The fleet for this year's Audi Hamilton Island Race Week has seen a remarkable 30 percent increase in the number of entries during the past two weeks, confirming expectations that more than 150 yachts, including Australia's best, will be competing.
One of the more recent nominations among the 130 now on the register came from a great supporter of Race Week, Ray Harris, with his Beneteau First 45 racer/cruiser, Honeysuckle, out of Sydney. This yacht made its racing debut at Hamilton Island last year and really left a mark, winning the hotly contested IRC Grand Prix Division 2.
Audi Hamilton Island Race Week 2009, which will be contested between August 22 and 29, will see more significant developments this year, both on the water and within the social program. Two of the most eagerly anticipated additions will come on ‘Party Day', Thursday, August 27, when an exciting and innovative new agenda will be presented.
A Race Week party – Dent Island Day – is being planned for competing sailors, their families and friends on Dent Island, which is immediately adjacent to Hamilton Island. This will be a day of laid-back activities – something for everyone. Most of the fun will be based around the magnificent new Hamilton Island Golf Club, which stands impressively at the summit of Dent Island.
Much to the delight of many sailors who have been competing at Race Week for more than a decade, Dent Island Day will see a welcome return to the times where there was exceptional camaraderie and rivalry between the crews in a party environment that is their own. This is the concept on which Race Week was built, 26 years ago; one where everyone can really enjoy themselves without outside influences.
However, before the start of Dent Island Day, the majority of sailors will contest a short pre-party race that is new to Race Week, one which will bring added interest and refreshing challenges on courses that weave their way around the many islands that dot the tropical Whitsunday region. In what will be a unique addition to the racing format, all but the IRC and Performance Racing classes take part in what is historically known as a ‘Mark Foy' start – a handicap, or pursuit, start. At the same time the IRC and Performance racing yachts will have their own sprint race with the usual scratch start.
These races will be timed so all participants and their guests can head to the party on Dent Island immediately after finishing.
Race Director Denis Thompson said he expects 12 keelboat divisions to make up this year's regatta, with the cruising divisions once again being the strongest numerically. On that note, some charter yacht companies in the Whitsundays are still taking bookings from sailors wanting to be at Audi Hamilton Island Race Week 2009.
Hamilton Island Race Week is Australia's most awarded keelboat regatta and biggest offshore classic. In 2008 it attracted a record fleet of 225 for the 25th anniversary event.
All details, including the entry form, can be obtained from the website – www.hamiltonislandraceweek.com.au
– Rob Mundle