Words: Liz Rountree
Picture: Gill Dayton “The Doghouse overall winners of the first leg of the race”
Kites popped for a clear start for all 20 starters in the 17th annual Willie Smith Launceston to Hobart Race. The fleet set off from Beauty Point in a light southerly breeze, with big crowds on both shores.
“It was the most successful start I can remember,” says Race Officer Ronn Bugg. “The spectacle, the weather, it all came together.”
Porco Rosso took off from the pin along the Western shore, with Jazz Player on her inside, while Kraken 42S chose a boat-end start and Line Honours contender Fork in the Road had a conservative mid-line approach.
A few minutes in, Fork in the Road hit her stride, with last year’s overall winner Sundowner just on her stern. But Porco Rosso slipped away early in clear air and was the first to gybe back on the breeze.
In clear air down the middle, Helsal 6 and Heatwave Fish Frenzy pulled away from the pack, with plenty of crew sitting to leeward to get the rigs to perform to their maximum.
Five minutes in the breeze began to glass out mid-river, leaving Invincible, Big Pup, Just Farr Love and Mako all neck and neck as the final pack to head out.
As they reached the Farewell Beacon at Low Head, Porco Rosso was the first to turn East with a 10-minute lead, doing 7 knots to Fork in the Road’s 6, and Jazz Player holding not letting them slip away just yet.
Kraken 42s led the 2nd pack of Dog House, Heatwave Fish Frenzy and Prion, with the first-ever all-women’s crew Lawless fighting hard in the second pack led by Y and the Victorians on Yolla.
With this very tactical 285-nautical mile race that hugs Tasmania, there are a few races within. Winning the first leg of the start to the mouth of the Tamar at Low Head was the Doghouse on IRC, Prion on ORC and Porco Rosso on PHS.
The fleet reaches across Banks Strait in a 20 kt Southwester threatening to dissipate through the night, with variable breeze guaranteed to mix things up in day two of racing.
All teams are fitted with live trackers that can be followed via the Launceston to Hobart website, as well as the Willie Smith Race Village at the Elizabeth Street Pier.