SYDNEY - Lost in the frenetic whirl of colourful sails, unexpected crashes and unpredictable weather was surely the bravest vessel out in Sydney Harbour yesterday.
Roughly 20 minutes after the smoke from the five-minute warning cannon had been carried away on the northwesterly breeze, a small figure emerged, jostling for the best position out near the heads.
It wasn't race leader Wild Oats XI who surged through the water, rather a two-person kayak which paddled up alongside the 30m behemoth, seeking to muscle in for the best vantage point for the start of the 66th Sydney to Hobart yacht race.
Water lashed the side of one of the smallest craft on the harbour as the busy crew on board Wild Oats got stuck into their tasks in the hope that tomorrow they will be celebrating line honours for a fifth time.
The hardy kayak was just one of hundreds of spectator boats that lined the foreshore trying to get a glimpse of the boat race that stops a nation.
There is no doubting how big the super maxis are when they are right in your face, which was what the media boat A-Team found when they collided with early pace-setter Wild Thing.
And while mother nature failed to provide the spectacular, sunny conditions which Sydneysiders are used to in December, she didn't disappoint when it came to ensuring a rollercoaster race start.
Rather than clear blue skies and a favourable breeze, the fleet of 87 woke yesterday morning to driving rain, grey clouds and swirling winds.
"A little rain depression has caused the start conditions to be a little less Sydney-like than we'd hoped. It doesn't look like we'll get our pretty sea breezes with a sunny sky," Cruising Yacht Club of Australia Commodore Garry Linacre said before the race.
He was spot on - right up until all boats had safely navigated the tricky conditions, with the last-placed Onelife crew leaving the harbour as the sun began to break through.
Soon after, it truly emerged from its post-Christmas lunch slumber and began beating down on the spectator boats whose crews were getting their fill of holiday festivities - all while Wild Oats XI continued to streak away from the field.