Hamilton Island shrouded in fog and rain as crews prepare for a start

On the eve of racing at Audi Hamilton Island Race Week 182-strong crews are looking skyward for the rain and fog to clear and the cloud cover to break up, clearing the way for the south easterly tradewinds to return to the Whitsundays.

The steady pitter-patter of wet stuff falling across Queensland is bringing joy and relief to farmers. Crews completing final paperwork and boat checks and stowing the last of the supplies for the week ahead are less enthusiastic.

Tricky light-air regattas have been all too common in recent years. The forecast for Race Week 2014 indicates fickle winds at least for the first half of racing, Sunday August 17 through to Tuesday 19, then welcome stronger breeze from Thursday 21 through to the final day of racing, on Saturday 23.

Principal Race Officer Denis Thompson says, “Once the trough moves away the breeze should swing through to the south west then the dominant south east tradewinds should be back. We hope.”

Tomorrow marks the opening day of racing at the 31st edition of Audi Hamilton Island Race Week. Regatta forecaster Kenn Batt anticipates W-SW winds 8-14kts swinging SW-S 5-10 in the afternoon with the chance of morning showers and a possible thunderstorm. Sunday and Monday look similar.

Wednesday 20th is the layday giving crews a well-deserved break from the on-water program and a chance to enjoy some of the onshore offerings, in particular the Beachside Pool Party at the main pool and Charles Heidsieck and Piper Heidsieck lunches.

By Thursday competitors could be heading out into 15-20kts of S-SE wind, a prospect that bodes well for most of the near 2,000 yachties who have travelled from around the world to be part of the first-class keelboat regatta that is an Australian winter sailing ritual.

The better-known IRC boats include Karl Kwok’s all-conquering TP52 Team Beau Geste sailing for Royal Hong Kong Yacht Club and Bob Oatley’s champion 100-footer Wild Oats XI, the largest boat in the fleet.

The MC38 class is contesting their Australian championship under the Race Week banner. Seven of the one-design boats have a 12 race series ahead of them, all windward/leewards bar the final around-the-islands race.

Entries are up on last year, the growth coming from the cruisers and multihulls. There are enough multihull entries this year – 21 – to warrant two separate divisions.

For the end result of fairer racing the race committee has deliberately split the divisions based on the type of boat rather than its handicap. This means like boats will race each other and is the reason some divisions are larger than others.

The PRO is thinking tomorrow’s forecast conditions will suit the Lindeman Island race. Competitors will be advised of the selected course tomorrow morning, Sunday August 17.

Tonight owners and VIPs will be part of the official welcome at Hamilton Island Yacht Club followed by a fireworks display and party on Front Street to herald the start of one of Australia’s premier regattas.

– Lisa Ratcliff/AHIRW

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