by Rob Mundle
On the Audi Hamilton Island Race Week 2012 penultimate day there was a crowded refugee boat; a crewless high performance ocean racing yacht that conjured thoughts of the abandoned ship, Marie Celeste; and a yacht where the crew was being flogged in a manner not dissimilar to what occurs on the pages of runaway international bestseller, Fifty Shades of Grey.
Champagne fun. PRIX D’ELEGANCE - Audi Hamilton Island Race Week 2012
These were some of the mystery sightings at Audi Hamilton Island Race Week this morning, however instead of concern around, there was applause, cheering and considerable mirth for the annual staging of the Prix d’ Elegance.
The Prix d’ Elegance is a highlight of Australia’s most awarded and premier week-long regatta. It’s where the crews of all yachts, competitive or not on the race course, stand the chance to win trophies simply by applying some creative thinking.
There were two categories – the Best Presented Yacht and Crew, and the Best Fun-Themed Yacht and Crew. More than half of the 163 yachts at the regatta took up the challenge, and there were some remarkable sites to entertain the judges and large crowd of spectators lining the deck at Hamilton Island Yacht Club.
Long-time Audi Hamilton Island Race Week supporter, cruising division sailor John Clinton, set the standard from the outset with his yacht, Holy Cow. With the crew uniforms being predominantly green, Holy Cow departed Hamilton Island’s harbour with a large banner on the boom reading ‘Fifty Shades of Green’, while on deck the crew humorously re-enacted many of the activities detailed in the best selling book, Fifty Shades of Grey.
Their performance was one of the crowd favourites, as was the effort of Morgan Rogers and his crew aboard Whale Watching Sydney, who stepped into the current political arena.
In the ‘Best Presented Yacht and Crew’ category, Marcus Blackmore’s beautiful 52-footer, Hooligan, was a standout. The yacht, which was presented in pristine condition, glided past the judges with no crew on deck: it was on remote control. That drew a large round of applause, as did Andrew Wenham’s 60-footer, Southern Excellence. Both yacht and crew, in their matching uniforms, looked impeccable.
Cruising Division yachts Vanishing Point (Glenn Watson) and Baruch (Bill Wheeler) were also strong contenders for the top prize.
This year even Hamilton Island staff joined in the fun. When the island’s barge departed the harbour it was decked out in signal flags. It was also carrying two large semi-trailer trucks on deck, a feature which everyone agreed would be impossible for any yacht to top. They need not have worried: the judges deemed it a motor yacht, and therefore not eligible.
Chief judge, Darren Jahn, said the standard of entries this year was the best ever and above all expectations. The winners will be announced at the Audi Hamilton Island Race Week trophy presentation party tomorrow night.
Hamilton Island Race Week website