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Fun outweighs historic failure for one crew at Hamilton Island Race Week 2018

by Rob Mundle 28 Jun 2018 23:18 PDT 18-25 August 2018
Ruby Charlotte does her best to sail to windward at Hamilton Island Race Week. © Andrea Francolini / FSC

A yacht that has carried a car on deck, been used to pursue pearls, was sunk for months and has a dog in the crew is destined to continue expanding an already impressive record for failing to finish at Hamilton Island Race Week.

It is a record that might never be topped by a yacht anywhere in the world.

Visually the 20.7m long Ruby Charlotte, a classic gaff-rigged ketch with tan-coloured sails, will again be a stand-out amid this year's Race Week fleet, which will range from trailables to supermaxis and all types of multihulls.

But, it is Ruby Charlotte's record on the race course that really sets her apart from the rest.

Since making her debut at Hamilton Island Race Week in 2011, Ruby Charlotte has managed to finish in only one of its 46 starts! By the time Race Week 2018 is complete, the yacht will almost certainly have six more "DNF's" (Did Not Finish) to its credit.

While it is a record most yacht owners would prefer to forget, Ruby Charlotte's owners, Jon and Liz Hickling, don't care. Being at Race Week, on the water while surrounded by thoroughbred racing yachts and enjoying the post-race onshore camaraderie matter most.

"Race Week is all about fun for us," says Jon. "We don't really race. We are out there to enjoy being part of the regatta, and enjoy ourselves. We tried really hard the first year we competed, but the old girl just hates going to windward. So, when it comes to an upwind leg, we simply ignore the sailing instructions, sail off on our own course for the rest of the day and cast out the fishing lures. I guess we are the perfect example for the adage, 'gentlemen don't sail to windward'."

"We certainly keep the race committee guys entertained each year," Jon added. "They just shake their heads and laugh each time we head off in the wrong direction. But what they don't realise is that when we do, there's every chance we can arrive back at our marina berth with a special prize for the day – a big tuna."

Once Ruby Charlotte is back at the dock the guitars come out, the ship's bell rings, the rum begins to flow and the party begins.

Ruby Charlotte was built on the banks of the Brisbane River and launched as Nadine in 1957. The ketch worked as a pearling lugger around Thursday Island for 14 years before becoming an inter-island cargo boat. Many years later the boat retired to Cairns where it went into disrepair and sank. After being refloated and put back into work as a cargo vessel, Jon and Liz came onto the scene in 1991 and purchased their "dream boat". Since then they have done a major refit of the yacht to the point where it is now their floating home.

The entry list for Hamilton Island Race Week 2018 – which will be staged from August 18-25 – is continuing to grow impressively towards 200. The latest entries include a Buizen 48, Melges 32, Seawind catamaran and Ross 780 trailable.

All information relating to the regatta is on the website: www.hamiltonislandraceweek.com.au

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