The 22nd annual Meridien Marinas Airlie Beach Race Week is less than two months away and one of the most exciting fleets ever will be assembling for the August 12th-18th 2011 regatta.
With more than 100 boats expected to be racing across as many as ten classes, one of toughest and most competitive will be the Sports Boat Class.
The mid-winter warm waters of Pioneer Bay off Airlie Beach, the Whitsundays Great Barrier Reef gateway, has proven to be a Mecca for sports boats and again this year it seems the largest fleet for the 2011 event calendar will be racing out of the Meridien Marinas Abel Point Marina.
Australia has a very active sports boat sailing scene, extending back to the early 1990’s. These light weight, high performance trailerable yachts with tall masts, extendable bowsprits and with giant sail areas use both crew weight and lead keels to counterbalance the force of the wind on their sails. They fly around race courses providing plenty of wet and wild action.
Australian Sports Boat Association President Darren Spence has been a regular at Airlie Beach as a member of the Melges 24 crew aboard Heath Townsend’s WA entry Kaito and expects the Airlie beach Race Week fleet to be the biggest of the year. He said today ‘Sports Boats fleets, which for many years have been concentrated on the mainland east coast are growing Australia wide, with a rapidly expanding West Australian fleet and good growth in Tasmania, where we will hold our 2012 Nationals.
‘We could have a record fleet at Airlie Beach this year and we are keen to have every Australian state represented. We had 15 boats last year - we already have 17 entries and I am hoping we will get about 22 or 23 this year and the action will be more interesting than ever.’
The field is wide open but Bob Cowan’s Lake Macquarie crew aboard the strongly campaigned Stealth 8 Stealthy is expected to be fighting at the front of the fleet for line honours probably against former 18 footer World Champion Peter Sorenson's Conquistador and French America’s Cup sailor Pierre Gal’s Kiss.
Last year on handicap Royal Queensland Brett Whitbread’s Egan 7.27 Blokes World won by just half a point from Stealthy from a brace of Melges 24’s, before going on to take the National title.
Victoria's Cameron Rae who won in 2009 in his Thompson 8 Laminar Flow has shifted gears, with a newly imported Shaw 650, one of three so far entered, along with those of David Mann from Gladstone and Dave Hewitt from NYRC, Noosa Queensland. These very light 380kg fliers give their big brothers a tough time and in the right conditions will take line honours. A Shaw 650 recently was clocked at almost 24 knots in Western Australia.
Already entered are five Thompson 7’s from all over the country, with the 2011 ASBA Nation Champion Michael Green's Elliot 7 Evergreen keen to spoil the Shaw party.
Spence credits the Class handicapping system for its recent success. ‘Our rating system, Sportsboat Measurement System (SMS) was introduced in 2007 and we believe that has been an important factor in the growth of our fleets. It has given us a bit of equality. It’s not perfect. The light boats have got an advantage when the breeze is soft because they get up and plane earlier. We are looking at divisions to try and keep the older heavier boats enthralled and racing equally with one another.
‘We meet regularly with yachting authorities as we continue to try and fine tune it. It looks like it is going to spread worldwide and it all started here.
‘The fleet in Hong Kong have decided to use SMS and it looks like Thailand and New Zealand will adopt it too. We are hoping in the near future to see boats from Asia and New Zealand racing in the Queensland winter sunshine at Airlie Beach Race Week.’ www.airliebeachraceweek.com.au
Latest entry list
BOAT NAME SAIL NO SKIPPER FROM DESIGN STATE DivNo
BLOKES WORLD 658 Brett Whitbread RQYS Egan 7 QLD 123
EVERGREEN E7-60 Michael Green MHYC Elliott 7 NSW 123
GO MAJIK 63 Richard Devries RMYC Magic 25 NSW 123
GUIDED MISSILE 7 John Rae MYC Stealth 8 QLD 123
KAITO AUS709 Heath Townsend GBYC Melges 24 WA 123
KETCHUP 7014 Steven England YKBC Thompson 7 QLD 123
MISTER MAGOO 7002 Jason Ruckert RQYS Thompson 7 QLD 123
MONKEY BUSINESS G108 Cam Rae RGYC Shaw 650 VIC 123
MUSTARD CUTTER 599 Scott Creedon MYC Thompson 750 TAS 123
RAYWHITE MORDIALLOC 7021 Greg Scherwinski RBYC Thompson 7 VIC 123
SITUATION NORMAL PC23 David Mann PCSC Shaw 650 QLD 123
STEALTHY RQ202 Bob Cowan LMYC Stealth NSW 123
STOKED 7008 Patrick Stokes TCYC Thompson 7 QLD 123
VA VA VOOM M5225 Tim Roberts M Elliot 7 VIC 123
VITESSE AUS710 Scott Farrimond RGYC Melges 24 VIC 123
WA CROMARTYENGINEERS 5887 Steve Harrison PESC Thompson 7 TAS 123
WHA-KA 3 Dave Hewitt NYRC Shaw 650 QLD 123