At the jugular
With their votes cast at the Hamilton Island polling booth this morning, competitors in the 27th Audi Hamilton Island Race Week cast lines and set off to determine their own outcomes in Australia’s premier offshore regatta, which began today with the traditional Molle Islands Race.
The melting pot of keel boats, from Melges to the super sized from around Australia and as far away as the USA, began the week-long regatta with a Dent Passage spinnaker start, most judging the favourable ebb tide as kites were popped for the long run across the Whitsunday Passage to the Molle Islands in a handy 12 knot average sou’east breeze.
Some took a while to get the cloth out of the bag, last night’s Front Street entertainment, including guitar legend Diesel, proving too great a lure as curfews were momentarily forgotten and crews took the dance floor to mark the official opening of Race Week.
Without naming names, the bowman of L’atitude was today spotted at the pointy end of the West Australian Beneteau 50.5 with numerous fluorescent pink airline-style fragile stickers plastered to his shirt, and a rather guilty smile on his face.
In the opening round of the IRC Grand Prix clash Stephen Ainsworth’s RP63 Loki continued its unbeatable form, helmsman Gordon Maguire staking his patch early with a win by a minute from Michael Hiatt’s Victorian Farr 55 Living Doll which recovered well from an average start.
From a smokin’ IRC fleet Loki was named overall winner of the Audi Sydney Gold Coast Yacht Race earlier this month
“We started conservatively and well, and we were able to hang with the 66 footers,” said Ainsworth this afternoon. “We didn’t take any risks and ground out the result. So far so good.”
The Iain Murray-skippered RP 66 Wild Oats X and Queensland sistership Black Jack, owned by Peter Harburg and skippered by Mark Bradford, resumed their on-water tug of war for line honours supremacy, Murray declaring this morning: “I’ve inherited Ricko’s (Mark Richards) legacy of going after Black Jack’s jugular”.
First points went to Wild Oats X, which is sure to ignite Bradford’s highly ticketed crew including fellow America’s Cup sailors Craig Monk, Gavin Brady calling tactics and Jamie Gale in the pit.
After smartly riding Wild Oats X’s coat tails out of Dent Passage, Rob Date’s Victorian RP52 Scarlet Runner managed fifth in race one while it was red faces for Peter Millard’s crew of Lahana which lost miles trying to recover from sail issues as the rest of the fleet sailed inside them at the northern tip of North Molle Island.
Tomorrow the temperature will rise when the IRC fleet heads to the windward/leeward course area to separate the men from the boys.