This year the Audi IRC Australian Championship will be fought and won at Audi Hamilton Island Race Week.
Audi IRC Australian Championship 2011 Class A winner Hooligan
Three classes will compete for the glory of being named Audi IRC Australian Champion.
The talent pool contesting this year’s championship is deep. Peter Harburg’s RP66 Black Jack hasn’t been off the podium in terms of handicap results this year and with a new rig, new sails and new instruments, ‘the whole package has been revamped’ says skipper Mark Bradford.
‘Previous Audi Race Weeks have been about dueling with Wild Oats X, this year it’s about time and a lower handicap rating. If the 50 footers get in a tangle and Loki does its own thing hopefully we can stretch our legs’.
With a second in the Audi Sydney Gold Coast and a divisional first in the Brisbane to Gladstone race, Bradford feels they are regatta ready. But he’s not getting ahead of himself in terms of predicting an outcome, noting ‘there’s a higher level of boat here’.
After a two year hiatus, Australian businessman Geoff Ross has gone to the trouble of chartering a TP52 from good mate Karl Kwok, renaming it Yendys in keeping with his previous boats, and assembling a top notch Australian and New Zealand crew to contest the Audi crown. Originally owned and raced by King Juan Carlos of Spain, this particular TP52’s hull is ‘fast and user friendly’ according to the helmsman, America’s Cup sailor Gavin Brady, who will share the wheel with Ross.
‘This boat was always our pick in terms of hull shape,’ said Brady on the marina yesterday after a training run, ‘it fits well with IRC and drives easily through the water’.
‘The Audi IRC Championship is the main reason we are here and we are anticipating an aggressive TP52 fleet with plenty of match racing action’, he added.
Given the formidable line up, coined the ‘all stars’, on Marcus Blackmore’s TP52 Hooligan, there’s no doubting Blackmore’s intentions for back-to-back Race Week wins and the prestigious Audi IRC Australian Championship.
These are just a sprinkle of the big guns in IRC Class A, then there’s Shogun, Loki, Terra Firma and Living Doll, among others.
In the Audi IRC Australian Championship class B, Darryl Hodgkinson’s Victoire will face plenty of stiff competition from the Beneteau brotherhood, including Robbo Robertson’s Lunchtime Legend.
Peter Sorensen’s The Philosopher’s Club and Jessandra II will go head to head in Class C, both equally credentialed. Roland Dane’s Corby 36, Jessandra II from RQYS, is definitely up to the challenge having kicked goals at Sail Paradise and in the Brisbane to Keppel race, while Sorensen is a dual Audi IRC champion.
Of his chances Dane says, ‘Our upwind performance is good, downwind we aren’t as fast as the smaller boats so we are working on fixing this. Because it is a European boat it’s better suited for flat conditions, but it has been tuned for Australian waters.’
The new stand-alone format, which is endorsed by Yachting Australia, replaces the four part pointscore with one allowable drop and has been well-received by the sailing community. It has simplified the competition by creating a single event and opened the competition up to yacht owners and crews who were not able to attend three or four regattas throughout the year.
It means that boat owners will participate in one event and know the IRC champions immediately.
Yachting Australia is looking to rotate the event through different clubs in states to provide opportunities around the country each year.
Full list of Audi IRC Australian Championship candidates here
All information regarding the 29th Audi Hamilton Island Race Week can be found on the website