Most competitive Australian Yachting Champs yet

The best grand prix yachts and multihulls from around Australia and overseas will take to the water for the 2022 Australian Yachting Championships (AYC) at Hamilton Island in the Whitsundays, where racing takes place from 21-27 August.

All the big names are here, starting with 100 footers, Wild Oats XI (Oatley family) and Andoo Comanche (John Winning Jr). The two will go head-to-head for the first time since July’s light air Noakes Sydney Gold Coast Yacht Race. Andoo Comanche, newly returned to the country earlier this year, won that battle, but the two events are poles apart.

Will it be the Hamilton Island owners racing on home turf or Andoo Comanche (NSW), which has quickly established she is still a force to be reckoned with? Each has the runs on the board.

Ichi Ban was in her usual fine form in 2020 - Beau Outteridge pic - AYC
Ichi Ban was in her usual fine form in 2020 – Beau Outteridge pic – AYC

The 100 footers aside, one can’t go past reigning Division A champion, Matt Allen with Ichi Ban, who is endeavouring to make it four straight AYC titles in succession. With the 2021 Championships cancelled due to the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic, Allen last won in 2020.

Other TP52 owners will be giving no quarter and do not see it as a lay down misère for Ichi Ban (NSW). Among them are South Australian Geoff Boettcher (SA) with Secret Mens Business, Zen (Gordon Ketelbey, NSW), David Doherty’s Matador (NSW) and the Max Klink skippered Caro, representing Royal New Zealand Yacht Squadron and the UK’s RORC.

According to Boettcher, “We were fortunate in getting our handicap better with smaller sails. Caro, I believe, will be as fast as Ichi Ban and hopefully they’ll be fighting each other around the course.

“What we need to do is to finish within a couple of boat lengths behind them and our handicap will take care of the rest.”

One of the best in the business is Ray Roberts with Team Hollywood. The Botin 40 from NSW just cleaned up at Airlie Beach Race Week (ABRW) and the crew work was slick.

The same can be said for Garry Holt’s modernised Adams 10, Get It On, winner of Division 2 at ABRW and a hot crew to wind it up. Add to the mix Hamilton Island’s Sandy Oatley with the RP30, Hamilton Island Wild Oats.

Throwing their money in the ring too are the Botin 80 Stefan Racing skippered by Grant Wharington and Bill Barry-Cotter’s Schumacher 54 Maritimo from Queensland, Phillip Turner’s RP66, Alive (Tas) and David Griffith’s JV62, Whisper (NSW).

All the major contenders are packed to the gunwales with what yachties term ‘rock stars’, the best of the best from Australia and overseas ports.

In the Multihull division, there are two standouts. Michel Van Der Zwaard and his Extreme 40, Angus and Rex, the ORMA 60 to be skippered by Dale Mitchell, a perennial winner in multihulls. Both are from Whitsunday Sailing Club and know each other’s strong points well, having raced each other regularly.

Mitchell says, “We were able to beat Michel at Airlie Beach Race Week two years ago and I think Hamilton Island is more suited to us. We’re looking forward to the week with good winds forecast.

“We just need to go out and sail the course as sail as fast as we can and not worry about the others,” ended Mitchell, whose brother Blair and the regular crew mean the teamwork will run smoothly.

This is a snapshot only of what is to come, with many others capable of making the podium.

The Australian Yachting Championships are being held in conjunction with Hamilton Island Race Week. Sunday starts the Championships with a short around-the-islands race. A further five races will be sailed on a variety of short and long courses along with windward/leeward races. The lay day is set down for Wednesday.

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By Di Pearson/Australian Sailing media

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