by Ian Grant
Sunshine Coast sailors expressed their experience to race in hull and rig testing winds to record career best spinnaker sailing rides during the Audi Hamilton Island Race Week.
Hooligan downwind in the Windward Leewards - Audi Hamilton Island Race Week 2011
The normally windy Whitsunday Passage was whipped into a frenzy of hull tormenting waves that destroyed the ambitions of several top performing crews while the specialist ‘brute breeze’ sailors excelled in what was a supreme test of skill and endurance.
Flying spray over the deck and gusts to 32 knots was a constant reminder that the downwind run from a relatively calm start in Dent Passage north to the Double Cone Islands was not to be one for the faint hearted.
As expected there was a long and expensive list of damage including spinnakers exploding under the load of the stronger gusts while fittings were ripped out of the deck masts and spinnaker poles snapped and spars bent
Unfortunately the defending Audi Australian and Hamilton Island Race Week champion the Stephen Ainsworth owned and Gordon Maguire skippered Loki was among the list of causalities.
Loki which had sailed brilliantly to close the gap on the series leader Hooligan (Marcus Blackmore) by winning the two previous races in fresh winds was ruled out of the 63 n/ml Island passage race when her expensive $80,000 dollar mainsail exploded in tatters minutes after the start.
Predictably the Bob Oatley owned and Mark Richards’s skippered Rolex Sydney Hobart Race record holder left a white water wake when the 30m super maxi Wild Oats X1regularly registered speeds above 20 knots on the wave surfing run to the Double Cone Islands.
The Grand Prix fleet were the last to start with Wild Oats X1 because of her power and speed outpacing the maxi rivals Investec Loyal and Lahana while the smaller David Turton skippered 10 m Mooloolaba sloop Likatiger which had sailed on the fine edge between distinction and disaster expressed the heavy breeze sailing skills of the crew to be among the overall fleet leaders.
Crewed by a team of good Sunshine Coast sailing mates including former Olympian and World Etchells champion Greg Torpy allowed skipper David Turton to experience a career best downwind ride. They were still on a high after suffering a slow and gruelling slog on the return leg to the finish.
There was a similar expression of exciting experience in the spray drenched cockpit of the Queensland champion SB3 Club Marine Blue. The crew including World champion skipper Glenn Bourke and his Sunshine Coast sail handlers Rod Jones (Sheet) and Greg MacAllansmith (Bow) again showed the boat handling skills to power sail to a runaway win in their exciting class championship.
Their collective skill to sail fast in the fresh and frightening winds paved the way for Club Marine Blue to win the championship over a very competitive fleet including World Olympic 470 champions Matt Belcher and Malcolm Page and former Australian 505 champion Phil Gray from Mooloolaba.