Michael Coxon, Aaron Links and Trent Barnabas on Thurlow Fisher Lawyers and Seve Jarvin, Sam Newton and Scott Babbage on Gotta Love It 7 were superb in the 25-knot (gusting to 27 knots) Southerly wind which tested the skills of every competitor in the regatta.
After more than one hour of sailing in such conditions, Thurlow Fisher crossed the finish line just 8s ahead of Gotta Love It 7.
Smeg (Nick Press, Dan Phillips and Dave Ewings) were never too far from the lead and finished a further 1m26s back in third place.
The strong wind took a heavy toll on the fleet with only 16 boats completing the course. Some even failed to make the start.
Incidents during the race are also likely to lead to several protests being lodged so all progress pointscores are provisional at this stage.
There are at least five protests, which will all be heard tomorrow morning.
Gotta Love It 7 has four points, followed by Thurlow Fisher Lawyers on 12, Smeg on 14, Mojo Wine (Archie Massey) on 15, Rag & Famish Hotel (Jack Macartney) on 15 and Smeg on 16.
At the first windward mark Gotta Love It 7 led by 10s from Thurlow Fisher, with Rag & Famish Hotel third and US champion Howie Hamlin (CST Composites) in fourth place.
The spinnaker run to Obelisk was sensational with the skiffs ‘flying’ down the harbor ahead of the strong southerly wind.
7 extended their lead over Thurlow Fisher to 30s while The Rag and CST held their positions ahead of Smeg, NZ’s C-Tech (Alex Vallings), Yandoo (John Winning), Mojo Wine and Appliancesonline.com.au (Micah Lane).
The two leaders edged further ahead of the fleet over the next two legs of the course and gave a thrilling exhibition on the two sail reach to the bottom mark.
At one point, Thurlow Fisher Lawyers was practically airborne as she chased the flying red ‘7’.
7’s lead was down to just 10s as the pair headed for Clarke Island, but a shock came over the lead when Gotta Love It 7 unaccountably capsized on a wind to leave Thurlow with the lead.
Despite another great challenge from the 7 crew, Thurlows team were great under pressure and provided spectators with an exciting finish.
One incident under protest involved the leading US and New Zealand teams of CST Composites and C-Tech, which collided on the second spinnaker run to Obelisk.