The final countdown to racing at Audi Hamilton Island Race Week is well and truly in motion with the marina almost filled, remaining registrations being taken at the yacht club, and last minute tweaking and loading of supplies in readiness for six days of warm weather sailing.
Families racing with young children through to professional crews using the opportunity to fine-tune for the Rolex Sydney Hobart classic will fan out across Hamilton Island’s surrounding waters when tomorrow’s opening Molles Island race signals the start of competition for the 157-boat fleet.
In the IRC Racing division, crews of the two recently modified 100-footers, Bob Oatley’s Wild Oats XI and Grant Wharington’s Wild Thing will spend the week eyeing each other off.
The last time a much heavier Wild Thing competed at Race Week was in 2007. Since then the two supermaxis have met on surprisinglyfew occasions.
'For us Race Week is about sailing against Wild Oats XI and seeing where our strengths and weaknesses are before we line up against them at Christmas time,' said Wild Thing’s skipper this morning as he made his way to the tropical island.
'We have the most updated hull profile, new sails and new rigging and we rate lower than Wild Oats on handicap, but we need to see which areas still need improvement. We are excited about the match-up,' added Wharington.
Darryl Hodgkinson, the back-to-back IRC Division B Race Week winner with a former boat, has his new Victoire, a Cookson 50, at Race Week. Earlier this year he bought the offshore rocket ship in a bid to be more competitive in the blue water events. He’s less focussed on results this time around, and happy he’s stepped up to a new league.
'This week is about consolidating the crew,'said Hodgkinson today. 'This boat is designed for offshore events so we are looking forward to the long races, less so the windward/leewards. For us this week is aboutcrew bonding.'
The headline act of the IRC Passage division will be David Currie’s 60-footer Belle. Behind the stunning Iy60 are many familiar names, Paul Clitheroe’s Balance, Matt Owen’s Local Hero and Anthony Dunne’s Equinox II.
Matt Allen’s Farr 400 is always a strong performer at Race Week. Here to challenge the champion team in the Performance Racing division is internationally renowned Australian boat builder, John McConaghy, making his return to these waters with his own McConaghy 47, Second Time Around, after a six year hiatus.
Still on McConaghy Boats, the MC38s are competing at Audi Hamilton Island Race Week for the first time and Ellen Pragnell-Raasch from the classsays all five Australian owners are excited about racing strict one design for their own trophy, while still being part of the overarching event.
'All of the owners have been talking about this regatta non-stop,' she said, 'now we just want to get on the water. We are very grateful to Audi Hamilton Island Race Week for accommodating us.'
The dominant Cruising A division is rich with history thanks to the 1980s built maxis Condor, Hammer of Queensland and White birds, and the beautiful 70-foot Robert Clarke-designed ketch, Sir Thomas Sopwith, which has been lovingly restored from mooring minder to better than original by owners Diana and David Edwards. On the flip side is the relatively new Carabella V, Matthew McCann’s slick lookingXP50 from the Royal Sydney Yacht Squadron.
In Cruising Division III is William McMillan’s Sonata VIII, Nessie, from the Clarence River back for her 15th Audi Hamilton Island Race Week, which is believed to be the record for a boat contesting the award-winning regatta.
First out of the blocks for tomorrow’s opening Molles Island Race is the non-spinnaker division at 10.30am from Dent Passage, followed by the remaining divisions at five minute intervals with IRC Racing last away.
Tonight owners and VIPs will be part of the official welcome at Hamilton Island Yacht Club followed by a fireworks display and party on Front Street to herald the beginning of the 30th anniversary celebration of one of Australia’s premier regattas.