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Airlie Beach Race Week 2014 - Getting ready for a windy regatta

by Tracey Johnstone on 8 Aug 2014
IRC skippers Matt Allen, Tony Kirby and Daryl Hodgkinson looking relaxed before their tight battle begins tomorrow. Vision Surveys 25th Airlie Beach Race Week Regatta 2014 Tracey Johnstone
The record fleet of 135 monohulls and multihulls have spent today carefully checking and re-checking every piece of race equipment as they prepare for tomorrow’s start of the Vision Surveys 25th Airlie Beach Race Week regatta.

The Regatta Director Denis Thompson has been busy during the day shuffling boats among divisions as IRC Racing was cut down to only include the big boats and the IRC Cruising entrants moved into Performance or Cruising Spinnaker.

With a forecast of 25 knots gusting 30 knots and more, the conversations around the dock have focused on ensuring the crew know how to reef the main, the number three and number four headsails are on board and that everything that is currently floating loosely around the boat is tied down or put away.

Thompson confirmed that decision on changes to the traditional first race day Cones-Armit course will be held back until the morning when the forecast will be reviewed. 'It’s a long time between now and tomorrow morning,' Thompson said during this afternoon.

Only a handful of boats headed out for a test sail today. Among those were the two Cookson 50s, Darryl Hodgkinson’s Victoire and Colin Woods’s Pretty Fly III. There is an IRC Racing division battle looming there between these two protagonists.

Prior to the regatta Hodgkinson said he was intending on taking the regatta fairly easy after an exceptional amount of effort was put into his taking handicap honours in the 2013 Rolex Sydney Hobart Race. But that doesn’t seem to be the case, now. 'We have a few new weapons we’re going to try out today,' Hodgkinson said this morning. 'A fractional Code Zero and top down furler. We are trying to catch with Patrice, you see,' he added. He also expects to work through some of the old sails he received when he purchased the boat. 'I am sure we will tear a few sails this week.

'The heavy conditions are what we want. We think a whole week of this is going to be terrific. The only issue is we are a bit light on crew number, but with the canting keel, that usually takes care of the issue.

'The big match-up is going to be the rivalry between us and Pretty Fly. They are bristling a bit as they beat us in the Southport race. They are feeling pretty good about themselves so we will try to knock them off their perch,' Hodgkinson said.

Across the bay, Matt Allen’s Carkeek 60, Ichi Ban, was quietly going through their paces. They set off on the Cones-Armit Race a day early, testing out sail changes along the way. 'Just a little bit OCS,' Allen joked. 'It was good to get out there early this morning and then get back early,' he added.

Another Friday OCS went to Tony Kirby and his team on the Ker 46, Patrice. They took the opportunity to also complete the Cones-Armit race course to get a feel for a race venue Kirby has seen before. He said the boat and crew performed well in the 20 plus knots. As to the stronger winds predicted for tomorrow, Kirby’s response was; 'We love wind. It’s better than being becalmed.'


On shore the small Sports Boat fleet were busy rigging up. The newly engaged Ocean Crusader team of skipper Annika Fredriksson and Ian Thomson were busy with their other Darwin team members. The slight Fredriksson is planning to handle the heavy conditions by hiking hard and thinking heavy.

Bruce Hollis and Paul Riley of Conquistador are expecting a lot of breeze, but not too much for the Sports Boats. 'If you suitably rig the boat and are sensible about the top mark and the bottom mark, you will be fine. But we are new with the boat and we haven’t sailed it in waves before and if we end up in Whitsunday passage there is plenty of wind and then you get tide against wind.

'I have sailed up here for about 15 years so this area is familiar. We have been sailing Beneteaus for the last few years, so this will be fun,' Hollis said on behalf of his six-man crew.

The 65 entrants in the three Cruising Spinnaker and Cruising Non Spinnaker divisions were seen today testing their reefing systems and headsail furler lines in anticipation of needing them throughout the next two days.


The all-women team on Schouten Passage were out on the course for a training session. The skipper, Jan Howard, explained the team originally entered in IRC Cruising, but were subsequently moved to Cruising Spinnaker Division one. 'We wanted to sail IRC as we have a pretty generous handicap and we prefer that division as then you are sailing apples against apples. That’s what we are used to sailing. We didn’t feel we were ready to step up to IRC Racing, so Cruising Spinnaker is fine with us.

'We are going to be sailing with a lot of big, powerful, faster boats, in Division one, but we will have to deal with that.

'We went out this afternoon for a few hours for a bit of practice. We had the boat going really well today. There was about 23 to 27 knots in the middle of the bay. We were going alright in that,' Howard said.

Racing for all divisions starts tomorrow, Saturday 9th August. Event website

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