The stunning playground that is the Whitsunday Islands showed off its best for the penultimate day of the 26th edition of Audi Hamilton Island Race Week. Consistent south east trade Wwnds, flat water and whales and dolphins frolicking in the turquoise waters as the fleets slid by made for the perfect day's sailing.
With tomorrow signalling the close of competition, those in the silverware hunt are throwing everything they have at the final races of the week-long series that commenced last Saturday.
In the IRC grand prix division 1 Michael Hiatt's Victorian Farr 50 Living Doll is poised for back to back victories having claimed the coveted overall win at Meridien Marinas Airlie Beach Race Week last week.
With just one race to go, the 23.3 nautical mile Molles I sland race for all classes which will kick off tomorrow at 0930hrs from Dent Passage, Living Doll's crew can sleep a little easier tonight with a seven point cushion back to seasoned campaigner Ray Roberts and his Cookson 50 Evolution Racing , which finished the bridesmaid to Living Doll at Airlie Beach.
In IRC grand prix division 2 a first, fourth and a fifth in today's three windward/leeward races has Rod Jones' Archambault 40 Alegria from Mooloolaba Yacht Club teetering on the edge of a win from Phil Coomb's DK46 Dekadence , but it will go down to the wire tomorrow with only a point separating the pair.
Andrew Saies' Two True Evolution , a brand new South Australian Beneteau First 40 which is utilising the vast knowledge of Michael Spies for the boat's first hit out, is third on the series pointscore after eight races.
In the line honours count, Bob Oatley's RP66 Wild Oats X is still one ahead of Peter Harburg's near sistership Black Jack from Queensland, while Alan Brierty's RP63 Limit from Sydney entered the fray today, scoring its second bullet on corrected time and its first line honours win to be third on the progressive series scoresheet.
With New Zealand America's Cup sailors Gavin Brady and Rodney Keenan adding plenty of kudos to what is already a top Australian crew, Limit stayed out of the tide on the first beat and snaffled the win from the bigger boats.
Following this year's Rolex Sydney Hobart and Audi Victoria Week in January Brierty is heading overseas to try his luck on the northern hemisphere stage. He'll ship his boat to the US for the Pacific Cup and Rolex Big Boat Series, amongst other events.
In the first race of the day Wild Oats X and Black Jack split tacks up the windward work then duelled back to the bottom mark, Mark Richards and his red shirt brigade once again shutting down the Mark Bradford skippered Black Jack .
In the second race, race seven of the series, Richards uncharacteristically broke the start, both Wild Oats X and Rob Hanna's Shogun recalled by the race committee to re-start. By the first top mark rounding there was only 40 seconds between the two front runners but by the finish line Black Jack had stretched that lead to almost two minutes.
All results from today's windward/leewards are available online at www.hamiltonislandraceweek.com.au.