Classics head for Hamilton Island

A update from Rob Mundle on Australia's premier race week

Wednesday March 26th 2008, Author: Rob Mundle, Location: United Kingdom
The 25th Anniversary Edition of Audi Hamilton Island Race Week is destined to be a classic regatta in every possible sense as some of Australia’s best known old yachts, including famous maxis, will be joining the fleet.

These grand old ladies will bring an alternative and stimulating dimension to the competition as they represent the opposite end of the sailing spectrum to that seen with the modern Grand Prix racers.

Race Week is scheduled from August 23 to 30, and leading the way to the series for the classic yacht competition will be one of Australia’s best known Grand Dames of the sea, the 44-year old Fidelis, owned by Nigel Stoke, from Sydney.

Designed by Norway’s Knud Reimers, and built in New Zealand from triple-planked kauri, the 61ft Fidelis crossed the Tasman to Sydney in 1966 and claimed line honours in the Hobart race for then owner Jim Davern. Once in Hobart’s Constitution Dock Davern regaled the media and well-wishers with a wide range of wonderful stories. When one journalist asked how such a long, lean and low profile design handled rough weather offshore he quipped, “Easy. We just sound the klaxon horn as we submerge and breathe through the mast.”

Stoke has owned Fidelis for more than a decade, and in that time the ‘old girl’ has been beautifully maintained. Her condition seemingly belies the fact that she has covered an extraordinary number of miles offshore, including the 2006 Hobart Race.

Stoke is hoping that a significant number of classic yachts will compete alongside Fidelis at Race Week in what promises to be a memorable competition. “Having our own start and special courses designed to suit these old boats means the classics will get to enjoy Race Week more than ever,” he said. “I’ll certainly be encouraging as many owners as possible to be there.”

AHIRW Race Director, Denis Thompson, said he had already received expressions of interest from classic yacht owners in New Zealand, Melbourne and Sydney. He defined a classic yacht as being 30, or more, years old.

In a similar vein, a number of owners of some of Australia’s more famous maxi yachts from yesteryear have also expressed interest in being part of the 25th Anniversary celebrations of Audi Hamilton Island Race Week. Many of these yachts, from the ‘Golden Era’ of maxis more than two decades ago, now operate as charter vessels in the Whitsundays. What is being loosely titled a “Retro Big Boat” division is being planned to accommodate them in the Non-Spinnaker Cruising Division this year.

Denis Thompson said that to be eligible for this special classification the maxis must have competed in at least one significant offshore regatta, or ocean race, in their lifetime.

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