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Family fun at Audi Hamilton Island Race Week

by Laura McKee on 24 Aug 2013
Audi Hamilton Island Race week 2013 © Andrea Francolini Photography http://www.afrancolini.com/
Audi Hamilton Island Race Week provides something for everyone, from pro international America’s Cup sailors to families contesting their first Whitsunday series.

Melbourne couple Mal and Chris Dennis and their two children Tara, 11, and James, eight, are wide eyed as their first Audi Hamilton Island Race Week comes to a close.


The Dennis family is racing their 38-foot Spacesailer, Idle Time, in Non-spinnaker Division two. The boat was built in 1986 and purchased Mal and Chris two years ago.

With a generation of children dominated by iPads, iPods, PlayStation and TV, mum Chris believes sailing is a perfect way for her children to be active outdoors.

'The kids have proven to be naturals on the boat, and are having an absolute ball.'

Tara and James are lapping up their first semi-serious regatta, already masters of the trade.

'When I put the mainsail up I have to ease out the white and black rope and when we put the main up I have to pull it,' said Tara. 'Dad always says to look like we know what we’re doing,' she added.

'They think it’s normal to see whales and manta rays,' Chris laughed.

On their performance Mal said, 'We aren’t coming last and we are getting more competitive every day. We are working really well as a team.'

The yacht is permanently anchored at Hamilton Island’s marina and is used every school holidays when the Dennis’ make the trek from Beaumaris in Melbourne.

'We will definitely be back next year,' Mal said.

The Shepherd family, also from Victoria, are finishing off a six month adventure with their Hanse 445 from Safety Beach Sailing Club near Mornington, Victoria, aptly named Lunacy due to the fact friends and family told them they were mad selling their house to buy a boat and head up the east Australian coast.

Following Audi Hamilton Island Race Week, Matt, wife Ali and kids Holly, 11, Summer, nine, and Patrick, seven, will sadly head south back to reality. Matt is a chef at Mornington race course and his boss wants him back in the kitchen for the Spring Carnival.

'We are excited but also sad about heading home after Race Week,' said Matt today in the pre-start of their final Cruising 2 Division race for the six-day series. 'We booked our accommodation on the island a year ago, knowing we wanted to finish our trip at the regatta. It will be hard to sail away from Hamilton Island.'

The kids have had six months off school but have to complete a daily journal for their teachers. 'They have been at the school of life,' added dad.


Ali and the kids went out for the first day of racing last Sunday but the yelling and congestion at the start was enough to send Ali ashore for the rest of the week. The crew hammed it up in yesterday’s Prix d’ Elegance, the boat carrying a large ‘seeking asylum’ sign to represent the fact the Shepherds have no home to return to. Luckily for them, grandma has offered her house in the short term.

Audi Hamilton Island Race Week offers a range of fun activities for kids including a bowling alley, the Clownfish Club, Wildlife Hamilton Island Centre, art classes, Go-Kart racing and more.

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