150+ for Hamilton Island

Rob Mundle previews this year's regatta

Wednesday July 11th 2007, Author: Rob Mundle, Location: United Kingdom
With the number of entries for this year’s Audi Hamilton Island Race Week accelerating past 150 it’s becoming apparent that a wide array of interesting and colourful characters, and yachts, will be contributing to the success of the event, which is scheduled for August 18-25.

Once again the Grand Prix racing divisions will present a remarkably high level of competition, but the real strength of this regatta is within the cruising oriented divisions, which already represent more than 50% of the fleet. The cross-section of people and yachts making up these classes symbolises why, since its inception 24 years ago, Race Week has remained as Australia’s premier week for great racing and exceptional on-shore fun. This year the regatta will move into a new dimension with Audi stepping aboard as naming rights sponsor and exciting changes planned for the sailing and social activities.

After rocketing into prominence at last year’s Race Week, the man who could be called Dave ‘Shark Hook’ Short has entered in the hope that he will again be the winner of the regatta’s most sought after prize, the Audi A4 Avant. Short, who works in the mining industry in the outback of Queensland, entered Race Week 2006 as an absolute novice with his 33-footer, Pro Beat Passion. He competed in the Non-Spinnaker Cruising division and won it in spectacular fashion. Pro Beat Passion was leading on points going into the last race and things were looking good, until disaster struck en route to the windward mark. The mainsail tore in two! It appeared all was lost, but then the need to succeed became the mother of invention. Someone grabbed a shark hook that was on board and used it to punch holes in the mainsail, and then they laced the sail back together with thin cord. Determination, ingenuity and improvisation were enough for Pro Beat Passion to continue racing and win by just three seconds on corrected time, a result that meant outright victory in the division. That made Short eligible for the car, and sure enough, when that part of the competition was complete he had scored the best time on the track - and therefore scored the car.

This year Short has gone to the ‘extreme’ of buying a new mainsail for the yacht. But for him, and the vast majority of competitors, Audi Hamilton Island Race Week is all about having fun, ashore and afloat.

One crew certain to follow that premise comprises doctors and lawyers from the Gold Coast. They will compete in the Cruising division aboard the chartered Jeanneau Sun Odyssey 40, Silhouette. The skipper, Dr Michael Freeman, who is recognised as one of Australia’s leading skin specialists, explained their reason for returning to Race Week: "No one in our crew gets much time for annual holidays, so you have to make the best of what little time you have available, and that is why Race Week is so very special for us," Freeman said. "This year our challenge on the water is to better our position of second last when we competed two years ago, and to make sure we have as much fun as we did that time. In reality though, we are not there to win - the actual racing is just part of the complete package for us. The fact that we are competing right alongside some of the best yachts and sailors in the world is quite incredible and extremely exciting. That and the atmosphere on shore is why we enjoy Race Week so much."

Audi Hamilton Island Race Week is Australia’s most highly awarded sailing event. It has been recognised as Queensland's ‘Best Significant Event’ at the annual Queensland Tourism Awards on three occasions, and has received two Australian Tourism Awards.

Audi, the highly successful German luxury carmaker, is now the largest supporter of sailing in Australia. One of the company’s new initiatives in the sport has led to the creation of the four-event Audi IRC Australian Championship for ocean racing yachts. This championship will be decided during the final round at Audi Hamilton Island Race Week 2007.

Billed as "The ‘Great’ Great Barrier Reef Island", the already highly acclaimed Hamilton Island resort is currently undergoing a major upgrade in accommodation and the development of new facilities. Among the new projects being undertaken are the establishment of a spectacular 18-hole golf course and the construction of the impressive Great Barrier Reef Yacht Club complex. The first significant development under the new plan, the luxurious waterfront boutique resort, Qualia, will be unveiled during Audi Hamilton Island Race Week.

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