Following the return of the six skiffs which competed recently in the US, a fleet of 22 teams lined up in 20+ knot north easterly conditions to contest Race 1 of the Australian 18 Footers League Club Championship on Sydney Harbour today.
The fleet took a battering in the conditions with only ten teams managing to complete the course.
Current NSW champions John Harris, Scott Babbage and Peter Harris handled the conditions superbly to bring their skiff Rag & Famish Hotel home a 2m13s winner from Sponsor Wanted, crewed by Michael Coxon, Aaron Links and Trent Barnabas.
Andy Budgen, James Barker and Matt Mc Govern finished third in Project Racing, a further 1m4s behind Sponsor Wanted.
Fisher & Paykel (Andrew Cuddihy) was next, followed by Smeg (Trevor Barnabas, standing in for Nick Press) and Yandoo (John Winning)
Former Giltinan champion Michael Coxon, returning to the 18s after a season lay off, showed that his team would again be a force when Sponsor Wanted took a 40s lead on the windward leg to the Beashel Buoy
Seve Jarvin's Gotta Love It 7 was in second place, followed by Rag & Famish Hotel, Yandoo, appliancesonline (John Winning Jr), Smeg, Project Racing and Pure Blonde (James Francis).
Several skiffs capsized on the spectacular spinnaker run to the wing mark off Shark Island.
Among them were appliancesonline, Gotta Love It 7 and Club Marine (Marcus Ashley-Jones).
Sponsor Wanted continued to hold their lead to the bottom mark the first time although their margin had been reduced to just 15s by Rag & Famish.
This pair had opened up a break on the rest of the fleet which was headed by Smeg, Project Racing, Yandoo and Fisher & Paykel.
There was little change up the following windward beat. This time Sponsor Wanted gained marginally to lead Rag & Famish by 25s.
The leaders set a sensational pace down the spinnaker run to the bottom mark the second time, thrilling the large crowd aboard the spectator ferry.
Unfortunately for the Sponsor Wanted team, an untimely capsized near Clarke Island ended their winning chance as they watched Rag & Famish sail off to an unbeatable lead.
Over the final triangle of the course Rag & Famish Hotel was untroubled to maintain their advantage over the fleet and went on to record a comfortable victory.
Behind the leader, however there was still plenty of action as Smeg and Yandoo both capsized on the final spinnaker run to Shark Island.
Next Sunday's race is the first race of the NSW Championship and John Harris and his team showed today that they will be favoured to retain the title they won last year.
With today's race under his belt, Michael Coxon and his ‘Sponsor Wanted' team will also be a strong challenger in the NSW championship as well as the Giltinan Championship next February.
An ideal opportunity for somebody to sponsor a potential ‘world champion'.