Matt Allen's Botin 52 Ichi Ban is again shaping up as one of the favourites for the Audi Centre Sydney Blue Water Pointscore.
Following a solid performance in the Flinders Islet Race a week earlier, Ichi Ban claimed Fully-Crewed Overall honours (IRC and ORCi) in the 83 nautical mile Bird Island Race.
The two-time winner of the Tattersall Cup (2017 & 2019) is building momentum ahead of the 2021 Rolex Sydney Hobart Yacht Race.
Ichi Ban was fourth over the line in a time of 5 hours, 48 minutes and 53 seconds, averaging 14.8 knots throughout the race.
That was enough to give Allen and his crew the wins on IRC and ORCi handicaps, holding off the challenge of Matt Donald and Chris Townsend's TP52 Gweilo.
With a second place finish overall from Flinders Islet and a win from Bird Island, Ichi Ban is in good position after two of the four races in the Audi Centre Sydney Blue Water Pointscore.
She won back-to-back Pointscores in 2018-19 and 2019-20.
"We got a solid second place finish last week, so it's nice to back that up with a win," said Allen
"The Blue Water Pointscore is a really big thing for us. It's one of the main focuses of the boat - that and the Rolex Sydney Hobart are intertwined.
"To have a second and a first sets us up well, because we know the Pointscore is going to be really tight at the top and it's hard to get points on the others."
Conditions were vastly different to the Flinders Islet Race, with a strong west nor'wester providing a physical challenge for the fleet.
"It was a really unusual race, I don't think anyone has done a Bird Island Race like that," Allen said. "It was very unusual for the wind to be so much from the west and for it to be so windy.
"It was a pretty wet and furious race, especially with that much wind. I think we got a gust of 38-39 knots at one stage, so it was pretty much about holding on and trying to keep the salt out of the eyes.
"Luckily it was a short race in terms of time. [The first two races of the Audi Centre Sydney Blue Water Pointscore] have given the fleet upwind racing, downwind racing and quite a lot of furious reaches.
"It's good for the whole fleet to have that experience and time on the water. It helps with the crew work."
Many boats still have crew members returning to action following the difficulties created by COVID-19 restrictions and border closures.
With just six weeks to go until the Rolex Sydney Hobart, the Ichi Ban crew are making the most of every opportunity they get to race.
"I think the crew work on a lot of boats is getting better with every race, though we might be a bit further behind than we would normally be this time of year," Allen added.
"But people are ramping up pretty quickly. A lot of the crew that weren't available last week were back on the boat this week and we're focusing on getting the crew that's going to Hobart in the right positions.
"Going out in 30 knots of breeze is always quite good; it gets your mind around a few things you want to improve with the boat.
"We just need to spend more time on the water and practice setups for different wind angles."
Gweilo - the 2020/21 Audi Centre Sydney Blue Water Pointscore champion - was second on Fully-Crewed IRC and ORCi, finishing less than four minutes behind Ichi Ban as one of six boats to go below the six-hour mark.
URM took the win on PHS handicap, while Steve Capell's Swan 65 Eve dominated Division 2, winning on IRC, ORCi and PHS.
View the full standings for divisional results.