Audi Hamilton Island Race Week is constantly adapting and reshaping as sailing trends change. This year it is celebrating 30 years of being a keystone sailing calendar event in Australia.
This year saw the introduction of two new divisions, the lightning quick MC38s racing in one-design format and the fledgling Multihull Division, which has huge potential for growth.
Leading the multihulls in terms of speed on the course is Matthew Johns’ self-designed carbon fibre 8.5 metre one-design catamaran built by Box Boat at Coolum Beach. Crewing with Johns is Paul Mitchell and Mike Kite, owner of Wings Dive Adventures which is sponsoring Box Office for the regatta.
Race Week has been the perfect way to showcase the new performance racing catamaran, which is just starting out in Australia thanks to Johns and his business partner Dave Bigger. Given the 30-foot cat has been sailing through the fleet to the front of the pack all week; it has been hard to miss!
'A multihull division at Race Week is a fantastic idea,' said Johns, now a convert after many years on the IRC big boat circuit. 'Surely everyone will see how good the racing is and more boats will be here next year. The room for growth is amazing.'
'These lightweight cats are all carbon with rotating rigs; they are built to be a manageable racing catamaran. A boat like ours can be sailed with three people and the logistics are straight forward. The boat is 500kgs with a 400kg trailer so it can be easily towed, the set up time is around three hours and it takes a couple of hours to pack up.'
The Box 8.5’s sweet spot is 12-14 knots running downwind and it performs best in up to 18 knots of breeze. Johns suggests it’s perfect for a twilight racing with a couple of experienced sailors, not so much a family boat as there aren’t any creature comforts or a downstairs area. It’s a flat out racing boat.
From here Johns and Bigger will try and set up an Australian one-design circuit with four or five flat water destinations.
So is he a multihull convert? 'Absolutely, there’s no going back.'
The creation on Hamilton Island’s marina of extra berthing freed up the space to have multihulls added to the racing program for the 30th anniversary event. This move attracted five to the division and it’s likely there will be more next year.
Regatta director Denis Thompson says, 'This is one of the growth areas we are looking at. Multihulls haven’t been at Race Week since the late ‘80s. Five is a good start and they are having a ball, next year there is potential for separate divisions for cruising and racing multis.
Box Office is not only dominating the line honours scoresheet but also leading the Multihull division on handicap heading into today’s final Lindeman Island Race for the IRC Racing, Passage and Performance Racing divisions and shorter island courses for all remaining divisions.
Hamilton Island’s Sunsail yacht operations manager Graham Black says they are turning over a batch of monohulls next year, replacing them with a match fleet of six Robertson and Caine catamarans being sailed over from South Africa.
'Over the last year we have seen a definite trend towards catamarans. If you have weather like this it’s perfect, air conditioning and big fridges and that’s where I see it going next year,' said Black.
Hamilton Island Race Week
by Lisa Ratcliff - 9:17 AM Sat 24 Aug 2013 GMT
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2013 Audi Hamilton Island Race Week 2013
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