Near perfect conditions for day one of the Suzuki Fiji Hobie Challenge. Northerly winds of up to 20 Knots powered the fleet to windward over the 1 metre deep coral and seagrass gardens from Suva to Leleuvia Island Resort.
Australian duo Aaron Worral and Bradley Wilson, fresh from winning the Air Pacific South Pacific Titles, lead the fleet from start to finish.
Challenge organizer Grahame Southwick and Cyrill Miller were hot on Worrals heels past the first two Nasoata Reef turning buoys with the high powered twin wire reaching from Laucala Bay suiting his grand stature.
After passing the Togerava checkpoint the deeper waters within the barrier reef gave rise to waves of 12 to 18" and the fleet split with
3 boats risking their rudder tips going offshore towards the reef whilst the rest of the fleet stayed to the west in the deeper waters.
Disaster struck for John and Michael McCormick, one of the three boats who had taken the eastern side of the beat, some 6 miles after the checkpoint when a loose shroud adjuster pin fell out resulting in their dismasting. The support boats were following the bulk of the fleet in the deeper waters and passed them by.
After being washed through the breakers and out into the deep ocean waters, and by what must have been a remarkable feat of ingenuity proving necessity to be the mother of all inventions, they managed to step their Hobie 16 mast on the water with no external assistance at all in order to complete the course fifteen minutes within the time limit!
Bob Engwirda and Slater had been in second place passing the Nasautabu Island turn but were just overtaken on the final light wind beat into the Leleuvia Island finish by David Lovell and Nick King to complete Australian domination of the top three places.
However there was a close fight for local honours with John Philp and Charlotte Dugdale just by 12 seconds beating Graham Southwick to 4th place.
As this report is being sent off the sailors and Challenge support crew are being serenaded by the local band as they eat their dinner having enjoyed fresh water showers at the end of a long and enjoyable first day on the Fijian waters.