It was the year of the cruisers at Audi Hamilton Island Race Week, though the word ‘cruise’ is misleading. A cutthroat finish to the regatta on day six, Saturday August 23, 2014, brought out this division’s competitive edge at the critical part of the regatta.
Overall regatta numbers were boosted by 29 entries over last year thanks to growth in the cruising and multihull divisions. The standard of the cruising boats coming to Hamilton Island over the past five years has also increased considerably.
Downwind starts in downwind current in Dent Passage are where many cruisers, and racers, have in the past come unstuck. Barely a boat was caught out this year for misjudging and jumping the start before the signal sounded, an encouraging trend noticed by the race management team
A 16 knot average SSE tradewinds generated a final and very spectacular spinnaker start in Dent Passage yesterday, Saturday August 23, 2014, for the cruising fleet, which left the channel adjacent to Hamilton Island carrying a plethora of rainbow coloured kites.
It was Charles Cupit’s Bavaria 45 Three C’s that had the last hoorah overall in cruising division 1, coming in ahead of Four Bells and Infinity.
Division two skipper Peter Byford and his three-month-old L’esprit pipped Boadicca by one point in a nail-biting race on day six of racing. Byford has raced in five Audi Hamilton Island Race Weeks but had never tasted success. “I’ve never been on a podium in five years,” he said. “We are over the moon.”
The 46-footer’s crew of 11 included two of Byford’s sons. “They are 36 and 31 years old. I’ve been sailing with them since they were seven. It’s got better as we’ve all got older,” he laughed.
The crew demonstrated their competitiveness when they continued to the finish line in fresh breezes on day five having offloaded a crewman who had taken the top of his finger off in an accident.
In cruising division 3, it was the magic produced by Wizard of the Wind that hailed the Brisbane crew as champions. Skipper Michael Waldie said the Catalina 42 showed she had the goods on the final day of racing. “We are stoked, it was fantastic. We worked better and better every day, that was the highlight of the week. Also, the Piper Heidsieck lunch at qualia was amazing.”
The 14-year-old boat, built in California, competed last year but didn’t pick up any silverware. Armed with some brand new sails and three fresh crewmembers, it was their turn this year. There was one bumpy moment during the six-day regatta that didn’t have the crew laughing, though. “We had to evict a snorer from our apartment and onto the boat. It was affecting the performance,” Waldie chuckled.
Second placed Synergy may not have taken the gold but they got the surprise of a lifetime when a whale showed its belly right in front of their boat.
Oasis rolled in third for division three overall results.
Still Dangerous proved their moniker is apt with victory in non-spinnaker division one, beating Russian skipper Mikhail Beleoborodov in his Sunsail boat, Rhythm. Skipper Ivor Burgess was thrilled with his second division win in four years.
The odds of taking out the competition weren’t looking good on the final day. “We didn’t think we had a cat’s chance in hell on the final morning with the handicap. It was very tough competition out there, we had the Russian crew behind us and it was an international contest. We were sailing for Australia,” he laughed.
The 74-year-old, who has raced in five Audi Hamilton Island Race Weeks, said sailing at Hamilton Island was a luxury he and his mates treasured. “The week was great; there were beautiful sails, scenery and blue water. It was just beautiful, it’s magic. We’ve had a lot of parties.”
The 45-footer is a favourite toy for Burgess’ and his veteran crew from Sydney. “One of the crew members said to me ‘Ivor, you are saving some elderly guys from a boring retirement’,” he said.
Division two saw 46-foot Supertramp take out the top spot overall. The Mooloolaba-based boat was steered by Alan Pick, accompanied by his wife Sue.
Principal Race Officer Denis Thompson commented on the standard of the cruisers, “The level of sailing has lifted considerably over the last five years. Ten years ago we’d get boats turning up 15 minutes late for the start with whatever sails they had up. Now we’ve got a lot of privately owned cruises/racers, Beneteaus, Jenneaus, Bavarias …all with the latest sails.”
By Laura McKee/AHIRW Media