Each year Aussie sailors travel from the furthest states of Tasmania and Western Australian to be part of Audi Hamilton Island Race Week in sunny Queensland. Joining them in 2014 is a smattering of international crews including a number of Russian teams who have keenly jumped on the regatta bandwagon.
A handful of crews made the lengthy trip from various overseas countries to beautiful Hamilton Island; Lazy Dog, Sassafras, Rhythm and Yellow Fin plus Karl Kwok’s Team Beau Geste sailing for the Royal Hong Kong Yacht Club with a majority Kiwi team.
The crew aboard MC38 yacht Lazy Dog flew 36 hours straight from Puerto Rico and covered a distance of over 17,000km to be part of the class’ Australian championship under the Race Week banner.
Owner/skipper Sergio Sagramoso is impressed by the level of professionalism at Race Week, “This is very well organised and the weather is fantastic. I didn’t expect the island to be so beautiful.” On the tight knit group berthed together at the marina he added, “The camaraderie between the 38 owners is good.”
Lazy Dog is a brand new boat for Sagramoso, in fact he only laid eyes on his Chinese-built MC38 for the first time back in February when he flew from Puerto Rico to Sydney to test it out.
Sunsail boats Rhythm and Yellow Fin have been chartered by Russian crews.
Rhythm is a 44ft six-year-old boat racing in non-spinnaker division 1. Its seven Russian members are lapping up the warm sunshine and island’s cheeky wildlife. “It’s really beautiful here, I’ve seen my first kangaroo and I had a bird sit on my head,” laughed Bolina Beloborodov, daughter of the skipper Mikhail, who loves Australian wildlife.
Competing internationally has taken this crew to Greece, Thailand, Caribbean, the US and many more regattas around the globe. “We’ve done a lot of European sailing,” said crewmember Oleg Esyuning, “We couldn’t imagine life without sailing.”
Mikhail Beloborodov has been sailing for 40 years, often training with his team at Kama, a wide river in Russia close to the their hometown. “We live in the middle of Russia at Ural Mountains,” Esyuning said. “We’ve been sailing together for many years, some of us since high school.”
Closer to home from across the Tasman Sea, a Ted Hood 112 monster called Sassafras is flying the New Zealand flag. The crew of five aboard Sassafras are enjoying cruising on Hamilton Island’s crystal blue waters chauffeuring guests around and yesterday they joined the race fleet, turning heads as 112 feet of gleaming glamour glided past.
Temporary skipper Andrew Senn, an Aussie living in New Zealand, said steering the enormous beauty is quite easy, “It’s a fantastic boat made of aluminium and weighing 190 tonnes.”
The Bavaria 45 cruising boat Three C’s has an international presence with 25-year-old sailor Sarah Huebner travelling from Germany to Hamilton Island to compete. Huebner flew from Germany to Dubai to Brisbane then drove seven hours from Bundaberg to Airlie Beach. It took her 19 hours all up.
Huebner met Three C’s crewmember John Brand in December of 2012. She was halfway between Bundaberg and 1770 when her car broke down. She got a lift to a garage and met the Brand the mechanic and the skipper of Race Week regular Star Ferry, which is currently undergoing repairs and not racing this week. They talked about the famous August regatta in the Whitsundays and Brand invited Hubner to come back and race one year.
Two years later Huebner, who is studying a material engineering degree and plans to work in the yacht building industry when she graduates, made the trek from Germany to Hamilton Island where she is competing in cruising division 1 on Three C’s.
“I wanted to sail on John’s boat but he couldn’t fix it in time [for Race Week] so he asked if I would like to sail on Three C’s. It has turned into something really good,” she said. “I thought ‘I have to do this once in my life’. John told me about the atmosphere at Hamilton Island and yes, it’s amazing.”
The TP52 Team Beau Geste owned by successful Hong Kong businessman Karl Kwok and carrying a largely Kiwi crew is leading IRC division 1 with two races remaining. The team with the Chinese dragon as their logo and sail number 1997 – the year of the Hong Kong handover – travel the world signing up for the sport’s best regattas and races. Both Kwok and his sailing master Gavin Brady cite Audi Hamilton Island Race Week as a top tier event and one of their favourites.
Hamilton Island CEO Glenn Bourke said, “We appreciate the huge logistical and financial exercise international and interstate crews have to go through to travel and deliver boats to Race Week. We hope our international guests are enjoying the hospitality and great racing on our scenic waters.”
The 31st edition of Race Week concludes tomorrow, Saturday August 23, 2014.
By Laura McKee & Lisa Ratcliff/AHIRW Media