Lahana leads the charge
This afternoon the Whitsundays were a sailor’s paradise with sunshine and enough breeze to get around the track in reasonable time on day three of Audi Hamilton Island Race Week. This morning conditions resembled the movie Dead Calm, minus the psycho thriller element.
More than three hours after their scheduled start and on a completely different course area the IRC Grand Prix, IRC Passage 1 and Performance 1 fleets got away on altered courses.
Traditionally today is the long Club Marine race before the layday, but given the forecast the race committee late yesterday replaced the 60 miler with the 40 mile St Helen Rock Race starting in Dent Passage.
Kiwi race officer Megan Kensington had a busy morning moving the start from the Dent start line to the southern then the eastern starting area, the fleet following the race committee boat eastwards like ducklings trailing their mother. Then the St Helen Rock race was replaced with an entirely new race around a windward mark and Pentecost with the finish in Catseye Bay.
While waiting for the play button to finally be pressed the IRC big boats got the jitters and were general recalled. By the time they returned the AP flag was flying and the course was re-set following a 45 degree wind shift from east north east to almost due east at eight knots, causing further delay.
Second time they remained contained behind the start line until the starting signal sounded.
Peter Millard and John Honan’s 98 footer Lahana, the Goliath of the IRC Grand Prix fleet, flexed its muscle to lead the fleet around the 24 nautical mile course for its second line honours victory. Aboard are a number of well known names with plenty of big boat racing notches on their belts from Brindabella’s heyday, including Bob Fraser, Geoff Cropley and Stephen Byron.
On handicap it was a Victorian whitewash with Michael Hiatt’s Farr 55, Rob Date’s RP52 Scarlet Runner and Nicholas Bartels’ Cookson 50 Terra Firma filling the top three spots.
“Today was about how you accelerated and got around Pentecost Island,” said Hiatt. “We had a great start and it went like clockwork from there. Now we have our confidence up,” warned last year’s winner.
Next Victorian boat on the ladder was Rob Hanna’s Victorian TP52 Shogun, with six-time Olympic sailor Colin Beashel in Hanna’s ear calling tactics, in sixth.
Also on the track today was a pair of albino dolphins and a mother humpback and her calf enjoying a leisurely meander in the calm seas.
Tomorrow is a rest day for all crews. Instead of sailing they have a kaleidoscope of shoreside activities to choose from including the famous Moet and Chandon lunch or, for the more energetic, beach cricket and footy at Catseye Beach or the Wayne Arthurs tennis clinic.
At the airport crews will have an opportunity to show their mettle behind the wheel of an Audi S5 Sportback in the Audi Final Challenge which starts at 8am. The results of tomorrow’s spin around the racetrack combined with an on-water divisional win will determine who wins the Audi A5 Sportback at Saturday’s trophy presentation marking the series finish.