The best of winter sailing in the Whitsundays capped off racing at Audi Hamilton Island Race Week. Bucket loads of sunshine and puffy 18-20 knots of SSE tradewinds farewelled the fleet from Dent Passage for the final time this series.
Keeping it fresh, the race committee offered crews a navigator’s choice for the deciding race. At Sidney Island off Lindeman Island, IRC divisions 1 and 2 opted to head for home either via Dent or Hamilton Island. The remaining divisions made the same choice at Isolated Rock.
A full spectrum of conditions over six days created opportunities to climb, and slip down the pecking order. Gear and crew were challenged in various wind ranges – 7-10kts and shortened courses on day one last Sunday to double that today, Saturday August 23, 2014.
Karl Kwok’s all-conquering TP52 Team Beau Geste has cleaned up another major Australian regatta and title. The TP52 has been campaigned on the Australian East Coast for the past two years and raked in the spoils – the TP52 Southern Cross Cup and Audi IRC Australian Championship the biggies.
“We had persistent winds this week, no matter how strong or weak there were no car parks,” said Kwok. “The first day we ran aground due to a miscalculation. After that we got better each day, we rounded off all our rough edges.”
Beau Geste is heading back to Hong Kong for the South East Asian circuit.
Phil Turner’s RP66 Alive from the Derwent Sailing Squadron finished second by four points among the big boat division.
In IRC division 2 Stephen Barlow’s Farr 40 called Forty had enough credits to stay on dry land while the rest of the division fought for the minor placings in today’s 22nm race island course. A lucky break for Barlow and his Sydney based crew as they came ashore yesterday afternoon with 100 buckets of water slopping around in the bilge, a result of rudder bearing damage. Forty is now up on the hardstand at Hamilton Island for repairs.
“We were going to race today, luckily we didn’t need to as we were half sinking when we came ashore,” said Barlow. “It’s been a great regatta. We are surprised how we finished given the quality of the IRC competition at Audi Hamilton Island Race Week.”
Post-race the co-owner of Forty, Sam Hill, organised for a couple of bottles of the island’s finest to be sent to the winning crew. Hill was back in Sydney and had calculated Forty couldn’t be beaten well before the news hit the crew dealing with the palaver.
Ross Wilsons’ Race Week regular Eagle Rock, a Beneteau First 47.7, took out second and Geoff Boettcher’s Secret Mens Business third.
IRC division 3 three, victor Local Hero from Canberra Yacht Club led the pointscore from the outset. Four wins from six races for the almost two-decade old boat is even more impressive given Race Week is the one time a year the ACT crew jump aboard the 36-footer that is Airlie Beach based.
“Yesterday was the best, a cracker breeze to claim the series; luckily we did,” said skipper Matt Owen. “None of us sail on this boat regularly, just one regatta a year. We saw almost 20 knots of wind yesterday, which was a little bit scary for us with big waves and whales about. We've had a reasonable record at Race Week; in 2010 we won our division and walked away with an Audi as well.
“I've done 11 or 12 consecutive Race Weeks,” said the multiple Elliott 7 and Flying 15 national champion. “We've got our Flying 15 world champs in France next year so sadly we won't be at Hamilton Island. It's really cool that I get to sail at Race Week with all of my mates. We don't need an excuse to get out of Canberra in August, it’s five degrees at the moment… a bit chilly willy today.”
Newcastle based Beneteau 40.7 Schouten Passage campaigned by the Howard family finished up second on the points table and Andy Kearnan’s Summit 35 L'Altra Donna third in the six race series.
The crew on Leslie Green’s MC38 Ginger celebrated winning the class’ Australian championship once results were posted yesterday afternoon.
John Bacon’s Dark Star from the Royal Prince Alfred Yacht Club finished with a bullet in today’s passage race and held off class newcomer, Marcus Blackmore and Hooligan, to come in next best behind Ginger by six points after 12 races.
Variable SSE winds 9-15 knots had the one-design fleet taking plenty of water over the decks, Chris Hancock’s Vino topping 14kts of boat speed on the kite run.
Hamilton Island CEO Glenn Bourke oversaw the smooth running of the 31st edition of one of Australia’s premier yachting regattas, commentated for Audi’s guests and raced part of the week aboard Bob Oatley’s supermaxi Wild Oats XI in IRC division 1.
“We had a great diversity in conditions from the beginning to the end of the week – there was something for everyone,” said Bourke. “The best breeze in years mixed with the entertainment on offer and the opportunity to catch up with old sailing friends really made the week. Our aim is to always do it bigger and better next year.”
Trophy winners will be awarded at tonight’s final presentation function.
Lisa Ratcliff, Audi Hamilton Island Race Week 2014