Opening Lindeman Island race

Audi Hamilton Island Race Week sets sail

Saturday August 20th 2011, Author: Susan Sullivan, Location: Australia

The seal was broken off the Audi Hamilton Island Race Week cap with the promise of a just over a week of racing in the stunning Whitsunday Islands group spectacularly previewed with today’s opening 23.3 nautical mile Lindeman Island Race.

Starting from the eastern start line the fleet worked their way up to Lindeman Island and back down to the finish in Dent Passage under spinnaker in a colour explosion back dropped by sparkling skies.

Simon Hull’s New Zealand based ORMA 60 trimaran TeamVodafoneSailing started lucky last and climbed its way up through the entire fleet to take the gun and the win in the Super Multihull Division.

Bob Oatley’s 100 foot supermaxi Wild Oats XI scored its first line honours victory in the IRC Class A grand prix division, beating Anthony Bell’s Elliott designed 100 footer, Investec Loyal.

Wild Oats XI is fully loaded in the afterguard for this week’s outing, the combined grey matter of skipper Mark Richards, tactician Grant Simmer, Iain Murray and navigators Adrienne Cahalan and Ian Burns adding serious kudos. This combination and the recent upgrade to twin retractable centreboards rather than a forward rudder has added another gear to the champion as she barrels towards this year’s Rolex Sydney Hobart.

Bell only recently entered the big boat league but he has a fire in his belly and plenty of knowledge in his ear with Billy Merrington and Michael Coxon among his pro crew. “Oats got the better of us today” Bell said, adding cheekily, “we’ll get them tomorrow”.

Marcus Blackmore’s TP52 Hooligan, the hottest IRC-rated yacht on the Australian east coast, continued its winning ways today, taking the handicap win in the grand prix division over Stephen Ainsworth’s consummate RP63 Loki, last year’s grand prix divisional winner.

Loki’s helmsman Gordon Maguire’s reaction time was tested in the starting sequence when Rob Hanna suddenly tacked his TP52 Shogun to avoid crossing the start line early, his stern slewing and almost clipping Loki as Maguire was forced to steer wide amidst the shouting and gesturing.

Perfect conditions blessed the opening day of Audi Hamilton Island Race Week, the 28th edition, with sunny skies and a reasonably consistent 15 knot sou’easter easing the 195 strong fleet into the event’s varied program of on and off water events. The sailing calendar includes island courses, windward/leeward racing and a one design competition for the SB3s beginning on Monday while ashore there’s a glittering social program designed to satisfy all tastes and budgets.

Tomorrow the fleet will split with IRC A, IRC Passage Class B and the Melges short course racing while the remaining divisions will be sent on an island course.

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