by Bob Fisher
Bob Fisher reports from Audi Hamilton Island Race Week – Day:2
Wild Oats, AC45 - Audi Hamilton Island Race Week 2014
The remarkable feature of Audi Hamilton Island Race Week is that wherever and whenever one looks at the faces of those in attendance, there are invariably smiles on them.
The reason is simple – the event is held at this time of the year to capture the stunningly good weather that sends everyone on their way rejoicing, safe in the knowledge that they are going to enjoy their racing, be they of the Grand Prix mode or from one of the Cruising divisions.
The organisers have, with 30 years prior experience, the knowledge of how to get it right, and they do so. Today was no exception with the bulk of the classes engaged in racing among the islands while the 'speedheads' in the MC38 and Melges 32 classes had two races over windward/leeward courses in the water between Whitsunday Island and Pentecost Island. The south-easterly breeze of around ten knots co-operated fully with some very readable shifts that rewarded the accomplished both upwind and down.
There are, however, regular race winners in the many classes, but that is seemingly only an additional joy to the competitors in the 182 boats. The second day of the regatta had a further cause for delight – whales are running in the narrow passages between the islands of the Whitsunday group. A mother whale and her calf gave a spirited display for the crews of the boats racing around the islands and there were other sightings throughout the racing.
There were other sources of amusement for the majority. One was when Karl Kwok’s 60ft Beau Geste ran hard aground and the crew had what one later described as 'a devil of a job' to free the boat without using her engine. Using it would have seen the Hong Kong boat disqualified, but the crew found the correct procedure to dislodge Beau Geste. It was as well they did for despite the time lost in grounding, Beau Geste, steered by Gavin Brady, had done enough to win IRC Class A from the 66ft Alive and the 100ft supermaxi Wild Oats XI. The biggest boat in the regatta did add another line honours win to her unbroken record.
Sailing round the course with the Class A boats was the unentered AC45, Wild Oats, the catamaran purchased by the Oatley family as part of its preparation for their now aborted America’s Cup challenge from the Hamilton Island Yacht Club. The twin hulled, wing-sailed flyer found enough in the ten knot breeze to fly a hull for the majority of the time – sufficient to 'finish' ahead of the colourful fleet. When questioned on the future of this boat, Sandy Oatley said: 'It’s too much fun not to keep it for some time.'
The tightest racing was among the 'Grand Prix' boats on their windward/leeward course. Chris Hancock’s Vino had the best of the day with a first and a second in the McConaghy 38s, just heading Leslie Green’s Ginger by a point. These two are tied on six points after three races. In the four-boat Melges 32 class, Local skipper Barry Cuneo’s Envy Scooters added a first and second to her win on the opening day to lead the class by one point from. Stephen O’Rourke’s Panther
Slightly more than the ten knot breeze is expected for the third day’s racing.