The Airlie Beach regatta is more often than not sailed in robust south easterly trade winds. But the high pressure system sitting over north Queensland has made sure that the 20th event starts in light airs.
While this morning's official weather bureau forecast is for north to north westerly winds 10-15 knots, shifting to north easterly 15-20 knots inshore in the afternoon, local sailors do not except to see that much wind out on Pioneer Bay and north towards the Double Cones.
The traditional Airlie Beach starting race is the 28 nautical mile Double Cone – Armit race and it will test tacticians and crews in these wind conditions.
In the Grand Prix IRC Racing fleet, Michael Hiatt's Farr 55 Living Doll, Robert Date's Reichel Pugh 52 Scarlet Runner and Ray Robert's Cookson 50 Evolution Racing would have been expected to dominate but now the smaller boats, especially the three Farr 40's could come into their own if they come home on a building breeze.
Royal Queensland Yacht Squadron Commodore Russell McCart will be well placed with his Farr 40 Night Nurse as will Bob Robertson and his Cracklin Rosie team.
The Whitsunday crew on Ian Thomson's E11even will certainly have local knowledge on their side and Noel Humphrey's Farr 39 Samurai Jack, which has a Farr 40 mast and rig will be helped by lighter conditions.
It's a similar story for the sports boat fleets. Queenslander Mark Buchbach is smiling this morning. His lightweight Stealth 7 sports boat Raptor will be favoured by softer conditions in her battle against the bigger boats.
Buchbach commented ' She is already a light boat, in 2007 we did well at Airlie Beach, winning line honours overall and coming fourth on handicap, but now we have a new keel and she is going even better in soft conditions.'
Michael Cowan from Stealthy, the Lake Macquarie Stealth 8 agrees. Overall it's going to be a speed battle with Pierre Gal's Conquistador, Bruce Tardew's No Limits, and Noel Leigh Smith's Bethwaite 8 Vivace and the 7 metre Raptor. – she'll do well if it stays light and us. We of course would like it to blow dogs, but you can't always get what you want.'
Race Week founder Don Algie commented this morning 'The south east trades have been in for weeks and this will be just a temporary soft patch, I am sure we will get good winds later in the week.'