by Rob Mundle
Hamilton Island Race Week is unmatched in the world of yachting when it comes to superb sailing on courses that thread their way around the many and varied tropical islands that make up the amazing Whitsunday Group.
Cruising yachts - Hamilton Island Race Week
It is also the camaraderie among crews and the post-race activities on shore that contribute much towards this regatta standing today among the world’s best.
Race Week is an event that offers something for everyone post-race – from the scene of a cluster of casual yachties on the harbour-front partying and dancing the night away to the beat of a lively band, to the captivating parties where guests never quite know which movie star, sporting hero, or well-known entertainer they might see.
The experience is little different when it comes to dining: there’s something to suit all tastes and budgets. There is the carefree and easy-going atmosphere of low-cost outdoor dining along Eat Street, which overlooks the Hamilton Harbour, through to Five Star culinary experiences where you are hosted by some of Australia’s best chefs.
One person who has very effectively put the appeal of Audi Hamilton Island Race Week into words in recent times is east coast cruising-racing-music legend, John Clinton, the leader, drummer and vocalist of Australia’s legendary southern-style group, The Wolverines. An 11-time veteran of Audi Hamilton Island Race Week, John will return again this year with his wife, Kim, aboard their Oceanis 50, Holy Cow, to sample the best of the best.
John says the fact that the regatta is staged in such an easy-going environment on an island makes for a very special experience: ‘Going to Audi Hamilton Island Race Week is like going to a huge yacht club that meets only once a year,’ said John. ‘It’s a reunion … a fantastic atmosphere that is driven by exceptional camaraderie and really interesting people. Each year you catch up with old friends and make lots of new ones. Also, what keeps bringing us back is the vibe at the regatta: it just keeps getting better every time. It’s a full-time party atmosphere.
‘Over the years Kim and I have realised that the one thing everyone must learn at Race Week is how to cope with the scene while racing and partying. We’re not quite there yet – we’re still learning, and that’s another reason for us coming back.’
Another ringing endorsement for Audi Hamilton Island Race Week came from 30-year America’s Cup legend, Tom Ehman, after he flew in from America for last year’s regatta: ‘Audi Hamilton Island Race Week is the best kept secret in the world of yachting. The organisers of any major race week should look at how Hamilton Island makes this more than a sailing event: it’s also a social and cultural happening. Through resources, imagination and hard work it has really come into its own.’
There is good news for anyone wanting to put a crew together and make a last minute entry for Race Week this year. Charter group Sunsail, which is based on Hamilton Island, has two yachts in its expanded fleet still available for charter for the regatta.
Sailors, their families and friends will enjoy a number of exciting new additions to Audi Hamilton Island Race Week this year, including a special sailing forum which is aimed at assisting cruising and racing sailors sailing at the regatta. Some of the best-known names in the sport will be explaining how to make the Race Week experience under sail even more satisfying. The forum will deal with how to use the currents and wind patterns on the waters around Hamilton Island to your advantage, and, put simply, how to sail faster.
Audi Hamilton Island Race Week 2012 will be staged from August 17 to 25. The racing divisions cater for a wide spectrum of sailboats – from sport boats to non-spinnaker cruising yachts, cruising yachts, cruiser-racers and Grand Prix level keelboats, plus high-performance multihulls.
Audi Hamilton Island Race Week 2012 website