Another successful Airlie Beach Race Week ends

Whitsunday Sailing Club’s 30th Anniversary Airlie Beach Race Week surpassed expectations – anyone would be hard put to remember better weather at a regatta, accentuated by the variety of winds, courses and the sunny days.

At the top end, winds reached 25 knots with gusts – and at the lower end, 7-9 knots and lovely fluent trade winds – competitors were spoilt for choice. 

The IRC Passage series was hard fought all the way between Ray ‘Hollywood’ Roberts’ Botin 40, Team Hollywood, and the two TP52s; Matt Allen’s Ichi Ban and Marcus Blackmore’s Hooligan.

Ichi Ban won the final race by seven seconds over Hooligan to claim the series from the latter by three points. Team Hollywood placed third after a race drop came into play. Roberts lost out, as he dropped a third place; the TP52s dropped a seventh and eighth respectively.

Allen, the President of Australian Sailing, said he enjoyed the regatta as a whole. “A variety of courses, tactical races, flat water, a friendly and relaxed attitude – it’s what we’ve come to expect from Airlie Beach Race Week – and catching up with old friends,” he said.

Of facing Hooligan for the first time, Allen said, “It was a great hit-out. The characteristics of the two boats are similar with minor differences. Ours has offshore capabilities; Marcus’ is an inshore boat. It’s gratifying knowing that you can have a boat that can do both.

“Today wasn’t the most tactical on the Bay, more of a reaching up and down race,” he said.  

As Race Director Denis Thompson said earlier in the day, those who sailed well in all conditions are “true champions.”

Standout performances came from the crews of local Whitsunday’s sailor Paul Mitchell on Ullman Sails in Multihull Racing, Queenslander John Fowell with First Born in Trailable Yachts, and newcomer Matt Doyle (NSW) in Cruising Non-Spinnaker with La Troisieme Mitemps.

Mitchell, the defending champion, sailed his 12 metre Grainger Appex to six wins from seven races. In fact, Mitchell cheekily port tacked his rivals in today’s final race and was not headed from there. They have been poetry in motion all week.

Second place went to Mitchell’s older brother Dale, who helmed the NSW Lombard Tri, Morticia, and won the lone race that Ullman Sails did not win (and was used for Paul’s drop).

Goggles, sometimes known as Jason Ruckert, made it another Queensland win when he took out Performance Racing with his Thompson 7, Mister Magoo.

Last year’s Trailable Yachts winner did not have it all his own way, as Brett Whitbread and his crew on the Fareast 28R, Pipeline Drillers, pushed Goggles hard all week. In doing so, finished second to Mister Magoo by six points and won the Fareast 28R Nationals by a huge margin to Peter Daniel’s Thargo.

Following a week-long stoush between famous yachts of yesteryear, Cruising Division 1 went to Bumblebee 4 (owned by a syndicate skippered by Mick McLean) from Helsal 3, owned by the Helsal 3 syndicate from NSW – on countback. Yes, it was that close. 

Royal Akarana Yacht Club’s Hamish Milne, was thrilled to win Cruising Division 2 with his Beale 47, Moody Blue by nine points from Ian Griffiths’ Witchy Woman (Qld). It is Milne’s first time here and the New Zealander was chuffed to find himself in the winner’s box.

John Fowell, an old hand at ABRW, was over the moon to find his Lidgard 795, First Born, on top of the Trailables podium: “I only just bought her and she was a bit of a wreck. I just finished fixing her up. She has performed well beyond expectations of me and the crew.”

A surprise for Matt Doyle (La Troisieme Mitemps) to win Cruising Non-Spinnaker. The Beneteau Sense 50 and her owner are first-timers. As Doyle said, “We didn’t know what to expect – but it wasn’t to win overall. We just wanted to beat our fellow RPAYC member and friend Ivor Burgess on Still Dangerous.”  

Another first-timer, Philip Bell’s Olson 40, She (Qld), won Division 3 from Paul Woodman’s Summer Wind (Vic). This pointscore see-sawed all week.  

John Rae and Gary Smith’s Bethwaite 79er,Vivace was too good for the rest, winning five of the nine races in the in the Sports Boats, to claim that trophy from fellow Queenslander, Situation Normal (Jamie and Barry Berndt).

John Williams lifted from third overall last year to win Multihull Passage with Tyee III, his Catana 431. The well-known Victorian yachtsman swapped monohulls for multis a few years back and seems he’s good in both categories.

Don Algie, founder and former sponsor of Airlie Beach Race Week with Hogs Breath Cafe, presented the Boss Hog trophy to Condor skipper, Dave Molloy. Condor, which took line honours in the 1983 and 1986 Hobarts, has been a great supporter of Airlie Beach Race Week Festival of Sailing for the past 10 years.

Ross Chisholm, Airlie Beach Race Week Festival of Sailing Event Chairman said, “A fantastic week of sailing with a quality fleet and a real mixture of conditions made everyone happy. It meant the best performing boats were at the top of each division list.

“To finish, I’d like to thank all the volunteers that make the event the success it is. Many have been coming for so many years, they are part of the Airlie Beach family. Finally, I’d like to thank the staff at Whitsunday Sailing Club – they work tirelessly before and through the week.”

Crews were again complimentary of Abell Point Marina which berths most competitors’ boats. “Nothing was too much trouble – they went out of their way to help us – hasn’t it grown,” were the common catch cries.

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By Di Pearson, ABRW media

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