Young kids added to mix for Airlie Beach Race Week

Entries for Ocean Dynamics and Mount Gay Airlie Beach Race Week 2024 continue to grow and among the latest, with two boats in the running, is local Michel Van Der Zwaard, whose two kids have been added to one of his boats for the 36th running of Airlie Beach Race Week, to be held from 8-15 August.

Van Der Zwaard’s daughters, Grace (10) and Mia (7), along with older school girls Jazz and Demi, are among the crew on his MC38 Black Jack 38. The boat, formerly owned by Peter Harburg, is entered in the Performance Racing Division.

A member of the host club, Whitsunday Sailing Club (WSC) Van Der Zwaard is more at home on a multihull, so he and the rest of the crew have been using local twilight races to get used to sailing a monohull – and with each other.

“I am still learning to sail the boat – we all are,” he said of making the switch from multis. Some of the other sailors asked me, ‘Have you finally taken the side wheels off’, he says of moving to a monohull.

“Me and my daughters and the rest of the crew are sailing in twilight races at the moment,” Van Der Zwaard said. “We put the spinnaker up for the first time this week. It’s good having my daughters sail with me. They love it. On the boat we’ve got some younger ones, older ones, green ones and some with experience.”

The youngsters are fortunate to sail on a boat of this calibre and it will be a steep learning curve for them.

“Every race at Airlie Beach we will change positions on the boat, so everyone will get to do something different and learn the whole boat. We are going to have fun.”

The Performance Racing Division has all sorts, including Geoff Hill’s 2023 Sydney to Auckland Ocean Race line honours winner, Antipodes (Hong Kong); Colin Wilson’s MKL 49 Never A Dull Moment (NSW), Michael Rowe and Ben Martin’s Cookson 12, Kanreki (NSW), best remembered as the ex-Sail Exchange and Leo Rodriguez/Iyas Shaheen’s RP36 Shockwave, Smooth Criminal (Qld).

Back with Van Der Zwaard, the Airlie Beach Race Week regular and previous winner has also entered the MC32 multihull, M32 World.

“I am sailing on the MC38 and the MC32 at Race Week. Dale Mitchell is skippering M32 World, but I’ll jump on board with him for a couple of days,” explains Van Der Zwaard, whose sweet spot is multihulls.

Sailing M32 World, Mitchell will therefore be pitted against his brothers Paul and Blair Mitchell on Paul’s Extreme 40, Ullman Sails in the Multihull Racing Division, where there are currently a large and competitive fleet of 22 registered.

The Mitchells are difficult to beat at the best of times, so the battle between two boats will make for interesting viewing and the Mitchells have the rest of the division to contend with as well.

This year, Race Week has also attracted new support sponsors. Reef Plaza Cannonvale is one of those: “Reef Plaza is proud to support Airlie Beach Race Week, celebrating the vibrant community spirit and the economic benefits it brings to the region,” Tracey Oates, Manager – Commercial Property Department said.

“As the hub of the Cannonvale shopping precinct, Reef Plaza offers a diverse range of national and international brands, providing a quality retail and dining experience for both locals and Race Week participants. Open seven days a week, Reef Plaza is home to popular retailers like McDonald’s, KFC, BWS, Australia Post and Intersport, making it well worth a visit.”

Limited leasing opportunities are still available at Reef Plaza: For more information, please visit:

Whitsunday Ocean Services (WOS), a family owned and operated business located in Airlie Beach, is also supporting ABRW. The company has serviced the marine and aviation industry for over 30 years, specialising in life raft and marine and aviation lifejacket servicing, inflatable boat sales, servicing and supplying marine safety equipment among things.

WOS sponsorship comes via Director, Clayton Matthews, twice past Commodore of Whitsunday Sailing Club. Matthews also owned and operated Airlie Beach Hog’s Breath Café for 15 years. The famous café’s original owner, Don Algie, founded both the Café and Race Week, which it sponsored for many years under the Hog’s Breath brand. “I felt the time was right to support this great event,” Matthews said.

For more information on WOS, please visit:

Ocean Dynamics and Mount Gay Airlie Beach Race Week 2024 enjoys continued support Tourism and Events Queensland and is a feature on the It’s Live! in Queensland events calendar.

To enter ABRW and for all information, visit the new official website at:

By Di Pearson/WSC media

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