Rugged up and reefed down at Hamilton Island Race Week

Rugged-up crew, reefed sails and rockin’ downwind rides on the penultimate day of racing at Audi Hamilton Island Race Week replaced the lazy start to the six day series last Sunday, August 17, 2014.

There was a buzz around the dock this morning in anticipation of a fresh breeze and return of the S-SE tradewinds to the Whitsundays didn’t disappoint. It’s been a few years since the Race Week fleet was tested – 20-25 knots and a southerly chop to the south of Hamilton Island for the start had the multihull and cruising fleets in heavy weather mode with reefed sails and crew kitted out in wet weather gear.


Conditions were more moderate for IRC divisions 1 and 2 for the start of their passage race from the eastern area.

The top speed on line honours winner Wild Oats XI was 21 knots, the supermaxi effortlessly carving through the 23.5 mile race around Lindeman Island, Spitfire Rock Mark and Dent Island to the finish. The crew swapped their normal red shirts to yellow for today’s race, to show their support for the Cancer Council’s Daffodil Day.

Team Beau Geste’s fourth win on corrected time keeps them at the top of the points stack in IRC division 1. The crew of Phil Turner’s RP66 Alive is throwing everything they can at the Australian IRC champion, but while close at just two points behind hasn’t managed to rein them in.

“They are the perfect team on the perfect boat. That makes them hard to beat,” acknowledged Alive’s helmsman Matt Chew who is still grinning this afternoon having hit 20 knots of boat speed in 20 knots of wind. “Alive is a handful to manage… a lot of us haven’t raced on anything this big, but I love this boat. I can’t stop smiling,” said the Etchells champion.

In IRC division 2 Stephen Barlow’s Farr 40 called Forty has stretched its winning margin by 11 points over Geoff Boettcher’s Secret Mens Business.

Matt Owen’s Bh36 called Local Hero from Canberra picked up a fourth win today putting them in a winning position in IRC division 3. The Howard family from Newcastle Cruising Yacht Club is the closest boat in second by seven points with their Beneteau 40.7 Schouten Passage, named after the Tasmanian channel.


The smallest boat in the 182-strong fleet is John Parkes’ Spider 22 Mark 1 called Untamed. Trailered all the way from the Illawarra, south of Wollongong on the NSW coast, Spider is racing in non-spinnaker division 2 for its first Race Week experience.

It’s a simple set up on the 1980-built 22-foot trailer sailer; bucket and sponge, bunks for six “if you want to get really cosy” warns Parkes, a camp stove, kettle, toaster, night light and hairdryer to dry out the timber at the top of the keel so it doesn’t swell with moisture.

“We have all the mod cons,” smiles Bates. One disappointment at Race Week is they miss the free sausage sizzle each afternoon for the cruising boats on F & G arm, “By the time we get in they are all gone,” he rues. Untamed is third overall with one race remaining in their series.

The largest in the fleet at 112 feet is Sassafras, the New Zealand superyacht also racing in non-spinnaker division. To compare with Untamed, Sassafras has below decks a tumble drier, dishwasher, washing machine, nine flat screen TVs, two dining areas and six bathrooms. “You name it, the boat’s got it,” said skipper Andrew Senn.


A win and a second today, Friday August 22, 2014, has Leslie Green’s Ginger from the Cruising Yacht Club of Australia leading the one design class’ national title with a day to go. John Bacon’s Dark Star from the Royal Prince Alfred Yacht Club is second with 11 points back and clubmate Marcus Blackmore’s Hooligan third thanks to a bullet and a third today.

Performance Racing

Local skipper Bruce Absolon shrugged off the smaller boats nipping at his Volvo 60’s stern in the division’s two windward/leeward races in Turtle Bay.

So close were Absolon’s Spirit of The Maid, Walter Lewin’s Vento and Russell McCart’s VO60 Spirit of Mateship for the first race that “a blanket could have been put over the three boats” reckons Absolon. 

He went on to win that race and is ahead of the rest on series results. Short course racing generally suits the lighter and smaller planing boats. Not the case today with the heavy 17-year-old boat in the groove. “We've had no decent breeze for the past four Race Weeks and finally today we were able to show our true colours,” Absolon said. “Our balanced crew weight thanks to 19 guys on the rail played in our favour too.”


Team Oracle USA America’s Cup winning strategist and Olympic gold medallist Tom Slingsby popped down to the Melges 32 dock this morning to have a chat with the young crew on Barry Cuneo’s Envy Scooter about their preparation for the class’ world championships at the end of the year.

Crews took a break from the seriousness of competition for this morning’s Prix d’ Elegance, gunning for the best themed yacht and best presented yacht as judged by the panel sitting atop the flag deck at Hamilton Island Yacht Club. The winners will be announced at tomorrow night’s closing trophy presentation dinner.

Tomorrow marks the end of racing for the 31st edition of Audi Hamilton Island Race Week. The forecast is identical to today; 18-22kt S-SE winds, possibly locally stronger.



By Lisa Ratcliff/AHIRW media

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