Playful humpback whales on the racetrack at Audi Hamilton Island Race Week breaching next to the race boats in Whitsunday Passage spiced up the on-water action on day two of the six day series.
A mother and baby humpback were the stars of the show, delighting the international guests on Stephen Everett’s Queensland boat Salacia and the crew aboard Ron James’ Beneteau 41 Synergy for up to 45 minutes.
“We had overseas guests on board…we couldn’t have organised it any better,” said Everett this afternoon.
James couldn't believe his eyes when a huge whale launched next to his boat. "It was incredible. We were sailing along and it was tracking us and then it swam parallel to us and breached. There was a massive bang when it hit the water. You could see the barnacles."
Light southeasterlies then a glass-out forced a change of course area for the MC38s and Melges 32s for their second windward/leeward race and caught 40 cruising multihulls, non-spinnaker and cruising boats out at Denman Island. Thankfully a 10 knot easterly this afternoon came to the rescue, but again it was a late finish for some.
Karl Kwok’s TP52 Team Beau Geste had a better day, coming away with the handicap win in IRC division 1. Yesterday the Hong Kong boat, the current Audi Australian IRC champion, went too close to the shore and finished up stranded on the rocks in Kennedy Sound pointing the wrong direction. Turning on the engine and backing out would have disqualified them so they set the boat up to sail off, sailing master Gavin Brady citing Captain Cook’s experience in these situations as inspiration – a reference the young crew is still ribbing him for.
“Waiting for the tide wasn’t an option,” said Brady. “We had to turn the boat around using the sails and wait for enough wind to blow us off. It cost us 20 minutes but I saw the best crew work all year from the boys.”
Brady took notes from past Audi Hamilton Island Race Weeks with him this morning, hoping to refer back to today’s island race in previous years. Like each race, the same course offers up a different scenario year-to-year which makes this regatta and the Whitsundays, “The best place in the world to race yachts,” said Brady. “It’s so cool, there’s always something different and challenging on offer”.
Double winners are in pole position in both IRC divisions 2 and 3, Geoff Boettcher’s Farr 400 Modified Secret Mens Business leading division 2 and Matt Owen’s BH37 Local Hero two from two in IRC division 3 results.
Race Week is the only saltwater event the Canberra based crew of dinghy and trailer boat sailors enters and this year marks the 12th consecutive regatta at Hamilton Island for Owen and the boat. “It’s very different to lake sailing, we don’t have to worry about tides and currents back home,” Owen said.
To assist them to navigate around the stunning Whitsunday group, Owen employs the services of island resident and water sports operator David Steelo who “comes in very handy” admits the grinning skipper.
Chris Hancock, owner/skipper of the leading MC38 in the class’ Australian championship after three races said, “We sailed well and picked the right part of the course to come up with the goodies. With these boats, one mistake and you are out.” Speaking on the addition of newest class members Marcus Blackmore with Hooligan and Robin Crawford’s Assassin, Hancock added, “We are really chuffed to have new owners join the class. Their calibre has really lifted the standard to the next level, but like us two years ago they have a steep learning curve ahead of them”.