Planes, ferries and automobiles to Audi Hamilton Island Race Week

An easy day with plenty of sunshine and light winds opened the racing program at Audi Hamilton Island Race Week.

For three of the crew from Craig Neill’s Judel Vrolijk 42 Elena Nova from Middle Harbour Yacht Club, it was particularly slow and tiring Lindeman Island race given they had spent all night in a hire car.

Three planes full of sailors attempted to land at the Island yesterday afternoon but due to poor visibility with the cloud cover and fog, the pilots were forced back to the mainland.

Elena Nova’s tactician David Burt said, “We circled around the island 10 times or so then were told we were heading back to Brisbane.”

Not dissuaded by the setback, Burt and two others from the boat hired a car and drove all night, 1,200kms, to Shute Harbour and made the 7am ferry this morning. Other crew went to extraordinary efforts to make today’s first race, Sunday August 17, 2014.

Elena Nova is in division 2 of the new combined IRC fleet, a move by the race committee that Burt supports, “It’s a smart move, we’ll have better racing all-round”.

Phillip Turner’s Reichel Pugh designed 66-footer Alive, one of a handful of Tasmanian entries, challenged the unbroken line honours record at Race Week held by Bob Oatley’s Wild Oats XI in the 23.5 nautical mile Lindeman race. Alive crossed ahead of the supermaxi a number of times but wasn’t able to hang on to the high-speed greyhound over the distance. Bob Oatley, Wild Oats’ owner and the patriarch of Oatley family who are the custodians of Hamilton Island, was on board his champion and “in his element” according to the boat manager John Hildebrand.

Alive’s crew was declared provisional IRC division 1 handicap winners, the only results available at the time of print. Helmsman Matt Chew, a two time Etchells Australasian Championship winning skipper, said, “The boat loves the light air. We are focused on winning the light air races this week, then trying to hang on in the heavier breeze.”  

Seven MC38 owners began their quest today to name a new Australian champion. The fleet caught a lovely late afternoon NE breeze, John Bacon’s Dark Star the first of the one-design fleet to take advantage.

The 80 foot three-time line honours winning maxi called Maxi Ragamuffin and now owned by Keith Batt, celebrated its first race in 21 years having come out of charter work. Full story to come.

The Lindeman Island race kick-started Audi Hamilton Island Race Week’s six day on-water program. The bumper fleet of 182 yachts of all sizes and from all eras peeled off from the eastern starting area in 5 minute intervals starting at 10.30am with every intention of completing the full set course.

Given the gentle conditions the race committee wisely shortened all divisions bar IRC division A, to bring the fleet back at a reasonable time, and finished them at four different finish lines around Hamilton Island. Despite the shortened courses a number of crews opted to retire from racing.

The morning cool light SE wind shut down completely at one point and never made it over 7 knots until a new north east breeze late this afternoon took the wind reading up to double figures, 10 knots.

Tomorrow’s forecast is for sun and SW-S winds at 12-16kts becoming SE-NE at 5-10kts during the afternoon.

Results will be available later at http://www.topyacht.net.au/results/2014/ahirw/series/index.htm

– Lisa Ratcliff/AHIRW Media

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