Famous names and faces prepare for Airlie Beach Race Week showdown

Several famous boats and equally famous sailors with speed as their focus are ready for a showdown at Airlie Beach Race Week, to be held from 10 to 17 August 2017.

The Whitsunday Sailing Club’s annual Airlie Beach Race Week Festival of Sailing has enticed the likes of Andrew York who is bringing his latest sleek one-design keel boat from Sydney for the first time.  

‘Yorky’, an accomplished yachtsman with America’s Cups, offshore and one-design triumphs on his resume, is also decorated small boat sailor who comes to Airlie Beach armed with four national and two NSW keel boat titles, won via his VX One, and more recently, with the slightly longer offshoot he developed, the REO 7.2.

In a nod to their speed, both boats carry the name ‘Speedwagon’, the latest, REO Speedwagon, is providing him  with a real buzz: “It’s exceptionally quick off the breeze – we’ve sailed it at over 20 knots countless times,” says Yorky, who is fired up.

“My plans for the year include taking REO Speedwagon to Airlie Beach Race Week for the first time, where I’ll sail four up in the Sports Boat division. We’re really looking forward to competing,” he finished.

The Sydneysider is pinning all hopes on beating defending champion Returned, the Leech 750 owned by Graham Sherring, who remains in fine form. The 2015 champion and fellow Queenslanders, Gary Smith and John Rae with their Bethwaite 79er Vivace, are also expected to be major competition.

Among a wide variety of boats in the Performance Racing division are two completely disparate designs: Adrian Walters’ two year old Rob Shaw 11 Metre, Little Nico and Colin and Denise Wilson’s 15 year-old MKL49, Never a Dull Moment.

Little Nico is enviably fast and is also making her Airlie Beach debut, Walters has been testing the water with his carbon fibre canting keel harbour racing yacht locally in Sydney since her launch.

In the same division is Never a Dull Moment, the 49 footer that the husband and wife Wilson team have enjoyed a long and distinguished ocean racing career with. In recent times they have confined themselves to local Sydney offshore races. 

“We love Airlie Beach Race Week and can’t wait to compete again – we last raced there in 2014 and had a lot of fun; it’s always fun,” Denise Wilson said.

Husband Colin chipped in, “We’re always made to feel welcome and you can’t beat the weather – a nice escape from winter in Sydney.”     

A trio of famous ocean racing warhorses will also go to battle in the Cruising Spinnaker Division. Condor, Hammer of Queensland and Helsal 3 are names that evoke memories of Sydney Hobarts well past.

Condor, recognisable by her maroon hull and the Condor etched in yellow on her transom, was the most famous maxi yacht during the eighties, taking line honours in the 1983 and 1986 Hobart races with her original Bermudian owner, Bob Bell.

Hammer of Queensland was a light and quick pocket maxi. The winner of four Brisbane Gladstone races, she was a regular in the Sydney Hobart with original owner by Queenslander, Arthur Bloore.

Helsal 3 was, ironically, originally also owned by Arthur Bloore and named ‘The Office’. Tony Fisher of Sydney, who later relocated to Hobart with his family, bought the boat.

For the past two years, son Rob has sailed the boat to PHS Division 1 Sydney Hobart victory. His co-owner, Paul Mara, returns to Airlie Beach having skippered the boat at Race Week last year.

The famous Fisher family have owned a string of successful Helsals (named for Tony Fisher’s wife Helen and daughter Sally) including the original Helsal, a ferro-cement yacht aptly nicknamed ‘The Flying Footpath’ after taking 1973 Sydney Hobart line honours.

To-date entries have been received from every state of Australia and organisers urge competitors to book their berths quickly to avoid missing out.

Entries close at 2400 on Thursday 3 August, 2017. For entry and Notice of Race, go to: www.abrw.com.au/sailing/entries    

By Di Pearson, ABRW media

Race Yachts
Cyclops Marine
M.O.S.S Australia
NAV at Home
West Systems