194 boats will race at Hamilton Island, beginning on Saturday

An impressive fleet of 194 yachts comprising everything from small cruising boats to the upper echelon of Grand Prix racers will line up for Audi Hamilton Island Race Week, starting this Saturday, August 22.

The fleet size, which has exceeded the highest expectations of organisers, cements Race Week as the biggest offshore yachting regatta in Australia, as well as the most awarded.

“This fleet confirms that Audi Hamilton Island Race Week stands at the pinnacle of keelboat racing in Australia,” said the island's CEO, Glenn Bourke, who is a yachting Olympian and multi world championship winner. “Everyone associated with the regatta is elated. To achieve the fleet we have this year you must offer the best formula for close and satisfying racing, and an outstanding venue, and that is what we have done, thanks in no small way to the Oatley family who have done a superb job in developing Hamilton Island as the premier island holiday destination in Australia.

“However, we also recognise we can't rest on our laurels. Our challenge is to see Hamilton Island Race Week continue to deliver a premium level of competition plus stimulating events onshore that satisfy everyone over the years ahead.”

Glenn Bourke made special mention of the cruising and non-spinnaker cruising divisions that make up the bulk of the fleet. He said Race Week organisers would never lose sight of the important role they play in the overall success of the regatta.

And while these cruising division sailors are destined to enjoy close racing on special courses that embrace the exceptional natural beauty that comes with the many islands making up the Whitsunday region, it will be the intensity of the competition in the IRC Grand Prix division that will hold centre stage. The fleet here is possibly the best ever assembled in ocean racing in Australia.

In all 59 yachts make up the IRC Grand Prix and IRC Passage divisions, a figure that this year represents a surprising percentage increase in the makeup of the entire fleet.

With many of the Grand Prix yachts using this regatta as their first step towards winning this year's Rolex Sydney Hobart Race, it will be give-no-quarter racing where the result will probably not be known until the final day. Among the yachts that will be fighting for top honours in IRC Grand Prix are Alegria (Rod Jones, Qld), Black Jack (Peter Harburg, Qld), Evolution Racing (Ray Roberts, NSW), Limit (Alan Brierty, NSW), Living Doll (Michael Hiatt, Vic), Loki (Stephen Ainsworth, NSW), Scarlet Runner (Rob Date, Vic), Wild Oats X (Bob Oatley, NSW), and Wot Now (Graeme Wood, NSW).

The Race Committee's decision to establish the new IRC Invitational division has been very well received among competitors. This classification will comprise yachts taken from both the IRC Grand Prix and IRC Passage divisions which are no longer competitive against the newer and more developed racing yachts.

Race Week is also the final round of the Audi IRC Australian Championship. It is expected that Alegria and Wot Now will be the leading combatants for this prestigious award.

Almost every Australian state will be represented at the regatta this year, and entries have also been received from New Zealand and Singapore.

The appeal of the 26th edition of Audi Hamilton Island Race Week 2009 has been reinforced by the inclusion of the best ever onshore social programme. This will involve the official opening of the magnificent new Hamilton Island Yacht Club and a host of other activities, including the inaugural Dent Island Party Day on Thursday, August 27. There is also a great line up of food and wine events featuring top chefs – the likes of Shannon Bennett, Matt Moran and Peter Evans, and for the ladies there will be the release of fashion collections by Collette Dinnigan, Camilla Franks and Little Joe.

In another first, a Race Week golf competition is to be staged this year on the newly completed and very tempting 18-hole Hamilton Island Golf Club course. The perpetual trophy created for this competition will be presented to the winning team at the gala Race Week Trophy Presentation Dinner by Australian golf legend Peter Thompson, the designer of the course.

This is the third year that German luxury carmaker Audi has sponsored Race Week. Audi is the largest supporter of yachting events in Australia.

All information regarding the 26th Hamilton Island Race Week can be found on the website: http://www.hamiltonislandraceweek.com.au

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