I've run out of superlatives! What more can you say about a race week that delivers challenging conditions every day where the best boats are likely to win?
Another day dawned under heavy cloud which miraculously lifted just in time for the start of the final race of Mickey Ink Port Douglas Race Week. The trade wind, as usual, was blowing a steady 20 knots from the south-east.
All divisions sailed just one race today, which started with a windward-leeward then threw in a wing mark on the second time around. That suited some of the cruising cats, who haven't been handling the windward part as well as they do the leeward.
The division for bigger boats with spinnakers has seen a very close contest all week and finished with countbacks required for all podium places.
Today saw local Beneteau 44.7 Shazam (Doug Ryan) as first and fastest, ahead of the Townsville-based Oceanis 45 Champagne (Mal Pirret) and the modified Farr 11.6 Dusty Muzzle (Ron Knott). Overall Shazam beat Dusty Muzzle on a tier two countback and they were a point ahead of Champagne and the Elliot 9.6 Wild Spirit. Champagne took the podium place on countback.
It was a difficult day for another local, Mick Gwilliams on the Beneteau 44 Lady Mystique, when the spinnaker halyard refused to release at the bottom mark. Eventually the boat was forced to retire when it was obvious the kite wasn't coming down any time soon.
Campbell Corbett's Adams 12 Jimmie has been beautifully sailed all regatta in the jib-and-main division and today was no exception. She was fastest by over 10 minutes but finished last on handicap. The first three today were the Bavaria 44 Dreamagic (Alan Littlefield), the Jeanneau 45.2 Tucana (Andrew Burford) and the Phantom Casuarina (Carl Barnett).
Tucana justified the trip up from Victoria by taking out the series by three points from Casuarina, while Dreamagic beat Jimmie on a countback for the final place.
The multihull division was hard to handicap as it's impossible to compare a Nacra 36 with a Seawind 1000. Just one more entry is needed from a performance cat and a cruiser and the division can be split next year, to mutual benefit.
Perhaps because of Mal Richardson's dominance with the Nacra 36 Malice, only three boats ventured out today. As usual, Malice flew around the course lapping all and sundry. She was followed home by Waz Innes' Barefoot and Commodore Colin Simpson's Seawind 1000 Indigo.
These three boats held the same positions in the series score, with Malice having a perfect score of five wins and five line honours victories.
The category for sportsboats, J24s and small cruisers under 9m was also hotly contested and some good sailors were evident across the division.
Today the handicapper finally got at some of the front-of-fleet skippers and allowed other boats the limelight. It was a little Spider 28 trailer-sailer Scary Legs (Graeme Lordan) that took first place, ahead of the J28 Viva La Beaver (Peter Chapman) and the sponsor, Mickey Ink's modified and highly decorated Etchells Berocca Daze.
Overall, however, the consistency of the Farr 727 Ruff Red saw her provisionally take the series. She subsequently retired after finishing the last race owing to an incorrect mark rounding, which dropped her to third overall. This left the J24 Kaizan II (Bruce Clarke) as the winner, and Fast Forward (Brian Dowling) in second. Alf Folwer's Port FM Mais Oui was third in the J24 sub-division.
This has been an excellent regatta with generally good race management and, after the disappointment of the cancelled first day, testing but enjoyable weather.
Tonight will see prizes presented, including the magnificent Clipper Cup which carries the names of some great Australian and International yachts from the days when it was the trophy in an offshore series in Hawaii.
A mark of a great race week is the smiles on the faces of competitors. There have been plenty of those – this is one to put on your bucket list.
– Roger McMillan in Port Douglas.