Lining up for Hamilton Island
Light air sailing is tricky and when big tides come into play, particularly when snaking in amongst the many islands that make up the stunning Whitsunday Group, those charged with keeping the boat moving forward will be sweating over the nav station.
According to regatta forecaster Kenn Batt the ridge of high pressure that normally produces the fresher Trade Wind flow at this time of year won’t have time to develop due to a number of cold fronts that are expected to pass through the southern states.
Instead, light morning west sou’westers of 5-8 knots are forecast to precede 8-12 knot NNE afternoon breezes until Thursday when the Trade Winds are expected back on the race track. In the interim, the boats that are optimised for light air should have created a handy gap on the progressive scoresheet.
Michael Hiatt’s Victorian Farr 55 Living Doll, fresh from its win at Meridien Marinas Airlie Beach Race Week yesterday, is considered the light air specialist and with a hard fought title under the crew’s belt, their confidence is sky high.
Steven David’s 60-footer, Wild Joe - a former Race Week champion - has been fine-tuned for this year and will be ultra competitive in light breezes with the likes of America’s Cup sailor Adam Beashel and brother Colin, a six-time Olympian, and international navigator Tom Addis giving the boat plenty of rock star status.
Just eight weeks after giving birth to her second child, Wild Oats X’s navigator Adrienne Cahalan is looking forward to the feel of wind in her hair once again.
“Because the wind will be from a totally different direction to previous years, and light for the first part of the regatta, it gives different boats a chance to excel. Lighter is trickier, particular with the tides. I’m guessing the navigators will be in bed early this week and equally the crews will be exhausted from all the sail changes.”
Wild Oats’ skipper Mark Richards talks about recent modifications to the RP66 “I don’t think the boat has ever been so good. We’ve changed the bulb and rudder shapes and taken a lot of weight out, as well as changing the weight distribution.
“There are so many good boats here and a lot of them are similar to our size which will make the racing so much better.”
The cream of Australia’s IRC grand prix crop is readying for the starting stalls with many out training yesterday and this morning, squeezing the last out of the final countdown to the starter’s gun.
Tonight’s official opening of the magnificent new Hamilton Island Yacht Club is the hottest ticket in town with Race Week owners and skippers joining VIP guests, including Queensland Premier Anna Bligh and the island’s owners, the Oatley family, on the eve of Australia’s most awarded keelboat regatta.
Every Australian state and the ACT will be represented at this year’s Audi Hamilton Island Race Week, the third to be sponsored by German luxury carmaker Audi, with international entries from New Zealand and Singapore combining to take the fleet to 194, a figure that has surpassed all expectations.
The competition for all classes will kick off at 0945hrs tomorrow morning, Saturday 22 August, when Cruising Division 1 sets off from Eastern Start line for the Lindeman Island Race.