by Rob Mundle
Bring together a yacht named Chirping Bird, and Stumpy Gully on Victoria’s Mornington Peninsula, and you have the 100th entry for Audi Hamilton Island Race Week 2012.
Some of the best sailing to be had anywhere in the world is there to be enjoyed at Audi Hamilton Island Race Week
Chirping Bird is a Beneteau Cyclades 45 belonging to Rod Smallman, an enthusiastic cruising and off-the-beach sailor who owns and operates a small boutique winery on Stumpy Gully Road, on the Peninsula.
From August 17 to 25 this year Rod, Chirping Bird and a crew of family and friends, will be lining up for the yacht’s third consecutive Audi Hamilton Island Race Week.
It would seem safe to assume that the yacht’s unusual name was inspired by the feathered wildlife that frequents the lush bushland around Smallman’s 10 acre property, but that is not the case.
‘I have to be careful how I explain this,’ said Smallman. ‘My wife’s name is Mim, and our label was originally known as Mim’s Wines, but that didn’t quite have the right ring to it when it came to marketing. So, after a bit of a brainstorming session we came up with the name Chirping Bird, but that had nothing to do with the local fauna. It was simply another way of recognising Mim, who has been known to get a little chirpy after a few of our wines.
‘With that decided we thought it would also be only right to name the yacht Chirping Bird for the same reason.’
Smallman, who has been sailing all his life, is currently building a 45ft replacement for Chirping Bird in a shed at his property. His sailing life started aboard a Mirror dinghy his father built, and these days he spends a considerable amount of time racing his Taipan catamaran out of Safety Beach Sailing Club on Melbourne’s Port Phillip Bay. He has Chirping Bird operating as a charter yacht in the Whitsundays; however, in August each year the yacht is taken out of charter for one reason – Audi Hamilton Island Race Week.
Chirping Bird. Photo: Rod Smallman - Audi Hamilton Island Race Week
‘Apart from going to somewhere that’s about 10 degrees warmer than being in Melbourne and enjoying some great sailing,’ Smallman explained, ‘the best thing about Audi Hamilton Island Race Week is being on what we call ‘the social arm’ – the marina arm where all the like-minded yachties are docked. The atmosphere there is nothing short of fantastic: it’s all about the parties.
‘For us, Race Week can be likened to playing golf: you play a good shot and that brings you back for another game. At Hamilton Island, because we have so much fun we make sure before we leave each year that we book a marina berth for the following year.’
The Race Week fleet is currently 108. The regatta, which will be staged from August 17 to 25, is open to a wide spectrum of sailboats – from sport boats to cruising yachts, cruiser-racers and Grand Prix level keelboats, plus high-performance multihulls. Near 200 yachts are expected to compete.
Audi Hamilton Island Race Week 2012 website. The Notice of Race and Entry Form are also on the site.