoTrack had the advantage straight away, able to hold their rival beneath them all the way into Bradleys Head and gain an early lead.

It wasn’t over there though, as Black Jack played to her lighter-wind strengths and reeled InfoTrack in, overtaking them just before the heads to claim the race’s first bragging rights.

Matt Allen’s Botin 52 Ichi Ban was the first of the 52-footers to blast out of the heads with Gordon Ketelbey’s TP52 Zen keeping them honest very close behind. With past performance in mind, the TP52 fleet of seven teams will be the ones to watch for the race’s IRC honours.

Flexing their muscles for the first time in the Audi Centre Sydney Blue Water Pointscore was the Schumacher 54 Maritimo, owned by marine industry legend Bill Barry-Cotter. Last seen campaigning the meticulously restored 1904 ketch Katwinchar to 2019 Rolex Sydney Hobart Great Veterans division victory, the team relished the extra speed of the 54-footer and put on a great show off the start line.

Further back in the pack, Sibby Ilzhofer’s Farr/Cookson 47 Dare Devil had a great tussle with Tim Cox’s DK 43 Minerva and Craig Douglas’ Beneteau First 47.7 Popeye. Also holding close quarters was Ray Hudson’s XP44 XS Moment, Carl Crafoord’s Cookson 12 SailExchange and Steve Connors’ Inglis/Jones 40 Arch Rival – these battles will be sure to continue through the night.

For the first time in history, a strong contingent of Two-Handed entries is taking on the Cabbage Tree Island Race alongside their fully-crewed rivals. Rupert Henry’s J/65 Burning Palms was first out of the heads, with Jiang Lin’s X 43 Min River the best of the rest and looking strong for handicap honours come the finish.

Epic contests were taking place for the long beat up the Harbour as the fleet tacked their way to Sydney Heads before heading for Cabbage Tree Island some 90 miles north off Port Stephens.