Last items on the job list
The marina at Hamilton Island is filling to capacity as the last of the record fleet of 225 arrive from as far as New Zealand to celebrate the 25th edition of Race Week which commences tonight with the Club Marine Yacht Owner’s Cocktail Party.
The cruising boat crews are busy stocking up on ‘consumables’ while the IRC boats are being trimmed down as they convert from delivery mode to the lighter inshore racing mode for the week-long regatta that has attracted what principle race officer (PRO) Denis Thompson regards as Australia’s best ever grand prix line up.
Owners, racing crews and a smattering of hot shots are landing regularly at the Hamilton Island airstrip and arriving by ferry from Airlie Beach to assist the hard working delivery crews who have spent the last few days checking and tweaking rigs, hauling unwanted sails off the boat and cleaning hulls.
A handful of the high performance end of the fleet has been out for sea trials to reacquaint themselves with the local conditions and to test new sails and gear.
The Mark Richards-skippered Reichel Pugh 66 Wild Oats X, one of the favourites for a podium finish in its division, had North Sails’ Michael Coxon on board on Wednesday afternoon during a test sail to check the new swept back spreader rig and top mast backstays which have replaced the runners.
Richards’ pre-regatta advice to the crew was to “keep our noses clean and hopefully we’ll have something to show for it at the end of the week”.
In an effort to retain the winner’s crown, defending IRC Racing champion, Geoff Ross ( Yendys), has installed a new carbon rig, which is being fine-tuned today, and has assembled a high octane blend of name sailors including Sean Kirkjian, Will Oxley, Richie Allanson, Mitch White and New Zealand round the world sailor Stu Clarke.
The 2006 IRC Racing winner with his previous Quantum Racing, Ray Roberts, will arrive today fresh from battle at Airlie Beach with his Cookson 50 of the same name. Roberts sealed the win on a countback at Meridien Marinas Airlie Beach Race week just yesterday afternoon and he and his race ready crew have only today to check the boat over before resuming their quest for the elusive regatta double.
There are, as always, last minute repairs with the crew of Steve Troon’s XLR8 from Melbourne last night awaiting a replacement backstay from Sydney after theirs broke in the final stages of the delivery.
The forecast for the silver jubilee of Audi Hamilton Island Race Week, which begins tomorrow, Saturday 23, with the UBS Lindeman Island Race, looks promising with moderate to fresh south east trade winds likely for most of the week.
With the lighter boats able to get up and away on the plane in the more moderate conditions, Yendys’ navigator Will Oxley hopes the forecast fresher breezes, up to 30 knots on Sunday, will give them an edge in their campaign for a rare back to back handicap win in this series.
There have a been a number of changes to the popular Whitsunday Islands regatta this year with the IRC fleet split into IRC Grand Prix Division 1 and 2 based on a handicap cut off of 1.303.
Taking tidal considerations into account, Saturday’s 23.5 nautical mile UBS Lindeman Island, the curtain opener of the week-long regatta, will start off Catseye Beach rather than in Dent Passage.
For the same reason, Monday’s 59 nautical mile Club Marine Classic Hayman Island Race will take the fleet north around Hayman Island rather south around Coppersmith Rock, the previous course for the longest race of the series.
“Sending the fleet around Hayman was to keep them in favourable tide,” added PRO
Thompson. “This year we’ve had a long hard look at the courses and the way the tides are going, plus we have the flexibility of deciding on the course of the day, depending on the conditions.”
Finally, courses 7, 8 and 9 have a “navigator’s choice” with an alternate course back to home base from one of the most southern points of the course.
As well as a heavy program of racing, broken up by Tuesday’s across the board lay day and a second lay day on Thursday for the non IRC fleet, there is busy schedule ashore for crews and their families. Amongst the highlights are the Collette Dinnigan fashion parade, Todd Woodbridge Ultimate Tennis Experience, UBS Moet & Chandon lunch and Thursday’s famous Whitehaven Beach Party.
Last year’s fleet size was 216 while this year’s 25th anniversary has attracted a 225 boat fleet.