Entry for Airlie Beach Race Week have closed and organisers from Whitsunday Sailing Club are thrilled to announce that a record 131 entries have been received, bettering the 126 boats that hit the water for the 25th anniversary in 2014
Numbers are up across the board and highlights include 19 boats for the Trailable Nationals, 23 multihulls, international entries and those attracted to the Tropical Festival of Sails for the first time, including international competitors and boats.
Former Sydney Hobart winner and Hong Kong businessman Karl Kwok has brought the reigning Australian IRC champion Beau Geste to Airlie Beach ahead of defending their IRC crown later in the month. At one year-old, she is one of the newest TP52’s.
Beau Geste’s Kiwi sailing master, Gavin Brady, says the crew are preparing to defend their IRC title later this month and feel Airlie Beach Race Week will give them the edge and preparation they will need to stay on top of the expected increased entry including an enlarged TP52 fleet.
Kwok will represent the Royal New Zealand Yacht Squadron and his main competition at Airlie Beach Race Week will come from Phillip Turner’s Reichel/Pugh 66, Alive. The Tasmanian entry is in prime form and will be driven by her usual skipper, Duncan Hine.
Alive comes armed with race records and won IRC Division 0 in the 2015 Hong Kong Vietnam Race, won IRC overall at the Royal Langkawi International Regatta 2016, and took line honours, race record and IRC DIV 0 victory for the biannual Rolex China Sea Race 2016.
Hine says they want to keep the momentum going, “As she is now back in Australia hoping to compete in the Sydney to Hobart 2016.”
In the Multihull Racing division, the Kiwi GC32, Frank (the former Team Vodafone), will be the envy of many. Apart from having so many ocean miles under her hulls, Simon Hull and crew have previously raced in Australia with Hull’s ORMA 60 trimaran.
The Australians contingent will not cave to their Kiwi rival and are well represented by the likes of Darren Drew’s Top Gun. The 50ft performance racing catamaran has already proven she is one of Australia’s fastest ocean racing cats. She is the current record holder of the Hong Kong to San Fernando and Townsville to Cairns races and in the latter, averaged 17 knots.
“Top Gun is arguably one of Lock Crowther’s finest racing designs,” claims Drew, whose catamaran is based in Pittwater, NSW.
“She is a relatively lightweight, built in 1987 using foam sandwich construction of unidirectional Glass, Kevlar and epoxy resins. Strong, yet relatively light, she is still a force in Australian multihull racing despite her 25 plus year age.”
Tony Considine’s APC Mad Max is also in the fleet. The Grainger 10 was built for speed and to challenge for line honours, but does remarkably well overall as well. Owned by Victoria’s George Owen, she missed the top place on the podium by one point last year.
Kiwi husband and wife, Iris and Grant Bartlett, used the event’s notice board to find a ride for the week. They will cross the paddock to sail on Belinda Cooper’s Senga in the Performance Racing division. Grant will be the token bloke on the Beneteau 42.7, which was to be an all-female crew, but he doesn’t mind.
Iris says: “We’re very excited now. Airlie Beach Race Week is a fantastic event and we love being there participating in the racing and the fun.”
Racing at the 27th Airlie Beach Race Week starts on Friday 12 August following a day of registration. Classes and divisions cover IRC Racing, IRC Passage, Performance, Cruising, Non-Spinnaker Cruising, Multihull Racing, Multihull Passage, Sports Boats and Trailable Yachts.
All Airlie Beach Race Week information: www.abrw.com.au/sailing/entries
– Di Pearson, ABRW media