Entries have already begun to flow in for the 22nd Annual Meridien Marinas Airlie Beach Race Week, which will be conducted on the waters of Pioneer Bay and the Whitsunday Passage from 11th to 18th August 2011.
The very first entry came within an hour of the 2011 website 'go' button being pressed and it came from Gary McCarthy and Tracey Johnstone from Mooloolaba.
Tracey is the event organiser for the very successful Etchells Mid-Winter Series and Sail Mooloolaba and she understands just how early entries from across the fleet help regatta organisers plan.
She and Gary are strong supporters of the northern regattas. ‘We sailed a lot over the years at Hamilton Island, in the Barefoot Bar days, but we have moved to Airlie Beach and Magnetic Island Race Week as they are more affordable for everyone and both have great atmospheres.
'This will be our third Airlie Beach Race Week as owners; we sailed in 2007 and 2008 with our 43 footer White Pearl in the Cruising with Spinnaker division and then in 2010 in the IRC division with our new Beneteau 34.7 Brilliant Pearl.
'The IRC division is a step up for us. I have raced IOR and IMS while Gary has certainly competed in this level of offshore racing and inshore racing in Melbourne for many years, but we had been Cruising with White Pearl.
‘For us to actually step into IRC to learn more about the rule and about how to utilise it for performance to get the boat going well, has been a terrific experience albeit a challenging one, because to really to be up there we’ve had to have really good sails.
'Last year’s Airlie, I thought, was a good regatta for Brilliant Pearl. Gary was very happy with the boat’s performance. It was our first real regatta in IRC with that boat so it was a huge learning curve for everyone and we finished sixth, so that was quite pleasing and we hope to do better this year.
'Gary at the helm is great to watch; he’s deadly serious and so competitive. It’s a whole different theme to the Pearl team. I think the crew has really joined us in saying ‘yes okay let’s help this boat do something special’. They appreciate the fact that we have put the financial commitment into the boat and they are prepared to put the physical and technical effort into it.
'Over the years we’ve had some big nights; brilliant efforts, absolutely brilliant, so much fun.
'But the real fun is actually on the water. It is the competition and the camaraderie, sailing past people that you have sailed with and against for many years and just nodding and smiling or a few wry comments as they go past you.
'On land, you get back and rehydrate with a rum and then onto the evening’s party and entertainment. It’s a hoot on the water and on the land - just a great atmosphere out there.
Gary McCarthy and his Brilliant Pearl team celebrating first place - Ensign Yachts QLD Beneteau Cup - Tracey Johnstone ©
'We are gearing up for a bigger year. We won the French Challenge which is Queensland’s Beneteau Cup in October and we’ve finished some blue water races and done nicely, but the boat is set up more for ‘round the cans’ so we are looking forward to Sail Mooloolaba in early June. We’ll be throwing the crew right into it at 100 miles an hour to do some serious work on their windward leeward skills.
'We were pleased to be first entry for Airlie Beach Race Week. We just adore the atmosphere there and then it will be on to Magnetic Island.’
For the Notice of Race and online entry go to www.airliebeachraceweek.com.au