by Rob Mundle
Yachting has a new international team challenge trophy – the South Pacific Cup – and it will be launched at this year’s 25th Anniversary Edition of Audi Hamilton Island Race Week, which will be staged from August 23 to 30.
An artist’s impression of the innovative new Hamilton Island Yacht Club, which is currently under construction.
Initially it will see teams of three yachts from Australia and New Zealand racing for recognition as the top ocean racing nation at the regatta, however interest is already being expressed from other countries, including the USA, England and China (Hong Kong) for future years. It is likely that some of these international owners will charter local yachts instead of shipping their boats to Australia.
The competition has been designed along the lines of other well-known international team events, like the prestigious Admiral’s Cup in England and the Kenwood Cup in Hawaii. Ironically, Bob Oatley, whose family company owns Hamilton Island, led the Australian team that won the Admiral’s Cup when it was last contested in Cowes, England, in 2003.
Australian Olympic and world championship winning yachtsman, Iain Murray, who is the commodore of Hamilton Island Yacht Club, said the decision to establish the South Pacific Cup came in response to increasing international interest in Audi Hamilton Island Race Week. He said that the design of the trophy will symbolise the prestige associated with the contest.
“This is another very exciting development for Race Week,” Murray said. “This year we are going to see a return of the great Trans Tasman rivalry that Australian and New Zealand sailors have enjoyed so much in the past, and in the future there will be other foreign teams competing.
“We have the opportunity to mould the South Pacific Cup into what is the most successful regatta of its type in Australia, and while it will bring a much stronger international flavour to Race Week I must stress that we will not be losing sight of the importance to us of the everyday sailors who are the foundation of the event.”
Enthusiasm for the South Pacific Cup is already running high in New Zealand, so much so that a team selection series is mooted. Ray Haslar, one of that country’s most prominent offshore yachtsmen and a former ‘New Zealand Sailor of the Year’, is propelling the concept on that side of the Tasman Sea.
“It’s more than 20 years since New Zealand sent a national team to Australia for an international series, so what better way to get things going again than with the South Pacific Cup at Hamilton Island,” Haslar said. “We have plenty of good yachts lining up for our team and we are expecting some excellent racing when it comes to deciding the holder of the cup.”
Iain Murray said that plans for the selection of the Australian team were being formulated. Audi Hamilton Island Race Week’s Regatta Director, Denis Thompson, said it was proposed that each team would comprise three yachts drawn from an IRC rating division. Team yachts will accumulate points while racing in their division.
Major Race Week sponsor, Audi, has welcomed the establishment of the South Pacific Cup. Keen to promote healthy rivalry at the top level, Audi cites the skill and passion of the sailors racing for the trophy as being a great boost to the event, for both competitors and spectators alike.
Audi Hamilton Island Race Week is Australia’s most awarded regatta. It has been recognised as Queensland's ‘Best Significant Event’ at the annual Queensland Tourism Awards on three occasions, and also taken out two Australian Tourism Awards.
All regatta information will be available shortly on the website: www.hamiltonislandraceweek.com.au