Word on the street is that Audi and Hamilton Island management have come to an agreement to continue Audi’s involvement with Hamilton Island Race Week for at least the next two to three years.
It’s common knowledge that Audi has withdrawn its sponsorship and support for the existing four event format that has been the Australian IRC Championships in recent years.
Most racing yacht owners would agree that Audi’s involvement over the past three years has been very successful and has lifted the profile of yacht racing in Australia, and Audi needs to be thanked for this involvement and support.
The question now for Yachting Australia (YA) is how to take the Australian IRC Championships forward using the platform left by Audi and grow the event and profile of yachting in Australia in the future.
What seems clear is that it is not in the interests of the great majority of racing yacht owners to have YA simply endorse Hamilton Island Race Week 2012 as the venue for the 2012 Australian IRC Championships.
Having been involved in Hamilton Island Race Week for the last two decades I know that the logistics of getting racing yachts there has become increasingly difficult.
I believe YA need’s to look to its membership and seek a new regatta format and schedule that benefits the greatest number of its members, electing venues that will encourage larger fleets at venues that are more affordable to attend.
By doing this YA will open participation up to a new group of owners of IRC rated yachts who have previously elected not to participate due to the expense and complexities of competing at three venues separated by 1500 + NM.
By growing the fleets through increased participation from previously disenfranchised owners YA will strengthen and grow its membership and Yachting in Australia will benefit through increased fleet size and significantly greater participation.
The obvious choices for Venues in the next two to three years would be Melbourne – Geelong and Sydney Harbour.
These two venues could be rotated, and in this way owners from either location would have a chance to compete for the Australian IRC Championships at least every second year. More committed owners and crews would be able to compete every year, and this proposal would see the largest possible fleets and participation.
It is feasible that new sponsors would look at taking up the void left by Audi, but to achieve this YA needs to have direction and a sound business case in place and the time to complete this task for 2012 means action is required now.
I am writing this article in the interests of the sport and to ensure that yacht owners are informed of the current status of the Australian IRC Championships.
While the article above was written by myself, it does reflect the thoughts and concerns of a large number of owners to whom I have recently spoken.
(Jamie MacPhail has a long and successful history in the Australian Yachting scene, having won many high profile yachting events including the Kenwood Cup, Skandia Geelong Race week, and numerous wins at Hamilton Island.
During the 1990’s Jamie and his then partner Ron Jacobs of PBS worked tirelessly helping Warrick Hoban build fleet sizes at Hamilton Island Race Week promoting the Regatta to owners and crew alike. )
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