It’s a little unconventional, but if all goes to plan, Darryl Hodgkinson’s Victoire crew should have a memorable time competing in next month’s Abell Point Marina Airlie Beach Race Week.
Victoire at start of 2013 Sydney Gold Coast Race
Under normal circumstances a high performance boat, such as a Cookson 50, is crewed by a team of practised professionals who have done the miles to ensure they know and can handle the character and nuances of the vessel. In the case of newly acquired Victoire, Hodgkinson has decided to change that standard for the boat’s first regatta hit-out.
Hodgkinson has invited members of his international plastic surgeon peer group to come sailing. The seven surgical specialists will travel to Airlie Beach with their families for what Hodgkinson has promised will give them a 'real taste of Queensland'.
'It’s a good opportunity, on a very relaxed platform, for these guys to talk to each other at the same level and really get the truth. We don’t talk plastic surgery all the time, we do talk our interests. But plastic surgery comes up. A lot of these guys are very top people – their editors of journals, their top in their profession.
'I have been planning this with these guys for about a year. We have a van to drive them around, events planned and some of them are bringing their families. We thought Airlie would be really good for that. They are very excited about all the extra things you can do there.'
This is Hodgkinson’s first time as the group’s host since the Sailing Plastic Surgeons group was formed three years ago. Last year they competed in the 39th Rolex Regatta in Brazil.
His visiting crew come from all parts of the globe. 'One has sailed for Brazil in the Admiral’s Cup. The American has sailed Macinack Island and events like that, and owns a 55 foot cruiser. The guy from New Zealand sailed his yacht from Britain to New Zealand. The guy from Germany has sailed in Cowes. The one from Belgium is a keen summer sailor and racer and then there is another American guy who is who is more a keen guy and great motivator. He was the one who started the group off. Oh, and a Frenchman as well.'
The last four years Hodgkinson has successfully campaigned his Beneteau 44.7 Vivacite and then his Beneteau 45 Victoire, winning Cruising and IRC B divisions at Airlie Beach and Hamilton Island Race weeks. This year he is bringing north his new acquisition, a Cookson 50 of the same name, for its first regatta under Hodgkinson’s command.
Darryl Hodgkinson's Beneteau First 45 Victoire - Telcoinabox Airlie Beach Race Week 2012
The boat was formerly called Jazz and has an impressive CV. 'It’s been second in the Hobart race, winning its division in Hobart a couple of times, done the Trans-Atlantic, Caribbean and Fastnet. It was a world circuit yacht. The previous owner was from Malta. He came to Australia and did the last Hobart. Somebody gave me an offer on my boat that I couldn’t refuse. Then this marvellous yacht was sitting in Sydney. I said to its owner, Chris Bull, this would a fabulous yacht to go the next step up, competing at the top level.'
He admits it’s a boat that could be handful when the breeze gets up around the 25 knots which often happens during Airlie Beach Race Week. That’s when she likes to 'boogie'. With a canting keel, power winches and huge sail area, the international crew are unlikely to have sailed anything as powerful as the Cookson 50. So Hodgkinson has carefully looked at the best way to handle this challenge and come up with a clever solution. He will have five of his regular crew on board and they will shadow the international sailors.
'The idea is for them to be literally one on one with the visitors. For example, our foredeck man will have somebody with him, the pit man will have somebody with him and so on. There will be lots of mentoring. They arrive on the 8th August. Then we will have a training sail on the 9th August. As the days go by we will all get into it.'
Luckily for the visitors the boat is set-up to suit Airlie Beach Race Week. 'We are a passage racing yacht. What is good about Airlie is that it is so passage orientated.'
For event information and online entry, go http://airlieraceweek.com/