Whitsundays bonanza for sportsboats

Sportsboat sailors have an extra regatta on offer this year in the Whitsunday Islands. In addition to the Meridien Marinas Airlie Beach Race Week from August 13-20, traditionally one of the most popular events on the national sportsboat calendar, this year's Audi Hamilton Island Race Week from August 22-29 will also include a series for these high octane 'pocket rockets'.

Now in its 26th year, the Hamilton Island series has in the past included sportsboat series, but not for close to a decade. The decision by the organisers to reintroduce sportsboat racing doubles the options for owners trailing their craft northwards in August.

Meridien Marinas Airlie Beach Race 2009 Event Director Denis Thompson said the excitement of race week is starting to build. The Notice of Race has been published and entries are already starting to come in.

“The unique flavour of MMABRW will not be changed in 2009 but we are constant looking at ways to improve the event for the competitors both on the water and ashore.

“Meridien Marinas Abel Point has had a lot action over summer with further improvements to landscaping around the waterfront and surrounds. This will add to the ambience of the competitor's marquee where a lot of the social action takes place.

“Along with the friendly after-race fun at the marina there will also be some great social events in the main township with the local businesses putting out the welcome mat for all competitors and supporters.

“A lot dredging happening in the marina area particularly on the arms that are used for race week berthage, will allow more of the deeper draft boats to enjoy the pleasures of race week.

“The sportsboats are a big part of MMABRW and we expect to see another big contingent turn up in 2009. Pioneer Bay is ideal for the 'sporties' with consistent trade winds, flat water and warm temperatures. With a combination of windward/leeward courses, big triangle courses with great reaching legs and some around the island courses as well this fleet will have brilliant racing again this year.

“The Australian Sports Boat Association (ASBA) has enthusiastically endorsed this regatta as one of the main events on the sportsboat calendar in Australia.”

Meanwhile, Audi Hamilton Island Race Week Promotions Manager Rob Mundle says, “As AHIRW continues to expand under the guidance of supermaxi owner Bob Oatley and his family, the consensus is that the regatta should continue to extend its appeal to the widest possible spectrum of sailboats.

“This year the expansion will include an invitation to the owners and crews of one of the sport's most exciting forms, sportsboats, to be part of what is Australia's most awarded regatta.

“Organisers of the 26th edition of Race Week are planning a special division for sportsboats. Beyond that, if any particular class that fits within this category is present in numbers, they will compete in their own division.”

Glenn Bourke, Hamilton Island's CEO and an accomplished sportsboat racer in the SB3 class, said, “In creating this opportunity we are looking to meet all the requirements this exciting style of racing demands, including having special courses. We will also do everything we can to make it as easy as possible for owners and crews to compete.

“There's no doubt the island-laced tropical waters around Hamilton Island are among the best in the world for racing this type of boat, so we look forward to welcoming them in 2009 and developing a strong relationship with them in the years ahead.”

To enter Meridien Marinas Airlie Beach Race Week, visit www.airliebeachraceweek.com.au.

To enter Audi Hamilton Island Race Week, visit www.hamiltonislandraceweek.com.au.