Tough racing in strong wind and tide at Airlie Beach

The Vision Surveys 25th Airlie Beach Race Week fleet continued to experience strong winds and close racing on the penultimate day of the seven-day anniversary event.

With the Sports Boats choosing not to venture out on Pioneer Bay for their scheduled windward/leeward races, today’s attention turned to the other divisions and their long passage race.

On the start line the breeze was already gusting 30 knots. As the boats rounded the windward mark and headed across the entrance to Funnel Bay they started to get the full brunt of the gusts as they pumped in and over the 30 mark. The strong tide was with the fleet as they headed south, but they were punching into a choppy sea in the east-south-easterly.

Reefs in the mains, small jibs and even a few storm jibs appeared across the fleet before the round-ups started. The breeze continue to pump hard taking its toll on several of the boats that retired with sails, rudder and tired crew problems.

Cruising Division 1’s Elusive lost its mast and Cruising Division 3’s Slingshot was almost down for the count before recovering and the continuing racing. On both occasions it was heartening to hear fleet members voluntarily standing by in readiness to assist if needed.

Across the eight divisions there were several retirements and a group that simply didn’t even leave the marina.

The IRC Division were first off the start line, but with Ichi Ban and Elena Nova missing.

Craig Neil’s Elena Nova was down a crew member and so decided to not race today. Matt Allen’s Ichi Ban team went to the aid of Walter Lewin’s Vento after the boat broke from its mooring overnight. The team assisted with the salvage and helped to motor the boat to the marina.  Allen said his team will be back on the water tomorrow for the final race day.

The remaining four boats had a great race with Colin Woods’s Pretty Fly III leading them around the windward mark and off to Dent Island.

On the downwind leg past Hamilton Island, Darryl Hodgkinson’s Victoire and Pretty Fly III were beside each other while Tony Kirby’s Patrice was about 200 metres off their sterns.

“It was very close (with Pretty Fly III) all the way. We were side by side. It was their turn, our turn, their turn, our turn.

“I think you (Woods) would be happy with competition, the rivalry,” Hodgkinson said. “I think they did some things better than us. I think they know the track better than us. They pulled that one out a couple of times, going closer to rounding points that we would. That gave them a good advantage.

“We seemed to on the beats drop of them a bit and just work our way around them. I think my crew are pretty happy about our speed upwind. Since they had quite a few more crew, that gave us a little idea that perhaps we need less crew as we were able to manage the performance with less people. That is perhaps a going forward tactic for us to have less crew. The other tactic is we think we can carry bigger shutes.

“We are using this experience to make steps forward in what we do with the boat,” he added.

Pretty Fly III finished third on handicap and Bernie Van’T Hof’s Tulip finished fifth.

The IRC Division results after six races and one drop, and with Ichi Ban receiving redress for today, has Patrice in an unassailable lead, Ichi Ban in second on 12.6 points, Victoire on 14 points and Pretty Fly III on 18 points.

Cruising Division 1 suffered with four retirements and four non-starters. The most dramatic retirement was Tony Ross’s Bavaria Match 42 Elusive which lost its mast in the area between South Molle and Long Island after they lost a shackle pin from the backstay as they were flying their big spinnaker doing 14 knots. All was well with the crew, one of them quipping they were hoping for extra red (Mount Gay) hats at this evening’s presentation.

Ray Nankervis’s Karm won the race today, but Ian Griffiths’s Witchy Woman, with an eighth place today, stays in first place overall after five races and no drop, ahead of Paul Lindemann’s Biddy Hu II and Rob Marshall’s Femme Fatale. “We expected the results as our handicap is getting worse so we thought we would finish around about that,” Griffiths said as he packed his bags to return back home hopefully in time for his daughter’s wedding, leaving the boat in the hands of co-helmsman Roger Barnett.

Cruising Division 2 saw Mike Schmidt’s Escapade and Vic Stevens’s Northern Moments briefly in the box seat until they were advised they had sailed the wrong course. This then left Keith McGuire’s Fargo to win the race ahead of Paul Jones’s Sheer Pleasure. The overall result after five races and no drop is Titch Timmermans’s Against the Wind in first place overall, Fargo in second and Alan Sneddon’s Pacific Phoenix in third.

Cruising Division 3 saw only four finishes from eight starters. In first place for the second consecutive race was Colin Clark’s Unbealeievable and in second place was Bob Beale’s Kameruka. But the third place getter and line honours winner, Bob McCamley’s Slingshot, was the team with the most noteworthy result.

With McCamley off the boat due to injuring his back during racing yesterday, the three remaining crew members took on the challenge of the long passage race. Crewman Stuart Lord tells the story of what he and the other crew, Leroy McAvoy and Hayden Johnson, got up to when the owner was not on board. “We were on our return passage and in the channel coming back to Pioneer Rock. We were doing 16 knots under kite and we attempted to do a gybe which didn’t work. We all ended up in the water. The boat laid down and the mast went in the water.

“Two of us went overboard and stood on the centre board to right the boat and we got the boat recovered. We only lost five minutes in doing it because we had it all on our GoPro vision. We didn’t lose our position. Unfortunately, we lost the esky so we had no more beer or food on board which was a major disaster,” Lord said. 

After five races and no drop, Kameruka leads the fleet ahead of John Fowell’s Ells Bells and Peter Mitchelson’s Lorna Rose Too.

The Non-Spinnaker Division saw a downturn in finish numbers, but for those that hung in there, the results on corrected time were close. In first place was Sue and Alan Pick’s Supertramp. In second was Belinda Cooper’s La Quilter and in third, Simon Dunlop’s Namadgi. The overall result after five races and no drop sees La Quilter hold first place, Namadgi still in second and Merv Stephensen’s Oasis move into third.

Performance Division 1 didn’t see any changes to the leaderboard, even after Pierre Gal and Doug Gayford’s rebuilt Inglis 47, Dolce, took first place on handicap. In second place was Charles Wallis’s Whale Watching Sydney with Ray Semmens’s Prime Example, with Leigh Dorrington on the helm, in third. These results have closed up the gap between the top five boats putting pressure on all them to perform well in tomorrow’s Pioneer Bay race.

Performance Division 2 was won today by Mike Steel’s Boadicca. This is their second win in among a string of results that have taken them from boiled lollies to chocolates and back again. In second place was Murray Hawyard’s Leeward and in third Bill Laing’s Dusty Muzzle.  The overall result after six races and one drop keeps Jeff Rice’s Rogue in first place, Sandor Tornai’s Skeeter in second and Gary McCarthy’s Brilliant Pearl in third.

Multihull Racing Division1  had just two finishers recorded; Andrew Stransky’s Fantasia and Wayne Bloomer’s Chillpill. This leaves Fantasia in the box seat for this division, but not before Chillpill put up a great fight.

Monohull sailor Mark Bradford reported on his day on the water on the fast catamaran Chillpill; “We’re still alive. It was rough. When the current is going one way at two and half knots and the wind is coming the other way at 25, you get big waves. It was the hardest day sailing I have seen in north Queensland.”

“We are used to sailing boats that are tried and tested, but we are here testing this boat out. The boat stood up to it fine. We haven’t had a single breakage all week. In these conditions the boat goes fast and you have to slow it down off waves. It was nervous times, but we got around fine. It shows the boat is strong and solid and well-built,” Bradford added.

Multihull Racing Division 2’s Rushour, skippered by Drew Carruthers, took out another first place which ensured he stays in first place overall after six races and one drop. In second place in the race and overall is Bob Critchley’s Cool Change. Peter Millar’s Quick Skips got to drop today’s eighth place to hold third overall.

The Multihull Cruising Division had a shake-up today with only seven of the 15 boats competing. In first place was Fiona Kermeen’s Mon Amie. After five races with on drop, the leader is John Williams’s Tyee III followed by Mon Amie in second and Ken Gibson’s Resolute II in third.

The current forecast for tomorrow is for similar conditions. With that in mind the Assistant Regatta Director, Stewart Ross, said the race committee will make their decision early tomorrow. “The plan tomorrow is to go as per the program and do the normal bay triangle races. We’re looking at the morning and if the breeze stays in as it is, there is the possibility that we may abandon. But, that decision will be made tomorrow.

“We are very mindful that the fleet has had a bit of a battering over the regatta. For the last day, we are mindful that if it is going to be heavy again, it’s probably not fair on the competitors to put them out in the heavy breeze again,” Ross said.

The final day of racing is tomorrow with all divisions competing in Pioneer Bay races.

– Tracey Johnstone

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