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Kiwi Olympic bust-up..Halfway point at Hamilton Island

by Richard Gladwell, 25 Aug 2019 14:20 PDT 26 August 2019
Wild Oats X - Day 3 - Hamilton Island Race Week, August 20, 2019 © Craig Greenhill / Saltwater Images

There's plenty of action ashore and afloat this week.

This story was first published as part of a Sail-World NZ editorial piece written on the Lay Day of Hamilton Island Race Week where the annual regatta is in full flight with a fleet of 234 boats participating.

There's only one entry from New Zealand - Udder Life (RNZYS) entered in one of the two non-spinnaker divisions. However the crews are dotted with Kiwis, including Gavin Brady skipper of Beau Geste.

Most of the international interest centres around the three IRC fleets, of which the largest is the Oatley family's Wild Oats X. Her big sister, Wild Oats XI is undergoing more surgery in their never-ending quest for perfection. Skipper Mark Richards, tells us what is going on in this edition.

Australia is very fortunate to have such a sizeable supermaxi and IRC fleet, along with the owners who are prepared to spend the money to race their boats hard and keep them competitive.

Many of the top boats here have been purchased overseas, imported to Australia and then turned into state of the art race boats, rather than being new builds.

Of course, there are several circuits to keep the owners, and crews and families interested and involved, of which the Rolex Sydney Hobart Race and Hamilton Island Race Week are the two brightest jewels in the Australian sailing crown.

From the media boat, the sailing at Hamilton Island is a moving tapestry, with 74 islands in the Whitsunday group, and a new scene around every corner or mark. And it all looks the same today as when Captain Cook first sailed through these waters in 1770.

The official program lists 38 courses using island combinations as marks. But even that is not enough for the Principal race Officer, Denis Thompson, who published course #40 of 28.5nm for Day 3 of the event.

We'll find out what it is like to sail in the Whitsundays on Friday from aboard the MOD70 Beau Geste formerly Phaedo3 - should be interesting with the breeze forecast for 25kts.

After two days of light air sailing, the SE breeze cracked in with a vengeance on Day 3, which provided some spectacular sailing with the IRC Division 1 boats - TP52's to the Reichel Pugh 66, Wild Oats X sitting on 20-25kts, while up to windward Beau Geste started later and reached through to windward in a cloud of spray and sailing an incredible 10kts faster - hitting 35kts. Her crew later claimed that they were under rigged for the conditions.

Pre-Olympic success for Kiwis

New Zealand crews have been participating in the Olympic Test Event branded "Ready Steady Tokyo" for reasons that are not entirely clear. In the old money, this event was known as the Pre-Olympics because that is what it was. One entry per country. Those were in the days where there was no restriction on the numbers of countries participating. The current regatta in Enoshima, is a dress-rehearsal for the Olympics at the same venue, in 2020.

Many Kiwi fans will be sleeping easier in the knowledge that Peter Burling and Blair Tuke have returned to their old 49er form, winning the 49er event at the Pre-Olympics. Regardless of how the results turn out for the other Kiwi crews, there were at least four within striking distance of the medal podium, and a year out from Olympics that is an excellent place to be.

The four would probably have been five but for the break-up of the 2016 Olympic crew Gemma Jones and Jason Saunders.

New Zealand was represented in Japan by a new combination, Erica Dawson and Micah Wilkinson. Several new crews have formed up in the Nacra 17 - and their first hit-out will be at the 2019 World Championships to be held in Auckland from November 29 - December 8, 2019. The second round at the 2020 Worlds being held in Melbourne a few weeks later from the Royal Geelong Yacht Club from February 6 - 15.

The small gap between "years" makes sense for the competitors from Europe to travel down under and have a summer of training and two world championships.

While fans and pundits like to see stability and familiar names cropping up in teams, don't forget that Rex Sellers and Gerald Sly split after the 1984 Olympic trials - which they won. Under the system in vogue at the time the winner of the trials had the New Zealand Olympic place. The Olympic Selectors at the time decided to pair the winning skipper with the second-placed crew, Chris Timms.

It was an arranged marriage and one that worked. Legend has it that the pair sailed their first race together on the opening day of the Olympic regatta in Long Beach - and they went on to win the Olympic Gold medal.

The outcome of the current brouhaha will be watched with nervous anticipation.

AC75's with bulgy bits

The big news of the week has been the announcements by the America's Cup teams that they have taken delivery of their first AC75 hulls which have been pictured as they are wheeled into the team bases. All have been shrink-wrapped with "bulgy bits" under the wrap - to disguise the lines. Whether that is sufficient to put their rivals off the scent is another matter entirely. From past experience, one would doubt it.

The shrink wrap antics do reinforce the point that aside from the carbon foil arms and their raising mechanism - which are one design, supplied parts - the rest of the design is free - provided they stay within the restrictions of the Class Rule. In the AC50's all except the control systems, foils and fairing were one design.

So maybe there is a bit to hide - but it won't be for long as the first boat will be unveiled in less than three weeks.

This story was first published on August 14, 2019 as the editorial in the Sail-World NZ newsletter.

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