With little more than five weeks to go until the sound of the start gun signals the opening round of competition at Audi Hamilton Island Race Week, the regatta is already exceeding expectations.
The entry list, which represents a remarkable cross section of keelboats, now exceeds 150, and could reach 200 by the time racing starts on August 22. At the same time, details of the many and widely varied social activities which will intersperse with the sailing across the week, have been released.
Somewhat appropriately, the 150th entry to be lodged through the Race Week website came from one of Australia's most successful ocean racing yachtsmen, Ray Roberts, with his recently re-badged Cookson 50, Evolution Racing, the same yacht that won this year's Brisbane to Gladstone race, and the 2008 Audi Sydney-Gold Coast race.
Roberts, whose Hamilton Island Race Week experience dates back to the first regatta in 1984 and includes two class wins, will use this year's series to unveil the new livery for Evolution Racing. The yacht is sponsored by Evolution Sails, a new-technology international sailmaking group of which he is a partner.
The very well travelled Roberts gave Audi Hamilton Island Race Week a ringing endorsement, saying this was the one regatta that ‘just keeps bringing me back.'
“It's infectious for so many reasons,” says the Sydney yachtsman. “It's possibly the best regatta in the world. I just love the whole scene. The racing around tropical islands is excellent because of the amazing scenery, the warm water and the fact that you almost always have good breeze. Also, the amount of sea life you see at Race Week, like huge whales and dolphins, is unprecedented. But it's the camaraderie between the sailors, and the social activities that are available for everyone to enjoy, that put Race Week above the rest. This happens because everyone has travelled to the island just to be at the regatta, and everyone is in a happy and relaxed frame of mind.”
The extensive social plan that Ray Roberts has enjoyed so much in the past will be bigger and better for this year's Race Week. Apart from the usual and very popular events, like the Champagne Lunch and the specially themed dinners, this year will see a special ‘Deadliest Catch' dinner. Appropriately, it will be hosted by a man well qualified to do so, Andy Hillstrand, co-captain of the fishing vessel Time Bandit, which features prominently in the hit Discovery Channel TV series, The Deadliest Catch.
Hamilton Island Race Week's naming rights sponsor, German luxury car maker Audi, will be even more prominent at the regatta this year as the company is celebrating its centenary. The milestone will also be saluted with the opening of the world's largest new Audi dealership – the Audi Lighthouse – in the inner Sydney suburb of Zetland.
All information regarding the staging of the 26th Hamilton Island Race Week can be gleaned from the website: www.hamiltonislandraceweek.com.au