The 22nd annual Meridien Marinas Airlie Beach Race Week started today in glorious sunshine, under blue skies and in good breeze. As the record fleet headed out from Meridien Marinas Abel Point Marina onto Pioneer Bay the excitement was palpable with boats, crews and skippers all looking forward to a great week of sailing.
Principal Race officer Tony Denham chose the Cones-Armit race, the traditional series opener for the fleets and right on time the IRC Racing and Multihull fleets were away on their 31 nautical mile course, while the IRC Cruising, Super 30, Performance Racing and Cruising fleets started their 23 nautical mile course. The Sportsboat fleet started later than the main fleet, set a shorter 19 nautical mile course.
On the multihull start line, the bright red Orma 60 Simon Hull's TeamVodafoneSailing from the Royal New Zealand Yacht Club, competing in her first official Australian race, started down the line towards the pin end and well back. She wound up and in 30 seconds was leading the fleet.
Just 30 minutes into the race TeamVodafoneSailing was almost at the Cones and was clear of her fellow cats, Dave Chittleborough's Grainger Panther Cynophobe from the Whitsunday Sailing Club and Keith Glover's Granger Trilogy from the Royal Queensland Yacht Squadron.
Leading the IRC Racing fleet was Wayne Millar's Sydney 41 Zoe from Townsville Cruising Yacht Club, followed by Iota, John McNamara's Farr 40 IRC from the Lake Macquarie Yacht Club. In marginal conditions for holding kites, poles were on the forestay and a procession of torn kites, some shredded into flags, could clearly be seen.
In 16-18 knots of breeze and in choppy seas some crews were fighting hard in the brisk south westerly and roundups were common throughout the various divisions.
Less than an hour and a half into the race TeamVodafoneSailing had chalked up a substantial lead on the fleet and was reported at Grimston Point (that’s about 27 miles in an hour and twenty minutes at an average of 20.8 knots).
She tacked twice to clear Grimston Point and flew home at 22 knots, tacking again at the finish line to blitz the fleet. TeamVodafoneSailing crossed the finish line at 12:47:16.
Dockside Simon Hull and his Kiwi team were having a quiet beer. They were all very happy. Simon said ' A great sail, 18 knots at the start; we saw 24-25 and we managed 32 knots in one puff.
‘We could not quite lay Double Cone Island with a gennaker, had to switch to a Solent, but just at the end the wind freed up so we went back to gennaker. We screamed across behind the Islands, then turned the corner at Olden Island for home. We had a little wind against tide, we tacked twice to clear the reef and had a good ride in.
‘Lovely breeze, lovely place, lovely day - we just want more of the same tomorrow.'
Race 1 Multihull line honours went to Simon Hull’s TeamVodafoneSailing. Keith Glover’s Trilogy crossed the line in second place, just over one hour later. Third was Peter Berry’s J’Ouvert, a Prescott Whitehaven 11.7, from the Whitsunday Sailing Club.
The handicap win went to J’Ouvert from Trilogy and TeamVodafoneSailing.
IRC Racing line honours went to Wayne Millar's Sydney 41 Zoe from John McNamara’s IRC Farr 40 Iota. Peter Sorensen’s Sydney 36CR The Philosopher’s Club was third.
Handicap honours in race 1 went to The Philosopher’s Club from Zoe and Iota.
Townsville sailor Wayne Millar said dockside ‘Great sailing today. We really enjoyed the sail from Double Cone across to Olden Island. We hit 15 knots. Peter Sorensen and his Philosopher’s Club team will be tough to beat on handicap overall; we were just pleased to get second place today.‘
Townsville boat, Wayne Millar's Zoe took line honours in the IRC Racing Division on day one of Meridien Marinas Airlie Beach Race Week on Friday
The Sports Boats enjoyed near perfect conditions on Pioneer Bay today. They are being scored on SMS overall as well as being split into two divisions and Pierre Gal’s Sport8xx Kiss, recently modified with a new carbon/epoxy/cedar keel and new bulb, showed her superiority in the conditions winning SMS Overall honours from Brett Whitbread’s Egan 7 Blokes World with Wha-Ka Dave Hewitt’s Shaw 650 third.
SMS Division 1 went to Health Townsend’s Melges 24 Kaito, with Go Majik, Richard Devries Magic 25 second. Third was Evergreen, Michael Green’s Elliot 7. In SMS Division 2 it was Kiss, from Bloke’s World and Wha-Ka.
Kaito - Melges 24
Performance Racing line honours went to Dream, Robert Green's Pacific 50 from David Jackson’s Inglis 47 Wild, with Whitsunday sailor Terry Archer’s Questionable Logic, a Bashford/Sydney 40, in third.
Handicap honours went to Dream from Redshift, Duncan Hine’s custom Steiner 29. Local Whitsunday sailor Colin Purden finished third in his Swarbrick S111 Sandpiper Wutba.
It was tight racing in the Super 30 class today as Funnelweb, Stephen Girdis’ Melges 32 took line honours from Dark Energy, John Lindholm’s Thompson 980 which beat Leon Thomas’ Farr 30 Guilty Pleasures III across the line by just over one second.
Townsville sailor Thomas took the handicap honours from Dark Energy with Loco, Jeanine and Jon Drummond’s Farr 30 OD, third.
IRC Cruising Race 1 line honours went to Ocean Affinity, Stewart Lewis’ Marten 49 ahead of Evolution Racing, the Farr 42 of Michael Keough, with Darryl Hodgkinson’s Beneteau 45 Victoire.
On handicap Evolution Racing won from Victoire with Ocean Affinity third.
In Cruising Division 1 Don Algie’s Storm 2, the elegant Warwick 66, crossed the line ahead of Hammer of Queensland (Seiichi Yoshikawa) with Phillip King’s Salona 44 Last Tango, third.
However it was Ron Hayden’s Jeanneau Sunfast 43 Cloud Nine who took the handicap win from Storm 2 and Last Tango.
In Cruising Division 2 the first boat across the line was Manly Too, Peter McAdam’s Bavaria 44 was followed closely, in fact one second later by Spike, Gerard Young’s Bavaria 44. Hans-On, the Hanse 370e of Nick Cox and Col Thomas was third.
On handicap Spike won from Manly Too and Hans-On.
Cruising Non Spinnaker Race 1 line honours went to Tulip, Bernie Van’t Hoff’s Swan 45 from Peter Hall’s Impulsive with Wayne Banks-Smith’s Joie De Vie third.
On handicap Impulsive won from Joie De Vie with Bluenose, Henry Kelder’s Bavaria 34 third.
Principal Race Officer Tony Denham was smiling as he came into the race office this afternoon. 'A wonderful day, bright sunshine, perfect breeze, the right course, everyone home safe and well. It does not get any better than that.'
Full results for Meridien Marinas Airlie Beach Race Week are available here
* All results are provisional.