By this time next week August 11 the fleet will be secured to their moorings at the Meridien Able Point Marina while the bets of Bundy and Coke are wagered on the class championship results for the prestigious Meridien Marinas Airlie Beach Race Week.
Thankfully a casual meeting 22 years ago between two stalwarts of yacht racing Don Algie and Whitsunday Sailing Club Life Member Jim Hayes settled on a hand shake to promote what has become a signature regatta on the Australian Offshore sailing calendar.
Over the next week from August 12-18 Don Algie who launched the annual Airlie Beach Race Week as the Hog’s Breath Cruising Classic 22 years ago will proudly stand at the helm of his majestic yacht Storm 2 competing for honours in the IRC Cruising class championship.
For Jim Hayes his commitment to making sure the fleet race on tactical courses means he will be one of the many volunteers who will spend a lengthy time at sea contributing to the success of the event.
While Meridien Marinas remain as the treasured principal sponsor it has been the energy and the foresight of many past and present members of the Whitsunday Sailing Club who overcame a financial struggle to set the present recognition for Airlie Beach Race Week to now be known as the friendly 'Tropical Shirt’ regatta.
Altogether a total of nine class championships will be decided with the feature event the Grand Prix IRC class championship promising to become a nip-n-tuck tactical dog fight when the Victorian champion Michael Hiatt announced he would not be defending the championship with his high performance Farr 55 Living Doll.
Local skippers Ross Winterbourne (Bobby D) Jeffrey Brown (Double O Seven) and Sheyne Timmermans (Grizzly) will face a supreme test of IRC rated boat speed to match the proven class of the 2009 Audi Australian IRC Champion Peter Sorensen’s The Philosophers Club and the veteran Mooloolaba Yacht Club skipper Bob Robertson in his new Beneteau First 40 class yacht Lunchtime Legend.
Both skipper’s race radically different yachts but their length of experience including winning major Australian offshore races suggests in the absence of Living Doll that the result of this championship could hang in the balance until the final metres of the last race.
Similar interest will surround the battle for the fast and exciting Sports boat championship where former Whitsunday Sailing Club skipper Brett Whitbread is expected to set the pace with his Brendan Egan designed 7m sprint machine Blokes World.
After covering the past 21 regattas this aging ‘Old Salt’ continues to remain excited about the quality of the fleet which is set to transform the Whitsunday Sailing Club courses into a colourful spectacle before the 2011 Meridien Marinas Airlie Beach Race Week class championships are decided on August 18. Airlie Beach Race Week website