Airlie Beach Race Week - Size isn’t important for this ship of mates

Roger Jepson's Where's Wal? crosses in front of Another Fiasco in last year's Performance Division racing.
Heidi Walton
Size really doesn’t matter at the Airlie Beach Race Week when you have as much fun as the Royal Brighton Yacht Club’s Where’s Wal? crew.

They have been towing their little Thompson 870 up the highway from Melbourne to Airlie Beach for the last three years where they have a mighty time. The crew are so looking forward to heading north this year that the boat is already packed and ready to go for this year’s regatta, to be held from eighth to 15th August.

Where’s Wal? is likely to again be the smallest entry in the Performance Division of the 25th Vision Surveys Airlie Beach Race Week. Owner Roger Jepson doesn’t however seemed fazed by lining up against larger boats and some pretty tough competition.

The Performance Division list is already looking strong with the Reichel Pugh 36 Treasure VIII moving from IRC to Performance to join the old Ichi Ban Farr 400, now called Vento, and the Davidson 52 Prime Example. In the list is also two Beneteau Firsts and the modified Inglis 47, Dolce. This division will grow further as the close of entries on Friday 1st August approaches.

Jepson’s strategy this year for evening-up the Performance Division handicaps and therefore the playing field is to get his full crew to join as members of the host club. 'Nothing we have done has worked so we are a bit stuck at the moment as to what we might do. We thought if we joined up the Whitsunday Sailing Club that might help. We reckon they will look after us then,' he joked.

The ship of six old blokes, aged between 59 and 67 years, have been sailing together for a very long time. They grew up sailing together and continue to enjoy each other’s company whether bashing around Port Phillip Bay or sunning themselves at Airlie Beach.

While the chill is starting to settle in around Melbourne and the boat is already packed up, there isn’t much crew training going on for the Where’s Wal? crew. The only team member on the water at the moment is mainsheet hand Wayne Dixon. He is in Newport, Rhode Island, getting ready to race in the Etchells World Championship. Jepson said he expects Dixon to be in peak form on his return to Australia. For the rest of the crew it’s now a matter of watching the entry list and planning the major logistical task of moving the boat up north and then back south.

Once in Airlie Beach the Where’s Wal? crew are committed to racing hard and to hoping the wind and the handicapper come to the party.
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