The Auckland Tauranga race got off to a fast start in Auckland this morning.
Starting at 1000hrs off Westhaven the 60 strong fleet were propelled down the harbour by a 15kt westerly wind, causing the canting keelboats and others to gybe downwind as they sailed down the harbour.
As the fleet neared North Head the wind veered more to the north west, making for a fast ride to the first turning point off Cape Colville, at the entrance to the Hauraki Gulf.
Early leaders appeared to the the Bakewell-White 52, Wired (Rob Bassett), she was close to the Cookson 50 Pussy Galore (Anatole Masfen), with other 50's close behind.
The multihulls were the early leaders, however the necessity to gybe down the Waitemata, worked against them and the canting monohulls were able to sail deeper angles and gain some advantage at North Head.
However that advantage should be short lived, and once of a direct course the multihulls were expected to enjoy a good speed advantage.
The 120nm race should finish sometime tonight. Sail-World will have other photos of the start later today, together with updates as they are available. Update - 1400hrs
At around 1400hrs today, Lion New Zealand was reported to have passed Channel Island and was sailing at speeds of up to 14kts in 20-25kt winds, and good sailing conditions. She had blown out two spinnakers at that point. Update - 1900hrs
At 1900hrs Lion New Zealand was reported as sailing with eased sheets in a 15kts SW breeze and making good time to Tauranga. She was expecting to finish at 0030hrs. Earlier today they experienced winds of 40kts off Cape Colville, however they have since eased and are forecast to ease throughout the night.