Damage to rigs, rudders and reputations on first day of Airlie Beach Race Week

The weather models said there would be wind and rain today, and they were right as the south-east kicked up high on and around Pioneer Bay for Day 1 of the Vision Surveys 25th Airlie Beach Race Week. Many boats and crew suffered from the gusty conditions as the record 135 boat fleet raced the traditional first day Cones Armit Race.

Cruising Non Spinnaker entrant, Peter Harrison’s Rumgutz with its usually jovial Whitsunday Sailing Club crew, came off the worst as the boat tipped over adjacent to Double Cone Island. It was a long, arduous tow back to Airlie Beach for the team on the rescue boat as the breeze continue to pump in and the rain returned.

Regatta Director Denis Thompson said he was comfortable with today’s course, the only concern being a small area just outside the Cones. “It was pretty wooly out at the Cones. It was gusting to 30 knots out there.

“I haven’t heard the full story from Rumgutz about what happened, but they did lose their keel. I am not sure how they lost it or what happened. The boat turned over. We got the information about who it was from the Rumgutz crew as they were able to telephone through to the club. We had one of our support boats alongside them in very short time plus two race boats stood by them. We got people off and took them ashore.

“They are all fine. We talked about the procedures this morning, knowing it was going to be blowing, about where to station our support boats and that worked pretty well,” Thompson said.

Three boats lost their masts including Sports Boat division’s Conquistador and Jonathon Smith’s 24 footer, Fallen Angels, which lost it rig just before the finish line. Jeffrey Brown’s Performance Division entry, I Believe, lost their rudder. The New Zealand boys on tour team on the chartered Sea Fox were another crew to head home early after suffering sail damage.

A few more retirements were recorded during the afternoon as more of the fleet struggled to sail the long course in the breeze that pumped across Pioneer Bay and out at the islands. Gusts of 29 knots were seen regularly in both locations.

For those that stayed and played, the results were well deserved. 

In IRC it was Tony Kirby’s team on the Ker 46 Patrice who took handicap honours. His four minute lead on Colin Woods’s Pretty Fly III proved Kirby meant what he said about loving strong wind. 

In third on corrected time was Matt Allen’s Ichi Ban. Several minutes of costly mucking around with the asymmetrical hoist after the weather mark and then again at the corner was all that was needed for Pretty Fly III to slip through Ichi Ban on corrected time by just one minute.

“It cost us quite a bit of time. We had trouble getting the A6 down at the corner, at the Cones. Then we had to run square to get the spinnaker off the lock. By the time we got the spinnaker down, we had gone the wrong way for about four or five minutes. It adds up against you and brings you in at the wrong angle for the next leg as well. It had a bit of a compounding effect.

“The boat went well. It was doing what is was supposed to be doing which was very pleasing,” Allen said.

Back on shore Kirby was chuffed by today’s result. “We had a lot of fun. It was the day for the foredeck crew. They did all the hard work. We used every heavy air sail we had. We popped the A4 for the first windward run, but the breeze went forward so we peeled to the Zero. We then gybed around the island with the Zero, but really couldn’t hold that so went to the jib and then to the small Zero down at the bottom

“The JV46 passed up towards the island while we were changing sails, but we then got past them again. They were on fire today,” Kirby said.

Pretty Fly’s Woods’s was quietly celebrating his team’s great performance and no damage.  “We had a great downwind leg and overtook Patrice. We took time out of them there and built a good lead on them, but they fought back and fought back well. They are good competitors,” Woods said.

The Multihulls lapped up the conditions today as they powered around the course with plenty of rooster tails to prove they own the speed machines title for today.

In Multihull Racing Division 1, Andrew Stransky’s Fantasia was in winning form taking out handicap honours ahead of George Owen’s APC Mad Max and Wayne Bloomer’s Chillpill.

Multihull Racing Division 2 honours went to Drew Carruthers’s Rushhour ahead of Bob Critchley’s Cool Change and Peter Millar’s Quick Skips.

Vision Surveys flew the lead sponsor’s flag on the water today as they sailed their way into first place in Multihull Cruising. Brian Forrester’s ORAM 62 Drumbeat, with all its cruising gear in tack, enjoyed the tough conditions. In second was Ken Gibson’s Resolute II and in third Wooler Drew’s Lickity Split 2.

The Sports Boats Division was decimated today with only three of the five entrants finishing. John Rae’s Vivace was first ahead of Jason Ruckert’s Mister Magoo and Annika Fredriksson’s Ocean Crusader.

John and Kim Clinton’s Holy Cow! were today’s stars of the Cruising Spinnaker Division 1. John had spent several days clearing their boat of all the extra live-aboard gear, including the cowtails machine, in preparation for a tough regatta. His efforts paid off as they kept at bay David Stoopman’s Samskara and Ian Griffiths’s Witchy Woman.

Cruising Division 2 was taken out by Bob Penty’s Great White with Craig Piccinelli’s Wobbly Boot in second. In third was  Col Thomas and Nic Cox’s Ella who recovered well from hitting the windward mark, completing a 360 and struggling with their reaching set-up. 

The Cruising Division 3 top three place getters were Don Bowden’s Checkmate, followed by Tom Vujasinovic’s Masquerade and Peter McKenzie’s Le Rossignol.

In Cruising Non Spinnaker, first place went to John Galloway’s QLD Marine Services. In second place was Greg Hudson’s Saltydog  and in third the brightly coloured La Quilter, skippered by Belinda Cooper.

The hot Performance Racing divisions delivered on the goods with Pierre Gal and Doug Gayford’s first race with their revamped Inglis 47, Dolce, taking out handicap honours ahead of Stewart Lewis’s Ocean Affinity and John Leman’s Bobby’s Girl.

Gayford was surprised at this team’s great result.  “You have no idea how pleased you have made me with that news.

“We have had a marvelous day. We were a bit surprised how well we went today, especially with an older boat, but we have a pretty experienced crew on board,” Gayford said.

“We only had some minor damage which we have pretty much sorted, out and we are ready to go tomorrow,” he added.

In Performance Division 2, a surprised Gary McCarthy took out the first race as his Brilliant Pearl team pushed the boat to its limits. In second was Bill Laing’s Duty Muzzle and in third place, Jeff Rice’s Rogue.

Tomorrow’s forecast is for another south-east breeze, but with less gusto than today, possibly only reaching 20 knots.

Racing for all divisions continues tomorrow.  The scheduled courses are passage races for IRC, Performance, Cruising Spinnaker and Cruising Non Spinnaker, Pioneer Bay for Multihull Cruising and Multihull Racing, and windward/leewards for the Sports Boats. 

For full results, go www.abrw.com.au.

– Tracey Johnstone

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